Lashing Denali — K2 Backlash Ski Review


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

After hearing of the nightmare snow conditions Denali is notorious for I knew I needed a ski that would inspire confidence in any conditions for our WildSnow Denali expedition up there last spring. But as well as downhill performance, my chosen planks also needed to be light enough to lug 13,000 vert up to the summit. A tall order indeed!

Skiing Denali this past spring, on my K2 Backlash skis.

Skiing Denali this past spring, on my K2 Backlash skis. Lou! They work in powder! Cough cough…. (click image to enlarge)

When selecting a plank for backcountry skiing my underlying goal is to choose skis that best mimic my resort setup, but with less mass. That way I can maintain max confidence and max fun on the descent but lug the things uphill without compressing vertebrae and extending knee tendons. With more creative material pairings and manufacturing processes, alpine touring setups are indeed shaving weight without the compromise in performance — so my goal is realistic.

My brother Colby and I on Denali summit, with our k2 Backlashes.

My brother Colby and I on Denali summit with our K2 Backlashes. Thank goodness we didn’t have to walk down! (click image to enlarge)

After perusing K2’s Backside backcountry skiing brand line, Backlash jumped out at me as the “do-it-all” ski. I was excited to see a plank with my personal ideal
ski mountaineering dimensions (129/92/115), a flat tail, two layers of metal (probably titanal), and cap construction all in a package light enough to haul around the mountain for a month. I was tempted to bring the K2 Wayback (124/88/108) as my Denali boards but ultimately my desires for more beefy planks won over. The titanium laminates, and cap construction make these sticks ski distinctively like many other K2 skis I’ve skied over the years. A smooth progressive flex, slightly stiffer tail and predictable and even release from turn to turn make these skis very confidence inspiring. Add to that mix what K2 calls an all-terrain rocker and you have ski that can handle ANY condition the slopes can throw at you. The K2 named “rocker” in this ski is actually what I like to call an early rise tip which K2 masterfully combines with traditionally camber. Curves like this provide all the benefits of a powder ski with the hard pack capability of a more traditional ski.

Colby and Tyler on Denali summit day, packin' those 'lashes for the backcountry skiing descent.

Colby and Tyler on Denali summit day, packin' those 'lashes for the backcountry skiing descent.

I have to admit I was pretty impressed with these boards. But, this is indeed Wildsnow where reviews go beyond regurgitated catalog copy, so I have a few bones to pick. Just like any skis with an early rise tip, these boards ski short. The 181cm Backlashes that I brought to Denali skied more like a 170. Also, (as Lou would remind me as he NEARLY caught up with me on the uphill while using his Waybacks), Backlashes are no doubt a bit heavier than other purely backcountry skis. I knew this before selecting them as my plank of choice so I guess I can’t complain too much. Besides, all seven of us made it to the summit of the big one from 14,000 feet and had enough energy to make turns on the way down, so I guess the weight was not an issue. Other than them skiing short and being a bit heavier I can’t really think of much to whine about. I was able to thrash these skis for 21 straight days on everything from wet sugar snow, to bullet proof blue ice, to 30 inches of new Alaskan powder and they look just about the same as the day I mounted them up. In my book that’s pretty impressive considering the abuses placed on them by an expedition.

In summary: You just can’t fake the feel of a wooden core ski with metal laminate. K2 created a winning combo with the Backlash. Mounted with my Dynafit FT12’s they’ll be my go to backcountry skiing rig this winter. In a word, wow.

