Ski Review — K2 Wayback 88 — Solid Springtime Performer

Post by blogger | November 13, 2017      
Waybacks with the beautiful NZ alps as a backdrop.

Waybacks with the beautiful New Zealand alps as a backdrop.

For me, spring skiing means big descents, buttery corn, and hanging out under a summer sun after it’s all done. Springtime also means skinny skis. Narrow waisted sticks save significant weight on the up, and are often more fun on the down than their heftier winter cousins.

I used a pair of K2 Wayback 88s for spring season skis around six years ago. They certainly weren’t the lightest thing out there, but they worked well, especially on the down. I used them to ski Denali, and they supported quite a few ski descents in Washington and Colorado.

(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)

Over the last few years I’ve owned a variety of skinny skis for spring skiing: all around 80-90 underfoot. Recently I’ve drifted towards skis that utilize ultralight construction techniques to achieve remarkable reductions in weight. Unfortunately strength and durability are sometimes compromised in pursuit of cutting grams (I’ve broken a pair). And, ultra-light skis tend not to ski well in unfavorable conditions. So I decided to somewhat reverse the weight reduction program and return to more traditionally constructed planks for the vernal season.

I remembered how much I loved my old Waybacks, and decided to give the latest build a try on our spring skiing trip to New Zealand. K2 has now expanded the Wayback line into four skis, the Wayback 105, 96, 88, and 78. Many of these skis are similar to older sticks, for example, the 104 is an update to the venerable Coomback 104. The 88 is very similar to the same Wayback 88 that has been in the line for years. The graphics are new, and the top sheet is textured to prevent snow from adhering. Also, the skis have a hybrid cap/sidewall construction. Other than that they are similar to my original pair. The dimensions and rocker/camber profile are identical.

Any ski under 100mm underfoot feels skinny to me. I generally only ski such skis in the spring, or when I really want to save weight. I’ve found that a ski around 88mm or so at the waist is a good spring ski width. Any skinnier and you really notice the wasp waist when skiing slush, or anything other than corn or hard snow. Conversely, any wider and I start to notice the loss of edge hold, and added weight.

I first tried the skis on beautiful corn at Temple Basin, New Zealand. As soon as I carved the first turn, I was reminded why they haven’t changed these things in so many years. Waybacks work, really well. The shape and width is perfect for ripping long radius turns down buttery corn. The slight rocker in the tip makes for easy short radius turns as well.

We encountered icy snow later that day, and would find more not-so-soft snow throughout the trip. The narrow width and sidewall construction provided excellent edge hold. The skis aren’t exceptionally stiff, although they are sturdy enough to instill confidence while still being forgiving in difficult snow.

New Zealand is outstanding in many ways: mountains, scenery, people. Good snow often doesn’t make it on the list. We encountered all sorts of weird white stuff down there — ice, heavy powder, breakable crust, and rain-saturated mush. It was an excellent stage to test skis, if nothing else.

Louie skiing with Mt. Cook behind.

Skiing the waybacks with Mt. Cook behind.

On the ski down from the Tasman Saddle Hut, we encountered some of the worst snow I’ve ever seen. Wet snow had fallen for several days, and then it got cold, resulting in thick breakable crust above two feet of horrendous slush. This was almost impossible for me to “ski,” especially with the low girth of the Waybacks. Later in the trip we encountered similar snow, except it was slightly less breakable and less slushy. In that scenario, the slight tip rocker in the Waybacks helped make the snowpack survivable.

The only drawbacks with the Waybacks are inherent to what make these skis excel. They are indeed a bit heavier than many modern touring skis of similar size. However, they are still light enough. The only snow condition I’ve encountered where I have wished for other skis was slush and heavy pow as described above. A narrow 88 underfoot ski isn’t going to perform very well in those conditions, no matter what.

Enjoying some steep, perfect corn in the Craigieburn range, NZ

Enjoying steep, perfect corn in the Craigieburn range, NZ

2017 174 Wayback Ski Weight (verified on postal scale): 1404 grams for one ski, 1364 grams for the other. 2768 grams per pair (Making average weight per ski, 1384 grams.)

For reference, here are previous posts we’ve done on past versions of the Wayback 88:
Baker SL and Wayback Comparo
Wayback skis for Denali
Wayback and Talkback Review

We’ve not found extensive online shopping options for K2 backcountry skis. If you’re looking for planks similar to the Wayback 88, consider the Atomic Backland options and other skis of similar width available at Cripple Creek. You can find a few K2 backcountry model skis at .

Also see our 2018 Ultimate Quiver ski review for lots of “80s” ski options.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


25 Responses to “Ski Review — K2 Wayback 88 — Solid Springtime Performer”

  1. Mark W November 13th, 2017 9:21 am

    Cool report and great photos as usual. Speed Superlites with custom TLT heels?

