Reviews You Can Rely On

K2 Wayback 106 Review

Inexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditions
k2 wayback 106 backcountry skis review
When the snow is good, you'll be glad to be on something light, familiar, and "just right" in dimensions. Sure, you could benefit from bigger skis, but by how much, really?
Credit: Jediah Porter
Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $750 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  All-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weight
Cons:  Soft and damp
Manufacturer:   K2
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 1, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 15
  • Weight - 25% 5.0
  • Firm Snow - 20% 7.0
  • Powder - 20% 8.0
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 7.0
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

We've tested and enjoyed versions of the K2 Wayback 106 for decades now. K2 doesn't cop to it, but it is clear to testers, users, and market followers that this is the latest version of their venerable Coomba/Coomback ski model. Branding and naming have changed and the ski has lightened, but ski performance and experience is consistent and familiar. We loved the Coomba, as did so many. We also love the Wayback 106. They are affordable, consistent, and familiar to centered, attentive skiers. They've got a speed limit, and the flex is damp and soft. Few will love the downhill performance, but even fewer will dislike it. They aren't flashy skis; they're good skis for tons of conditions and skiers at an affordable price point.

Editor's Note: The K2 Wayback 106 is updated for the 22-23 ski season. Updates include new graphics and a new Steadfast base material which is engineered to absorb 9x more wax than a standard sintered base.

Compare to Similar Products

 
k2 wayback 106 backcountry skis review
This Product
K2 Wayback 106
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award    
Price $750 List
Check Price at REI
$850 List
$849.95 at REI
$800 List
$799.95 at REI
$849.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
67
72
69
68
65
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros All-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weightStable, damp, versatile, floaty, balancedStable, damp, predictableOptimized weight and performanceFast, smooth, reliable, versatile
Cons Soft and dampModerately heavy, not optimal firm snow performanceMid-weight, no real stand out performanceSlightly poor firm snow performanceHeavy
Bottom Line Inexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditionsThis is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balanceGood skis for good skiers in all kinds of conditions; the definition of all around backcountry skisAll-around, solid skis for all kinds of soft and poor-snow backcountry skiingHeavy, 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
Weight (25%)
5.0
5.0
5.0
6.0
2.0
Firm Snow (20%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Powder (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Crud and Poor Snow (20%)
7.0
8.5
8.0
8.0
9.0
Stability at Speed (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
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
average: 1537g
1515g, 1510g
average: 1513g
1510g, 1509g
average: 1510g
1360g, 1371g
average: 1366g
1863g, 1852g
average: 1858g
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
Measured Length 179cm 178cm 182cm 177cm 177cm
Manufacturer Length 179cm 180cm 183cm 178cm 180cm
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
Waist Width 107mm 105mm 97mm 98mm 106mm
Radius 22m 23m 18m 20m 19.5m
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.

Performance Comparison


k2 wayback 106 backcountry skis review - the wayback 106 in action on an amazing teton powder day.
The Wayback 106 in action on an amazing Teton powder day.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


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.

k2 wayback 106 backcountry skis review - the 1500 gram weight of the wayback 106 is just right for balancing...
The 1500 gram weight of the Wayback 106 is just right for balancing big uphills and all-terrain downhill performance.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Firm Snow


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.

k2 wayback 106 backcountry skis review - chasing down cold smoke on teton pass with the wayback 106.
Chasing down cold smoke on Teton Pass with the Wayback 106.
Credit: Rosie De Lise

Powder


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.

Crud/Poor Snow


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.

k2 wayback 106 backcountry skis review - the dark portions of the wayback top sheet catch heat and therefore...
The dark portions of the Wayback top sheet catch heat and therefore snow. Why can't all skis be light-colored?
Credit: Jediah Porter

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.

k2 wayback 106 backcountry skis review - the wayback moniker masks the long pedigree of this ski. if you...
The Wayback moniker masks the long pedigree of this ski. If you liked the Coomba/Coomback, you'll dig the Wayback 106. We're pretty convinced that much of the ski design has carried through name changes.
Credit: Jediah Porter

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.

Jediah Porter
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More