A little take from Colby on the Backlashes…
After skiing for years and years with Tyler (my brother) and having the same ski racing coaches in high school and college we tend to ski similarly and prefer similar skis. Therefore, for Denali, when one of us started leaning towards the Backlash we both started leaning that way. For me having tried several of the K2 skis this winter I have liked the “rocker tip” and how easily it can cut through crud and floats in the powder. The rocker tip slightly decreased the snow contact but with the titanium sheets and stiff tail they held very well on the variable conditions on Denali. Not knowing exactly what the snow conditions would be like on Denali or what descent we might get to ski it was confidence inspiring to have a slightly beefier ski (in terms of backcountry skis) and haul the extra weight. Also, K2 incorporated the notch in the back of the ski to hold the skin nice and straight even without the K2 skin system (Tyler and I both had the G3 alpinist skins). On the whole I think this ski was a great choice for Denali and for future backcountry outings when the snow isn’t TOO deep!

Find the K2 Backlash here.

(Guest blogger Tyler Christoff, 26 years old, grew up ski racing. He raced at Syracuse University, making Nationals multiple years. Three years ago he moved to Aspen to pursue a different sort of skiing. Tyler has rapidly grown into a strong mountaineer, and has the perfect form that most skiers only dream of.)

Comments

39 Responses to “Lashing Denali — K2 Backlash Ski Review”

  1. tony October 15th, 2010 9:48 am

    Colby, Tyler, how much do they weigh?

  2. haraldb October 15th, 2010 10:42 am

    1,750 grams in a 174 according to the K2 website.

    Wow, you lugged an even heavier 181 to the summit of denali, your knees are not my knees.

  3. Lou October 15th, 2010 12:02 pm

    Like I kept saying during Denali trip, those guys don’t even know how strong they are. Of course, they might have a better idea now that they’ve been up there and back (grin).

  4. Tyler October 15th, 2010 1:45 pm

    I think most would ski a shorter ski for a mission like Denali. The 181 was perfect for my brother and I. We both tend to have a more aggressive technique and prefer something that “pushes” back a bit. With dynafits, the weight penalty didn’t seem to be noticeable. In fact…we did the “who’s is lighter test?” holding them up next to the 185 kilowatts, the backlashes seemed to have noticeably less mass

  5. Paul October 15th, 2010 7:50 pm

    Thanks for your write up Tyler. I’ve got two questions for you:
    How much do you weigh? with pack?
    and
    I’ve been reluctant to try rockered skis because I see people smearing turns with then and I love to carve. If you put these skis on edge will they carve nice turns in powder, or are you forced to crank and smear in deep snow. If they carve, how aggressively? How short a turn radius?

  6. Mark October 15th, 2010 9:13 pm

    Ever since skiing the K2 Mt. Baker ski a few years back, I learned immediately how great a metal laminate wood core ski can perform. The new Backlash is essentially that ski after a few distinct design changes have been employed. Glad you guys liked ‘em.

  7. Tay October 16th, 2010 7:17 am

    Lou,
    I seriously doubt that the TNC metal cap is titanium. It is more likely to be titanal, a proprietary aluminum based alloy that contains no titanium. Titanium while lighter than steel is heavier than aluminium and needs to be alloyed to give it strength in torsion. Aluminium on the other hand needs to be alloyed to give it torsional and longitudinal flex. If the desire is to add strength along the length and width of the ski with minimal weight in operating temperature that are not adverse (<200 degrees celsius) then aluminium alloys makes more sense that titanium alloys. Titanal is often confused as titanium, or marketed as such to gain the allure of some space age material in skis. But the weight and cost penalty would negate it's use with a standard cap construction. Titanium has an oxide layer (the reason it doesn't rust and it resistant to most acids), and thus is very difficult to glue as the resin bonds to the oxide layer and not the metal itself. This would be problematic with cap construction as the flexing of the ski would put resin layer under constant stress of fail.

  8. Lou October 16th, 2010 7:24 am

    Tay, you are absolutely correct, leaving the word “titanium” in there was an edit failure on my part. Sorry about that. I do have titanal in my glossary here:
    http://www.wildsnow.com/more/backcountry-glossary/

    I’ll use some of your info to improve the glossary.

    I edited the review regarding this.

