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K2 Wayback 104 Review

K2 Wayback 104
Price:   $900 List | $899.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Damp, stable, predictable, classic reputation
Cons:  Heavy, long, “dampness” of riding that some find to be underwhelming
Bottom line:  Classic design with timeless appeal.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   K2

Our Verdict

The K2 Wayback 104 has been a staple for many dedicated skiers over the years, albeit previously named the Coomback, so we knew we had to include it in our review. While there were certainly lighter and trendier models available, this one earned its classic status for a reason. As a heavier ski, we found it to be a great bridge to the backcountry for those accustomed to beefy resort skis. The downhill performance was strong and familiar. Paired with light boots, bindings, and skins, the weight penalty was basically absorbed. We found these to be great first backcountry skis for the skeptical resort rider.

New Season, New Ski — the Coomback is no more!
This ski got a substantial overhaul, with a new name and some tweaks to construction. All purchase links will direct you to the Wayback 104, as the Coomback is no longer available. The new version is pictured above and a list of the changes are outlined below.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Backcountry Skis Review


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jediah Porter
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Thursday
October 12, 2017

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The K2 Coomback is now the Wayback 104


The K2 Coomback, named for the late film and guiding legend Doug Coombs, has had a long run as one of the most venerable ski designs in existence. But the time has come for a change, and for this ski that also means a name change. Now called the Wayback 104, this update comes with a new look and some construction tweaks. Below you can see the iterations of this ski from the 15/16 model we tested on the far right, to the 16/17 graphics update, and, finally, the brand new Wayback on the left.
K2 Wayback 104
K2 Coomback 2017
K2 Coomback 104
 

Here is a full summary of the update:
  • Name - The classic Coomback becomes the Wayback 104 for the new season.
  • Graphics - Along with the name changes comes a completely new look.
  • Construction - K2 added directional uni-carbon running the entire length of the skis in order to give a little extra stability and energy without increasing the weight.
  • Price - This overhaul comes with a noticeable price hike, from $700 to $900.

Keep in mind that the rest of this review reflects the older Coomback version, as we haven't yet tested the Wayback 104.

Hands-on Review of the Coomback 104


First turns of the 2016/17 season. Just before launching the new ski review  Jed was able to get out for some October pow in the Tetons. The perfect motivation for polishing up this test!
First turns of the 2016/17 season. Just before launching the new ski review, Jed was able to get out for some October pow in the Tetons. The perfect motivation for polishing up this test!

Weight


The Coomback 104 is the second heaviest ski in our test. At 1772g per ski, we put it at the upper end of what is reasonable for day-to-day ski touring and ski mountaineering. At this weight, you are approaching the mass of some of the lightest resort All Mountain Skis we tested. Those skis are purpose-built for the downhill, and in most cases, the performance shows that. The Coomback's mass is the one somewhat outdated aspect of its design, and we expect that only those with somewhat "traditional" ideas about backcountry skiing will justify the weight. These traditional ideals include the mantra that "it's all about the down."

If downhill ski performance is king, you are less likely to be too concerned about the weight of your skis. That said, you cannot deny that a great percentage of the backcountry skiing experience is the uphill. For climbing, lighter skis are way better. Even our "moderately" weighted Editors' Choice Volkl V-Werks BMT 90 is about 300g less per ski. That's about a pound of difference for the pair. The BMT's weight class is quickly becoming the benchmark for all around backcountry performance. Compromise some on downhill performance or versatility, and you can get something like our Top Pick Award winners. For powder, the DPS Wailer 99 Tour is super light and fast, while the Dynafit Cho Oyu is basically the same weight and optimized for firmer snow. Both of these are almost a pound less than the Coomback, per foot!

With heavy skis or light  glide them don't lift them. Ski gear is meant to slide  even on the uphill.
With heavy skis or light, glide them don't lift them. Ski gear is meant to slide, even on the uphill.

Stability at Speed


We expect the long riding, heavier design of the Coomback to be stable at speed. And we were right. Further, the classic K2 "damp" ride experience really smooths thing out at a fast clip. Something in the K2 design and construction makes them very dampened. Basically, dampness is the opposite of springy. All skis need some spring action, but it also needs to be balanced with dampening. K2 leans toward the damp end of that balance, in general. The Coomback ski, if dampness suits your style and preferences, is a fast riding, smooth turning stable stick. Only the big and lively Top Pick Dynafit Chugach is more stable at speed. The Coomback's stability was much appreciated by our lead test editor, and IFMGA Mountain Guide, when he took the K2's on an 11-day fly-in basecamp ski mountaineering trip in Alaska's Chugach range. Big terrain and funky snow was the name of the game. Wide open railing rewarded this tester on the Coombacks.

