Winter Readiness: The Daily Driver

Update: Don’t Buy K2 Skis!

These suckers delaminated after just a few weekends of use.  One or two days after they first started to delam, a whole chunk of base material fell away right next to the blown edge.  I thought I’d get away with skiing them for the rest of season, but the damage spiraled downhill so quickly that I decided to send them back to K2 before it got any worse.  When K2 got ahold of them, they just couldn’t believe that the edge separated before the base material started to fall off and assumed that must have hit something really hard.  To my recollection, I never hit anything and the specific order of events was 1) delam and 2) base falls off.  In any event, they only lasted like 12 days (tops) and now their collecting dust in the K2 warehouse.  I’m done with K2 skis, as this is the second pair I’ve owned with lasted less than 20 days on snow.  Not sure what the hell I’m gonna do with Hardside Custom skis – maybe REI will take them back, because I surely have no use for them now.

My old daily drivers finally got decommissioned at the tail end of last winter.  Backcountry.com didn’t allow me to post my review in it’s entirety, and it took me a while to write it, so here is is unabridged:

These are going to be my new 50/50, / daily driver, and less than epic conditions touring ski.  I had a pair of Black Diamond Havocs in the 185cm which I had been using to fill this roll, but they finally succumbed to the wear  and tear of being a daily driver, so I took the excuse to buy something with a modern geometry.  I went with the 181cm as a compromise for tree skiing and touring weight.  You should note that the radius increases to 25m at 192.  Were it not for the weight savings, I think I’d have preferred the big radius.

The Hardsides really get just about everything right.  First off the 30/70 rocker profile is perfect.  I skied Jay 2 weekends ago right after a 1′ storm.  Conditions were essentially packed powder, soft bumps, a few powdery stashes here and there, and eventually mashed potatoes.  Unless you’re in the race course, it seems that there is no reason not to get some early rise, and these felt pretty great.  There was no tip flap at high speed, and they cruised over everything the early season east coast snow pack served up.

I skied these with Dukes on top of DynaDuke swap plates (www.binding-freedom.com) so I have more stack height than some people.  Having said that, I find the wide waist to be no problem at all working an edge into firm snow.  There was no real ice, but for a ski that is targeted toward 60 soft/40 hard ratio, it carves almost as well as GS ski.

To me the hybrid sandwich sidewall construction on these was a major selling point.  Again, my last two pairs of 50/50 skis (K2 Shuksan 180, and more recently,BD Havoc 185) met their demise purely due to a breakdown of the materials.  Both of those skis were enjoyable all-mountain skis.  The K2s lasted 20 days split between resort and backcountry.  I kept the BDs for 2.5 seasons but really should have tossed them early last winter.  Both were a capped construction and both de-cambered.  The BDs were even twisted longitudinally on one ski.  The hybrid construction of the Hardside seemed to me to be an ideal compromise between weight savings and burly construction.   ( The BD Warrant seems to do a similar thing, but I didn’t care for the geometry as much.)

Between the sandwich and the titanal sheets, they feel great making big fast turns, and with the flat tail, you get plenty of power straight through the end of the turn.  The titanal sure looses in the weight savings department (the Shuksans, the Havocs, the Warrants all weigh in at like a pound less than the Hardsides) but it seems that metal is what you need if you want to rail big fast turns.  I guess the alternative is carbon fiber and I’m too stingy to go that route.  Metal and wood seems to create a much damper ski anyway, which I really enjoy.

I skied quite a bit of bumps, and while certainly there are better tools for the job, I could hardly complain about the performance of the Hardsides.  They are just soft enough to really point em without getting totally rocked.  By the time i started to run out of gas, I did get tossed around a bit, so you do need to stay on top of them in moguls.

The last major selling point on these skis is the large radius.  As I mentioned earlier, I might have preferred to go even longer, but made the compromise.  Radii in excess of 21m seems to be the way to go (because it’s fun at the resort, but also) because it eliminates the hooky behavior of the ski on really steep (> 35 degrees)  terrain.  This is problem that we’d started to notice on many skis up until a few years ago.  The long radius really helps you keep them aimed down the fall line on the steeps while the early rise eases turn initiation.  I have not had the chance to test them on anything truly steep yet, so the jury is still out.  If the performance of my BD Zealots (192cm, 29m, big early rise) is any indication, these should do the trick just fine up in the Left Gully of Tuckerman Ravine.


Gear List (click links for more product info):

REI Gear ShopFree Shipping on Orders over $50

K2 Hardside Ski One Color, 181cm

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