    Thanks, Lou

  9. Tay October 16th, 2010 7:30 am

    You’re welcome. Thanks for the great trip report and the amazing photos

  10. Pete Anzalone October 17th, 2010 12:07 am

    Titanal sounds great but when will they be upgraded to use Rearden Metal?

  11. Greg Bee October 17th, 2010 8:28 am

    Reardon Metal is awesome! Beats other metals hands down. Hard to get your hands on it, though.

  12. Tyler October 18th, 2010 8:34 am

    @Paul: I’m about 160lbs and maybe 210lbs with our Denali packs. I think you may be confusing fully rockered skis (reverse camber-tip and tail bent away from the snow) with what the Backlashes are: a conventionally cambered ski with a rockered tip. It’s hard to notice the rockered tip on the backlashes until you are in deep snow. (then the only thing you notice is how easy it is to ski powder ;) These skis carve just like any other “traditionally cambered” ski and have the added benefit of a straight tail, allowing you to really finish turns. I believe the turn radius is somewhere around 21m? K2 says the 174cm has a 19m turn radius.

  13. Paul October 18th, 2010 10:41 am

    Thanks very much for the additional feedback Tyler!

  14. Paul October 27th, 2010 5:14 pm

    I really would like to try these out for a trip to Norway this year. In the K2 line, I currently have the anti-piste in 188 as my powder tour boards. I need something a bit more versatile for this trip. My concern is that I weight 210. Will I over weigh the 181?

  15. Caleb November 8th, 2010 3:09 am

    Hi, I’m a somewhat experienced alpine skier and I’m starting BC skiing this season. I’m thinking of picking up the backlash as my first AT ski.

    Would this be a good quiver of one for the time being? I’d probably add on a few more skis within the next couple of years if I stick with BC skiing, but does the 174 backlash seem like a good choice to start with? I’m thinking that I might want something lighter to make the uphill easier.

    For more background, I’m 5′ 11”, 180 lbs, and I’ll be skiing in the tahoe area with perhaps the occasional trip to WA and CO. Suggestions of other skis to consider would be grand as well :-)

  16. Lou November 8th, 2010 7:32 am

    Caleb, I think those would be a fine choice…

  17. PaulJ November 8th, 2010 5:09 pm

    Do you think that at 210 I would over power the 181? They will be replacing Rossignol T4′s in 185.

  18. Jason December 19th, 2010 12:26 am

    Hey Lou, have you tried anything by Praxis Skis? I just picked up their backcountry (http://bit.ly/eyRoel) in a 190. I am going to put the Dynafit TLT Vertical FT Z12 Binding on them. They are a nice light ski! Carbon fiber inside to keep the weight down and a nice looking rocker in the tip. I’ll let you know what I think.

  19. Marian February 2nd, 2011 2:39 pm

    Lou,

    recently discovered your site and enjoy it a lot. I´m a fairly proficient skier, mostly on groomers and just recently started with backcountry skiing (with rented gear). I really got into it and now consider splashing on my own kit. My ´normal´ downhill skis are K2 Crossfire and I love them, so I consider K2´s also for backcountry skis as well. I´m 170 pounds and 5´ 9´´, 38 years, mostly will be climbing, with a mixture of hardpack, powder and ice. Would greatly appreciate your advice as to which of the K2? would be suitable, also if you´d recommend TLT binding or not. Thanks

  20. Prakash March 10th, 2011 9:52 am

    Hey Lou / Colby / Ty,

    I’m 5’11″ and 145… I ski advanced / expert terrain in the resorts comfortably and also ski BC on some of the easier CO 14ers. My current BC setup (167 Ethics / Silveretta) is great for Spring 14er skiing but gets tossed about in Winter. I’m looking to upgrade to something that can handle Winter conditions as well (some pow, sastrugi, crust and mostly variable crap… you guys know).

    I’ve been considering the Backlash as a replacement with Fritschi FRs. What length would you guys recommend? Would you guys also recommend looking into a different ski? I don’t mind lugging the weight on the uphill but would prefer a safe ski down. Thanks.