  2. Louie Dawson November 13th, 2017 11:37 am

    Nice eye! Speed Superlight toe, with old Comfort heel on a TLT baseplate, with a custom aluminium top plate (saves a few grams). The Superlight toe is awesome, but I’m not a big fan of the heel of that binding. Having all 3 heel positions and a bit of boot length adjustability is nice. I also like being able to switch modes with the ski pole. The ultimate lightweight franken binding!

  3. nzer November 13th, 2017 12:34 pm

    88mm is way too skinny for highly variable snow. Your skis just made the job harder. You needed very light 105mm skis.

  4. Jim Pace November 13th, 2017 4:06 pm

    I beg to differ a bit. My wide skis are 126-90-116 5B custom skis from Ketchum, now about 10 years old. They ski much like your Waybacks, and I have no problem cutting good turns through glop up to about 10-12″ deep. But a wider ski would be better then, no doubt about it. If I skied Mt Baker every week, yes, I’d get something wider. But for light powder, more common in McCall than glop? They ski fine. I had a lot of great days on Miller Softs back in the Jurassic, and they weren’t all that wide.

    My skinnier skis are Atomic Ultimate 78’s, a great ski for all the conditions you mentioned the Waybacks are great for. But even lighter and easier to toss around in a steep couloir. I could have used them last spring on a Haute Route trip. Then, I went too light, ruining a pair of skimo race boards by the time it was over. the 78’s seem tougher so far, and are much easier to ski well.

  5. Louie Dawson 3 November 13th, 2017 4:17 pm

    I definitely prefer skinnier skis for most springtime conditions. I’ve yet to find a 100+ ski that is light and also skis well enough on hardpack to justify carrying it over a skinnier ski. The main reason I like skinnier skis in the spring is edge hold on steep, icy snow. The main advantage I see to bringing fatter skis in the spring is dealing with slush or warm snow. Definitely a good reason, but that snow isn’t much fun on any ski, wide or not.

  6. See November 13th, 2017 8:07 pm

    Re. the Frankenbindings, any thoughts on Comfort toe pieces? I’m interested because I skied Comforts quite a bit and they were generally fine bindings, but I did have some prerelease experiences that led me to lock the toes occasionally. Were those toe pieces prone to letting go on hard snow? (And I would respectfully suggest that if you think slush or warm snow isn’t much fun you probably haven’t spent much time in CA.)

  7. wtofd November 14th, 2017 6:56 am

    86 to 90 is the new black. Faster on the uphill, wide enough for most conditions, and better on firm. You need to be able to ski them though. The manufacturers still haven’t come up with a width that will ski for you.

  8. Kevin S November 14th, 2017 8:21 am

    Louie- I love that guys like you are going back to skinny skis! Us old guys used to ski exposures like Torrey’s North Couloirs on Blizzard Thermo SL’s (63cm under foot if I recall correctly) with Silveretta 300s and Dachstein Rear entry AT boots back in the 80s!

  9. atfred November 14th, 2017 8:47 am

    And you were probably on 210’s. right? (smile)

  10. Kevin S November 14th, 2017 9:23 am

    Haha Atfred- If they made a 210 SL back then we were so tough (in our own minds) we might have been on them, 203cm was the sweet spot…but as we learned, GS skis worked so much better in the BC. And Peddle turns were the technique of choice as the skis didn’t float in the corn or for that matter the pow…

  11. Arny November 15th, 2017 9:16 am


    I am confused. Which avalanche backpack should I choose – the Mammut Pro Protection or BCA Float 22.

    I mean, they basically do the same, but the difference in price is almost double! Why is it so? Am I missing something?

    Will appreciate any input. Thanks

  12. Lou Dawson 2 November 15th, 2017 10:03 am

    Hi Amy, wasn’t sure if you were promoting those links or not, they got flagged so we’re removed.

    Main thing is the BCA offerings are clearly the best bang for the buck, and with their system 2.0 there is no real need to look farther if you’re in North America.

    If you’re in Europe, the Mammut offerings are attractive because you can buy and use a lightweight carbon gas bottle with result being some of the lightest weight packs possible.

    The 22 liter packs are quite small, 27 liter or even larger is preferred by many backcountry skiers, though the 22 range is good for things such as helicopter skiing when you’re not carrying much in your pack.

  13. Arny November 15th, 2017 4:39 pm

    The links were just FYI.

    Thanks for the opinion.

    Yes, I am in Europe. I will go for Mammut, I think 😉


  14. Jim Milstein November 15th, 2017 9:10 pm

    Hey Kevin S, I can top that for foolishly inadequate gear. I skied Torrey’s North Couloir on Rossi Haute Routes with NNN BC bindings and leather boots with plastic cuffs. The Haute Routes had waists little more than 50mm. The skis were light; I can say that for them.

