Friday, March 11, 2011
It is getting hard to find a one-ski quiver. Dimensions are growing impossibly wide and rocker is becoming ridiculous. It makes me cringe to see a young skier squeegee hardpack and bumplines like an intermediate snowboarder. As an all mountain, all conditions skier with a ski racing background, I like skis that rail on the hard snow at high speed, snap through tight chutes on demand, and gracefully float the pow. Is that too much to ask?
I've been able to test the K2 Sidestash throughout a range of conditions this past month, and I must say, we have a winner.
To be honest, K2 has not been my choice for the last several years because I felt they lacked the stability and response that I desired. I chose the brand this year because I needed a lightweight and versatile backcountry board; which I found in the Coomback. The Sidestash, with its wider overall dimension (139/108/127), slightly rockered tip, and additional metal laminate, appealed to me as a resort/sidecountry ski. So onto the 181 went the Freerides. This was not meant to be an ultralight touring ski, even with the lightest of tech bindings attached.
Its first round consisted of 15" new out in Rock Springs at Jackson Hole. Easy. It floats well, you can't sink the tip, etc., etc.
Bring it back inbounds. Tower Three Chute after noon. Tracked out chunder. The rockered tip skis like the hull of a Boston Whaler. What crud? When the conditions change rapidly, throw it sideways a bit and feel the tail hook up. Load it up and crank a couple of short turns through the choke, then let them run. Solid and quiet.
Round two, Birds of Prey downhill course at Beaver Creek. Steep hardpack. Run them through the range of turn radii and pinpoint the weakness(es). Short fall line turns, medium radius GS turns, and eye-watering hang on for dear life turns. Well.....couldn't get the shovel to chatter, couldn't wash out the tail. Hmmmmm. I guess that putting a 108mm waisted ski on edge takes a bit of effort. But it's still pretty quick. And stable enough to scare me.
Third and final round. Day tour on Vail Pass. Aha. My hip flexors hurt. Maybe I'll stick with the lighter Coomback/Dynafit combo for this. But I sure like the way that they handle that breakable suncrust.
The K2 precut skins attach easily and securely. They climb well, they glide well. No complaints.
In short, I feel there are three things that K2 has nailed in designing this ski:
All Terrain Rocker. Enough to keep it afloat, not so much that the shovel feels like one of those car dealership inflatables.
Metal laminate. Yes, this is a heavier ski, but it inspires confidence in any terrain that you take it on and keeps the ski quiet at high speeds.
Flat tail. It hooks up when you need it and provides enough snap to predictably bring the ski around.
This ski should be considered the anchor of K2's Adventure Ski line. It's the board that you can take to the resort all year, use on your Valdez spring heli trip, and ski corn when you return. Given its less aggressive rocker and metal laminate, I'd size this one more like a flat ski, no need to size up IMO. The 181 is perfect for me, a 150# guy that likes to push skis pretty hard. I was able to ski them with a stiffer AT Boot (Garmont Radium), but I wouldn't go any softer than that. With its reasonable turn radius (23m), I can see it as a good option for the tele skier as well. For backcountry use, make an effort to track down some of the precut skins, the attachment system is quite convenient.
AIARE Level 1 Instructor
AMGA Certified Rock Guide