  21. Lou March 10th, 2011 2:12 pm

    Prakash, Backlash still saves some weight, if you want to go with even more performance consider Coomback , or if you like BD look at the Justice. I like the 170 length in both those, but if you ski fast and want a smoother ride, perhaps the 180 range would be better for you.

  22. Prakash March 10th, 2011 2:50 pm

    Thanks Lou. Quick followup question… I did consider the Coomback, but wondered if the additional width underfoot would work to its disadvantage on a typical CO Winter snowpack above treeline. Do you feel that’s not too much of an issue?

    Also do you know if either / both these skis (Coomback and Backlash) drive fairly well with BD methods / Garmont G-rides? Thanks much for the info.

  23. Chris March 10th, 2011 4:46 pm

    I’m 5’10” 145lbs and got the backlashes in 174 (mounted with dynafits) about a month ago to replace skis with a blown out edge. They ski great, especially in the variable stuff where the rocker makes turn initiation really easy. The metal adds some stiffness for good edge hold. They ski great with methods. I also have coombacks in 174 mounted alpine as a powder bump ski, i love them, but they are too floppy, soft and wide for skiing harder snow in my opinion.

  24. Prakash March 10th, 2011 5:26 pm

    Thanks Chris / Lou, I decided to go with the Backlash in 174 for now. I may have to revisit the Coombacks later. Thanks again for the responses.

  25. Lou March 10th, 2011 7:58 pm

    Prak, perfect!

  26. Andy April 20th, 2011 12:52 pm

    I’ve been skiing wood core skis without a metal cap (BD Voodoo/Guru/Machine) and recently spent a couple of days (one with fresh powder, another with crusty hardpack) on the Backlashes. The difference was night and day. I couldn’t believe how much easier they handled and how much more secure the ride felt. I will happily trade the extra weight for the stability.

  27. Daniel May 5th, 2011 2:27 pm

    replaced 174 bakers with a pair of 181 backlashes. like their downhill performance, but extra stablity is paid for w/ less nimble, less quick ski feel. therefore, i disagree on the “ski short”. i think they easily ski the 7cms longer that they are. anyway, they are great do-it-all tools for me, 50% AT 50% lift served skiing in the alps in all kinds of snow. hitting their limits only on boilerplate (where bakers were slightly better) and icy traverses in the uphill (where very wide ski sucks). great in crud and the “deep” that we encounter here.

  28. Margie Glatte May 22nd, 2011 10:12 pm

    Thanks for your info and photos! The only thing missing here are comments from females. I only mention this because I’ve been looking at the Backlash as the one quiver for me. I ski both on and off Piste telemark and am an advanced skiier. I’m curious if ths ski would be good for me at 127lb and 5’6″? What do you think? I’d get 167cm. I now ski Black Diamonds Crossbow 163cm and want to update. I guess my question for you is, does wieght mattter? I fit in the specs otherwise. Thanks

  29. Lou May 23rd, 2011 9:56 am

    Margie, when it comes to skis I am not convinced a female version of a ski would be any different than a male version. Why? Because the huge variations in body type, height, weight, backpack weight, ski length, style of skiing and more make the difference between men and women insignificant.

    In other words, while I appreciate ski companies such as K2 trying to ID common differences between men and women, and building skis that target those differences, I’m not sure doing so is really all that important. More, I know for a fact that over the years some “women’s” skis have just been skis with a different topskin and name. The latter was annoying as all getout, but in a way it proved my point.

    If I’m wrong, shut my mouth. But yes I’d suggest just picking a good ski in a length that’s appropriate for your weight and skiing style, and enjoy!

    As for weight of skis, I’m a big proponent of saving weight in binding and perhaps a bit in the boot, and just getting on a ski that skis good for you.

    Now, let’s say K2 DID figure out a bit of magic that makes a ski work better for some characteristic of some unknown percentage of females out there… I can tell you that among our circle, the k2 Gotback is super popular with the gals. I’m not convinced that ski is all that different from a Coomback, but whatever, it works, so give it a whirl if the price is right.

