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K2 Wayback 106
|Price||$749.95 at Amazon|
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|Check Price at REI|
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$799.95 at REI
|$849.95 at Amazon|
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|Check Price at Backcountry|
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|Pros||All-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weight||Stable, damp, versatile, floaty, balanced||Stable, damp, predictable||Optimized weight and performance||Fast, smooth, reliable, versatile|
|Cons||Soft and damp||Moderately heavy, not optimal firm snow performance||Mid-weight, no real stand out performance||Slightly poor firm snow performance||Heavy|
|Bottom Line||Inexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditions||This is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balance||Good skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions; the definition of all around backcountry skis||All-around, solid skis for all kinds of soft and poor-snow backcountry skiing||Heavy, big skis for hard-charging performance beneath a wide range of skiers in all backcountry ski scenarios|
|Rating Categories||K2 Wayback 106||Blizzard Zero G 105||Black Crows Camox F...||Dynastar M-Tour 99...||Elan Ripstick 106|
|Firm Snow (20%)|
|Crud and Poor Snow (20%)|
|Stability at Speed (15%)|
|Specs||K2 Wayback 106||Blizzard Zero G 105||Black Crows Camox F...||Dynastar M-Tour 99...||Elan Ripstick 106|
|Weight Per Pair||6.9 lbs||6.7 lbs||6.7 lbs||6.0 lbs||8.2 lbs|
|Weight Per Ski||1518g, 1557g
|Weight Per Pair||3075g||3025g||3024g||2731g||3715g|
|Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2||0.71||0.72||0.71||0.68||0.86|
|Available Lengths (cm)||172, 179, 186||164, 172, 180, 188||157.1, 164.3, 172.1, 178.4, 183.4||162, 170, 178, 186||167, 174, 181, 188|
|Claimed Dimensions (mm)||136/106/124||133/105/118||130/97/115||127/99/117||143/106/120|
|Measured Dimensions (mm)||135/107/123||133/104/118||137/97/117||127/98/116||143/105/119|
|Construction Type||Sandwich Cap Hybrid||Sandwich||Sandwich||Sandwich||Sandwich|
|Core Material||Paulownia||Paulownia||Paulownia, poplar||Paulownia||Tubelite|
|Rocker/Camber||Tip rocker, slight camber underfoot||Tip and tail rocker||Tip rocker, camber underfoot||Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot||Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Wayback 106 is K2's latest offering in a long and venerable legacy. K2's touring ski in this size range has changed names numerous times, with iterative improvements over the years, but it has maintained some of its essential character throughout. This is a good thing. K2's wicked damp, predictable, centered performance near a "sweet spot" size and weight should have wide appeal. Factor in the reasonable price, and you have our best value touring ski. That K2 makes and distributes this through a huge, established dealer network only further sweetens the deal, especially in the age of supply-chain difficulties.
The Wayback 106 skis we tested (in size 179cm) weighed 1518 and 1557 grams, respectively. We weighed them on a calibrated digital scale, acknowledging that all skis vary in weight from one to the other like this. That's an average of 1537g per ski or 3075g for the pair. In imperial units, that converts to 6.9 pounds for the pair.
We can make some generalizations about ski weight. First, convention is settling on communicating about ski weight in terms of one ski, weighed in grams. We'll follow this convention. Skis like the Wayback 106, from 1400-1600 grams, represent the greatest variety and versatility. You can find huge, ultralight options, skinny, stiff chargers, and a whole host of all-around options in this size range. The Wayback 106 is definitely an all-around option. Go lighter, and you compromise versatility or top-end performance of some sort in the interest of uphill efficiency. Go heavier, and you work more on the uphill for marginal, debatable downhill performance gains. In short, the Wayback is right at the sweet spot for the weight of a touring ski. We have no complaints about the weight when we put it all in perspective.
On icy snow, the Wayback 106 is "good enough". You don't pick these as dedicated groomer or spring ski mountaineering skis. However, if your travels or season demands that you take on some ice on your all-around Wayback 106 skis, you won't be let down.
Edge hold is acceptable. Something stiffer and narrower will definitely grab more. If you've put in weeks and months of time on your all-season Waybacks, they'll accommodate spring and drought period firm snow. Your stance and pressuring will have adapted to the Wayback's needs. If you jump on these for an early-season "white ribbon of death" ski resort trial lap, you will quickly find the limits and be underwhelmed. They're not hard snow specialists, but they keep up.
This is what you train for. This is what you get up early for. This is why you got accustomed to the Wayback 106 through all those early-season laps. Sure, you could get dedicated powder touring skis. They exist, and they are nice. But will you put in enough time on them to be used to them during the precious storm periods? Our best backcountry powder days are usually on our all-around touring skis. Partially because excellent powder skiing is sometimes a surprise, but mainly because we use the all-arounders day in and day out and are dialed in their quirks.
Think about your powder skiing experience "holistically", and you'll find that something like the unassuming Wayback 106 is just the ticket. All skis, on a balanced skier, are enjoyable in powder snow. Bigger skis might be marginally better, all else equal. But they are heavier, and you won't use them as much the rest of the season for maximum comfort and familiarity.
You just want to survive the sections and days of tough snow conditions. Outside of "practice", you aren't seeking out bad snow. Neither are we. Well, we do seek it out for testing. In that testing, we were very pleased with the poor snow performance of the Wayback 106. On one horrendous pitch of breakable crust, we found that we could maintain parallel, energetic turns into the pitch without flaming out our legs or risking the ugly face plant.
The edges of the Wayback don't grab, the tips come up and out, and the trajectory stays consistent. We liked the poor snow performance of the Wayback. Other skis are better, but they are also way heavier and bigger. For the weight and size, nothing is appreciably better than the Wayback 106 in bad snow.
Stability at Speed
K2 skis, in our testing and in the common lexicon, are known for incredible dampness. For a time, K2 touring skis were an outlier in this regard. Other manufacturers are coming around and realizing the benefits of dampened skis. We like the K2 feel, but not everyone does. They aren't really "lively" in short-radius turns, but they are forgiving at high speeds.
Generally speaking, we can lump together stability at speed with stability in the steeps. Heavier skis are more stable in either context. Lighter skis get tossed around more. Once we standardize for weight, we can look in greater detail. With this closer look at the Wayback 106, we find, at "reasonable" speeds (any speeds that you should responsibly take on in the wild…), predictable, centered support. There is a speed limit to the Wayback, though. You won't arc movie-style turns on the Wayback 106. In steeper terrain, we liked landing jump turns on the damp, solid platform. However, we had a hard time separating the compression experience from the landing experience. The Wayback 106 finishes steep turns with confidence but requires more skier input to get those turns energized. You'll adapt, but we also bet you'll notice.
Should You Buy the K2 Wayback 106?
We don't hesitate to recommend these skis. The all-around performance, especially where and when most skiers aspire to go (in soft snow), combines with the reasonable price to deliver a great budget choice.
What Other Backcountry Skis Should You Consider?
If you want more sophisticated and versatile ski performance in this same size and weight range, you should definitely upgrade to the Blizzard Zero G 105. If you like the dampness of K2 skis but want more hard-charging stiffness and don't mind the weight, the big pink Black Crows Corvus Freebird is a great upgrade from the K2 Wayback. Finally, the K2 Wayback 80 is similar in name only. The 80mm version is stiff, narrow, light, and therefore optimized for fast and high spring ski mountaineering.
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