Our general assessment of the K2 Annex is that it probably won't be a top performer in any one area, but will be above average for most skiers in many different conditions. We consistently heard from testers that this ski was lightweight, stable, and very capable of handling big terrain at speed. Although not playful necessarily, it is lightweight enough to be nimble when things get steep or at all technical. We feel that K2 did a nice job of striking a balance between a ski that is quick and responsive but damp and fun at speed.
K2 Annex 98 Review
Cons: Soft tip
Our Analysis and Test Results
The K2 Annex 98 was a consistent performer for us. It has a penchant for longer radius turns and will be preferred by advanced/expert skiers who can flex it. This ski has a somewhat soft tip but a stiff enough tail that you can really press into it. We liked skiing the Annex fast and weren't shy about pushing this ski hard on firm snow conditions. There is plenty of width for soft snow and enough rocker in the tip to get some nice rise out of the crud. The Editors' Choice winning Volkl Mantra feels smoother than the Annex but it is more expensive. The Best Buy award winning Atomic Vantage Alibi is a bit cheaper than the Annex 98, and it was acclaimed by testers as another very versatile ski. More advanced skiers may prefer the Annex because it has more to push against and will shine when skied harder than the Alibi.
We tested the 184cm K2 Annex 98. This is a wood core ski with metal laminate to provide extra stiffness. It has K2's All-Terrain rocker which has slight rise in the tip and camber underfoot. The tail is a little bit tapered and flat. At 98mm underfoot, the Annex falls nicely into the average width for our test.
The K2 Annex 98 is a great example of a versatile all-mountain ski. It will be preferred by more advanced skiers because it is pretty stiff and has a big turn radius. It charges down the fall line and shines at speed. While this ski may not suit the needs of less experienced skiers, for the more aggressive crowd it is a good ski for exploring the whole mountain. It does not stand out in any one condition, but transitions smoothly between ripping turns on groomers to soft snow and variable off-piste conditions well.
The gentle rocker tip is an asset for flotation in soft snow, and helps ease turn initiation all around. The extra length and effective edge and increased stiffness set this ski ahead of the Atomic Vantage Alibi for stability and off-piste performance. We like how easy to turn the Alibi is, but attribute that mostly to its short length and more dramatic rocker than that found on the Annex.
The Annex is lightweight enough for lift accessed backcountry skiing and short tours when equipped with some kind of touring binding. Some K2 skis, like the Annex, have skin grommets that make using their proprietary climbing skin system very easy. The tip and tail holes also allow for improvising a rescue sled if things go awry in the backcountry. At 8.5 pounds, we don't consider this a good choice for dedicated backcountry skiing. Look for a ski that is sub 4 pounds per ski to better balance skiability and touring comfort.
We felt that the Annex was one of the more stable skis in our review. This caught some of our testers off guard who did not expect this from such a lightweight ski. The rockered tip is less floppy than that on the Dynastar Powertrack 89 and the tail is stiffer than that on the Atomic Vantage Alibi. The wood core and metal laminate construction help create a ski that absorbs vibration well and is plenty stiff for pushing hard in large radius turns. The tapered tip of the Annex is less prone to tip deflection than on skis like the Rossignol Experience 100, which maintains a wide shape at the tip of the ski. In chopped up conditions, the Annex did not hook up and could still handle speed well.
The K2 Annex feels a little bit long for its size and rocker profile. This isn't a problem on-piste where most of us like letting this ski run and make long turns at speed. The extra length gives us more edge to work with and a little bit more ski to push on. Some testers thought that this ski wa more sluggish edge-to-edge than the on-piste all-star Blizzard Bonafide. Turn initiation isn't the issue with the Annex, but the extra length and slightly bigger turn radius left it on edge longer and focusing on the fall line.
For a lightweight ski, the Annex resisted getting tossed around too much in chopped up snow and chunder. We like the tip shape of the Annex, which resists bouncing into each other too much. In rough conditions, the Annex is responsive and damp. Lightweight skis are easier to move quickly, and the this ski is no exception. A nice, balanced swing weight is great in tight spots and for popping off of little terrain features. The rockered tip really helps a moderately waisted ski like this K2 stay afloat in deeper snow. The shorter and fully rockered Volkl Mantra is easier to turn in bumped up conditions than the Annex, but it is heavier.
The weight of the Annex is the biggest contributor to its playfulness. At 8.5 pounds, it is second only to the Line Sick Day 95 for our most lightweight ski. The Line is generally considered to be a much more playful ski, but that can be attributed to its soft flex and twin tip shape. The Annex is a pretty stiff ski that takes more energy to get it to flex and pop. The flat tail preferred to stay engaged in the turn and the big turn radius left it yearning for the fall line.
The bases of the K2 Annex are more durable than other skis in this review. Because of their versatility, we had a high demand for trying these boards out. This left us sending them out in some pretty rough conditions. They sustained the least amount of base damage before they went in for a tune. We attribute this to a tough base material. The tip shape of the Annex, which limits tip deflection, also results in less topsheet damage near the tips, where other skis saw more chips.
This is an excellent all-mountain ski for advanced skiers.
The Annex is one of the more versatile skis in our review. It was a strong contender for our Best Buy award. However, the Atomic Vantage Alibi is less expensive and would be a better fit for a larger audience. For the advanced skier looking for a ski that can be a go-to day-to-day tool, and even poke outside of the resort boundary occasionally, we consider it to be a good bang for your buck option.
As far as a versatile all-mountain ski goes, the K2 Annex 98 is amongst the top of its class in our ten ski review. We like how seamlessly it transitions between conditions and consistently performs, regardless of the terrain or snow type. Expert skiers will enjoy this ski everyday. There are however more high performance versatile skis, like the Editors' Choice award winning Volkl Mantra and more affordable versatile skis like the Atomic Vantage Alibi.
— Mike Phillips, Nate Greenberg, and Scott Donaghey