    Lou

  30. Lou May 23rd, 2011 2:04 pm

    P.S., Margie, I’d go for Backlash but I’d think one step up in length might be appropriate. Lou

  31. Margie Glatte June 1st, 2011 6:52 pm

    I bought the backlash skis and just want to thank you for your help! It’s snowing here in the mountains, so I get to go out and try them. I really appreciate the time you took to help me. With warm regards, Margie

  32. Lou June 2nd, 2011 6:26 am

    Margie, thanks, let us know how they ski!

  33. Mac June 3rd, 2011 4:21 am

    Margie,

    I’m keen for your thoughts on the Backlashes after a couple days! I’m also looking for a new quiver of one ski, and I’m currently tossing up between the Hardside and the Backlash.

    I’ve been skiing a 170cm Fisher FX 7.0 with Fritchie FR for the last five years, but last season borrowed a set of Hardsides for the day – and what a difference, especially in the crud! I’m keen to know who you find then on the slick stuff (plenty of ice in NZ mountains).

    Mac

  34. Orest July 21st, 2011 9:05 pm

    Hi Lou and all,

    Do you ever get tired of all of the questions like, ” Should I get….. or….?.” ?

    Well, just in case you don’t – here’s mine:
    6’2″ 180-185 lbs Level III/III+ (whatever that means) skier

    Looking for a one-quiver ski for the PNW. Primarily one- (maybe two-) day backcountry. Will most likely put Dynafit Vertical FT12 Verticals. I will drive them with Dynafit Titans.

    1) Thinking that either the Backlash or the Backup would be my best choice. Also, since the PNW snow can be heavier and stiffer, I would think that the stiffer ski might be better for the crappy days. If you had to choose one ski and you were me, which one.

    2) Normall I ski 178/182 cm length in an 78/82 mm width alpine skis. I was thinking of going either the same/similar length in the above skis, but am afraid they might ski too short and that I should go for the next length up. Recommendation or anything else I should consider in making a decision on the length for these two?

    3) OK, if I should REALLY look at something else for a one-ski quiver…… I’m all ears.

    Thanks,
    Orest

  35. Lou July 22nd, 2011 6:11 am

    Tired? Not even a concept!

    I’m assuming your “quiver of one” ski has to be pressed into all sorts of duty, even resort skiing.

    At your height and weight, on a rockered K2 Back Side category ski, I’d go with something longer. Sidestash or Coomback in 188.

    I’d also look at the re-worked BD skis, Verdict in particular.

  36. Orest July 22nd, 2011 8:09 am

    Thanks for the quick reply, Lou.

    It would be a quiver of one, but for backcountry only since I have a couple of skis for resort skiing already.

    I never really considered the Coomback or the SideStash for a quiver of one because of their width since the skis would also be used for spring/summer skiing, at least until I win the lottery. :-) If I had to choose one, I would probably go for the narrower waisted Coomback.

    Any direct comparison between the Coomback and Verdict (in comparable size for me? Which length of Verdict should I consider? The 190 Verdicts seem very long unless they ski short and the next size down are the 180s – nothing in between. When you recommended the reworked Verdicts – were you referring to 2011 or 2012?

    Thanks again for your help. I really like reading through your adventures and advice.

    Cheers,
    Orest

  37. Daniel September 3rd, 2011 2:01 pm

    question. comparing my backlashes and my new waybacks, i clearly can see the wayback rocker. no such thing on the backlashes. just lime my old bakers. no nothing in terms of early rise. is it suppose to be that “subtle” or is something wrong?

  38. Daniel September 5th, 2011 7:41 am

    german distributor says: 09/10 backlash has no rocker, 10/11 backlash has.

  39. Lou September 5th, 2011 7:50 am

    All current K2 Backside series skis have rocker, previous, some do not.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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