Gear Review: K2 Gotback Skis And Skins

2011 K2 Gotback Skis

The nice folks at the Ridgway Ski Swap last fall recommended the K2 Gotback skis for backcountry and telemark skiing. They steered me right!

167cm in length with 102mm underfoot, these rockered skis are truly “all terrain” like the graphic suggests. They’re light enough to hike with, but stiff enough to handle Springtime mank to mid-season dumps. Only upon writing this review did I learn they are the 2011 model. Even so, the construction holds up. I’m sure newer models of a similar ski might have a little more fine-tuning, but the basics of stiffness and rocker in all the right places are present in the skis.

This is my first season skiing backcountry exclusively. I visited a resort only twice. I knew it would be a challenge to switch from resort skiing to the fluff of the backcountry, but I felt ready. Pairing these skis with the pre-cut K2 skins was an excellent choice for ease-of-use. The skin comes with a metal tab that fits perfectly into the hole at the tip of the ski. The bottom strap nestles snugly into the tail edge of the ski, and wraps around to hook into another hole near the tail. The fit is exquisite, with a perfect amount of space to reveal the skis’ edges.

Despite this, there were two things about these skins I didn’t like. One was the level of stickiness on the bottom, which was not much. After only a couple of uses, and making sure to properly store them with the no-stick plastic backings provided, the skins seemed almost not sticky enough to attach to the ski. In a couple of deep powder days when I took more than 1 lap, one of the skins became so damp that it no longer stuck to the ski. I’m considering searching for some skin glue to enhance the stickiness for next season. It’s been a bummer, although not an everyday tragedy.

Secondly, while skinning on a very steep, icy and rocky track through a cliff-band, it seemed to me like the amount of edge revealed from underneath the skin was partly to blame for how sketched out the trek became. I was barely able to hold an edge on 2 sections of the icy skin track. One place I thought for sure I’d slide into a wind-carved trough next to a boulder, and probably my death or dismemberment. I know skins are supposed to cover as much of the ski base as possible, but even on an extreme edge with my knees canted severely upslope, I barely made it. I was actually pooping quite a few bricks at that moment. That being said, other than this recent dicey moment, the skins have performed flawlessly while hiking uphill. Any downward slippage has been due to “operator error” (me not pushing on my heels enough), and not the performance of the skin. I’m sure there are more aggressive skins on the market, but for the functionality of the K2 skin system and the ease of knowing the skins fit perfectly, I’ll take the minor glitches.

Now that I have a season under my belt, I might consider a slightly fatter ski. While the Gotback held its’ own on everything I threw at it (which wasn’t too much given my newbie skill level), there were several days where the powder was so new, fluffy, and deep, that it was challenging to keep my tips from burying. However, this might also be because I am telemark skiing, which poses its’ own unique balance challenges. I’m excited to stay on the Gotback’s for a few more seasons, to see if I can really master the tele turn in the backcountry. If I can do it on these skis, then I know I can on fatter skis, too. After all, the technology certainly helps, but it’s the skill of the skier that makes the ski look good, in the long run. At least, that’s what my ego is telling me today…

 

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