  15. Louie 3 November 15th, 2017 9:36 pm

    Oh boy, what have I done? I guess I shouldn’t have let it slip that I like skinny skis sometimes. I don’t know how you guys did it on skinny old long skis. I gotta say I’m going to be happy to be on my 115mm rockered skis when I ski pow tomorrow 🙂

  16. Kam DH November 16th, 2017 10:06 am

    88 is a great width for spring/summer snow or light pow less than 10″ deep, like some have mentioned. You really notice that they hold better on icy sidehills while skinning, since there isn’t as much torque on the ski edges as with a fatter ski. I’ve been using G3 Zenoxide 88s for the last couple years and they have been great. Awesome volcano skis and served me well in spring conditions at the Asulkan as well as on a trip to Chile this July, where I skied everything from shallow glop to corn and boot-top powder.

    From my chats with friends that worked on these skis for K2, they sound like great all-rounders. They actually have changed a lot in the last couple of years, with added tip rocker and much lighter and stronger construction. I think next year’s model should be lighter still. If 88 is too narrow for you, the 95 waist is a bit more forgiving.

  17. John S November 16th, 2017 7:31 pm

    I have a pair of the Waybacks from when they added a rocker and carbon stringers. The rocker made them better in soft snow and the carbon added some “snap crackle and pop” without adding weight. The previous Waybacks felt a little dull, but the carbon-equipped ones came to life. Skiing in the Canadian Rockies, we’re not all cruising around on 120 under foot skis here – we have a fairly shallow snowpack.

    My go-to skis are an older pair of G3 Manhattans. 108s mean I can float on them (I’m only 155lbs) and they have metal in them and nice stiff tails, so they handle lots of different conditions. Heavy? Yup. I’ve done 50km traverses on them – you just make sure you’re in shape!

    My next fave ski is the 88 Wayback. Great spring skiing ski up here. Great for late season forays across The Wapta. Stuff like that. Light enough that you can do long days, but enough heft to keep you from getting bucked off if things get a little burly.

  18. Ken S, November 17th, 2017 8:07 pm

    Stoked to see that this article, Louie & hearing the Waybacks are working for you. I worked on the design for these & all their relatives, so thanks for stirred up some memories right as the season kicks off!

    -Ken S.

    Fun facts:
    * The essence of the construction (Paulownia in the core, Lotsa carbon, glass braid) started with the 70mm waist Heli Stinx.
    * The Baker Super Light is essentially the same as the WayBack, but with the NW Native graphics.
    * The 122mm waist BackDrop came out around then (2012-2013?) – which has the same construction. That’s a fun one.

  19. Pete P January 14th, 2018 8:41 am

    Any suggestion on length choice? I’m 6′ 165lbs, without a pack, but i am usually carrying one in the bc. I am trying to decide between the 174 or 181. I plan on using this as my dedicated spring ski, in western Montana and trips to the Cascades. I’m use to long approaches and finding variable snow in the spring. I have a shorty 172 72 underfoot ski for col. skiing and was looking for a ski to use on nice open corn runs and finding spring powder. I’ve seen some reviews stating these ski longer and measure longer than their claimed length.


  20. Pete P January 14th, 2018 8:41 am

    Any suggestion on length choice? I’m 6′ 165lbs, without a pack, but i am usually carrying one in the bc. I am trying to decide between the 174 or 181. I plan on using this as my dedicated spring ski, in western Montana and trips to the Cascades. I’m use to long approaches and finding variable snow in the spring. I have a shorty 172 72 underfoot ski for col. skiing and was looking for a ski to use on nice open corn runs and finding spring powder. I’ve seen some reviews stating these ski longer and measure longer than their claimed length.


  21. atfred January 14th, 2018 9:01 am

    FWIW, I’m a 5’11”, 160 lb senior, and all my backcountry skis (87 to 100 underfoot) are in the low 170’s. I find that length skis just fine in the bc, and kick turns are easier with shorter skis.

    I go longer at the ski area because I ski faster there.

    Maybe best to demo 174 vs 181 if possible.

  22. Pete P January 15th, 2018 8:38 pm

    Thanks atfred, it would be great to demo these, unfortunately there aren’t too many ski shops around here with a good selection of touring skis. I just happened to find a great deal on these and they seem to fit the bill. I have been gravitating towards shorter skis for easier kick turns and the ability to whip them around on quick trails.

  23. Ken S, January 15th, 2018 9:52 pm

    @ Peter P
    for reference: I’m 6’3″, 220lbs – I ski the 181 Wayback, w/ & w/o a pack. I ski the 112mm waist BackDrop in a 174 length – it works, but tbh, it’s a bit short for me.

    @ 165lbs – I suggest the 174, even with the pack you’ll be good. The 181 would work also, with your height, but shorter skis have their benefits.

  24. atfred January 16th, 2018 6:22 am

    +1; shorter is nice, especially when you’re dead tired.

    Also, I,ve heard it said that skis don’t know how tall you are, just how much you weigh.

  25. Jim Milstein January 16th, 2018 8:06 am

    Maybe not, atfred, what about fore/aft balance? The skier’s height can affect that. Another thing skis know is the skier’s strength.

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