Firm Snow Performance


Generally, we look at touring skis and firm snow performance as an indirect relationship between waist width and hard snow grip. There are many many variables that inform a ski's performance, especially in tough snow. Generally, however, with modern construction and moderate to light weight skis, we can draw fairly accurate conclusions about a product's hard snow performance from its waist width. Narrow skis grab better than wide ones. We found that the best hard snow skis in our test were the narrowest. The Top Pick for hard snow is the narrowest. Next in line are the skis of moderate weight that stay under 97mm underfoot or so, like the Scott Super Guide 95 and the Volkl BMT. The next tier down is more varied.

The skis that scored an eight in terms of firm snow performance (which is a function of icy performance and corn snow acumen) reveal no easy generalizations. There is the mid-fat Coomback here, grabbing good enough on 50-degree AK ice faces above gaping bergschrunds, and there's the narrow K2 Wayback 96. There's the French generalist Dynastar Mythic and the Austrian hard-charging, 108-underfoot Dynafit Chugach. We tested every one of these products in rock hard and corn snow, and came to the same conclusion for the lot. It works, but a specialized tool is likely better. Super light powder harvesters like the La Sportiva Vapor Nano get real scary when it's icy.
Dimensions of the K2 Coomback 104. Notably  like other K2 skis we've used  our actual measurements put the length at 187  not 184.
Dimensions of the K2 Coomback 104. Notably, like other K2 skis we've used, our actual measurements put the length at 187, not 184.

Powder Snow Performance


All skis and skiers like powder snow. We'd insult the intelligence of our readers to try and draw profound distinctions in the performance of various modern skis for powder snow. They all do well, not necessarily due to any magic in the manufacturing but rather due to the inherent magic of skiing powder snow.

Steep chuting in Grand Teton National Park. Jed Porter in Stewart Draw.
Steep chuting in Grand Teton National Park. Jed Porter in Stewart Draw.

Crud/Poor Snow Performance


It's bad snow that distinguishes backcountry skis. Whether that tough snow is breakable crust, "mashed potatoes" or something else, it is in this category that we find the true value of well-designed backcountry skis. The absolute best bad snow crusher is the monster Dynafit Chugach. With full rocker and great mass, we had 10/10 experiences blasting through the bank with the Chugach. The next strata, those skis that scored 9/10, holds a varied list. The Coomback here is one such product. The weight helps. As does, surely, the long early rise tip. Finally, the dampness that K2 builds in is sure to mix with the other attributes to help out. The full rocker and smart Volkl design in the much smaller BMT 90 combine to get that much lighter ski through the toughest of conditions with comfort equal to that on the Coomback.
Rocking out with the K2 Coomback on top of Alaska's Mount Fafnir. Our lead test editor  Jed Porter (in the green pants) chose the Coomback for this committing 11-day base camp ski guiding trip.
Rocking out with the K2 Coomback on top of Alaska's Mount Fafnir. Our lead test editor, Jed Porter (in the green pants) chose the Coomback for this committing 11-day base camp ski guiding trip.

Best Applications


In spite of the Coomback's heavy weight  the versatile downhill performance is much appreciated for expedition skiing. In the wild  for a long time  one can encounter any of a wide range of conditions.
In spite of the Coomback's heavy weight, the versatile downhill performance is much appreciated for expedition skiing. In the wild, for a long time, one can encounter any of a wide range of conditions.

The Coomback is a great tool for the skier looking for all-around backcountry performance, without much regard for uphill efficiency. Ten years ago, when the original Coomback was launched, this "weight point" represented the best compromise of up and downhill performance. Now, there are lighter products, but there are few that ski downhill as well.

Value


The Coomback model is widely available, highly regarded, and surely quite durable. It is occasionally on sale, and will last the user many seasons of dedicated use. It is a good value.

Conclusion


The Coomback does its late namesake proud. Doug Coombs is one of the most influential skiers ever, and his ski is also proving to be influential. As ski weights creep down and the dorks count ounces, the Coomback reminds us that solidness and ski performance are worth carrying around from time to time.
Skinning in the Chugach. the weight of the Coomback is a little more than most will want for big country touring.
Skinning in the Chugach. the weight of the Coomback is a little more than most will want for big country touring.

Recommended Pairings


We tested the Coomback with Dynafit Speed Turn bindings, Black Diamond Mohair Mix skins, and Dynafit TLT 6 Performance boots. This is a relatively lightweight combination. For skiing technicians, however, the light accouterments can balance the ski weight and make an eminently tourable package.

Other Versions


K2 tacks on a centimeter to the waist width for the Coomback 114. This is a big ride for big skiers in big terrain. On soft snow. We expect it would handle the chop and breakable even better, while delivering a fast ride to those that dig the damp experience K2 is known for.
Jediah Porter

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Most recent review: October 12, 2017
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