I remember when as a kid, watching Phil and Steve Mahre ski on television. Anytime Wide World of Sports showed those guys rip up race courses I was glued to the set. Something must have sneaked into the recesses of my cerebellum as I sat glued to the tube, because I all wanted were K2 skis just like the ones the Mahres raced on.
Whatever crept into my psyche back in ’79 was planted deep. I still tend to gravitate towards K2’s offerings. They make excellent backcountry skis; numerous pairs have found their way into my quiver over the years.
Shortly after moving to Colorado I met Lou at a book signing of his then recently released Colorado Backcountry Skiing Vol.1. (out of print) That got the wheels turning. I got into telemark skiing and learned about those magical things called skins. Free heel, skins, no lift lines…life got good.
But Lou, being the omnipotent preacher of tech bindings, set me straight. Evangelism took place and I became a convert. Lighter weight backcountry skis and tech bindings opened up a whole new world to me. And having skied a few different K2 tele skis, I naturally gravitated toward their AT backcountry line. One of my favorites was the Baker SL, which I still ski occasionally.
This past spring I spent a lot of days on two 2014-15 K2 model in their “Backside” categories : Talkback and Wayback. K2 markets the Talkback as a women’s model. It is that if K2 says so, but I could feel virtually NO difference between the two models, other than length. I skied both in similar conditions, from spring glop to late season pow, to the bliss that is corn, and even everyone’s favorite, frozen breakable crust.
I was a little hesitant to jump on the Talkback, as they sent us a 170 cm for evaluation. I’m 5’7″ and average about 165 pounds. Thus the 170’s appeared to be a bit short, especially with their significant “All Terrain Rocker.” But the proof is in the pudding, and skiing the Talkback removed any previous doubts about large desert servings for breakfast’ lunch, dinner and any time in between.
The Talkback weighed in at 1415 grams per ski for our test pair. Not the lightest, but not heavy either (below average in our weight charting). Just about right in my opinion. Dimensions, 128-96-118 millimeters. I thought 88 mm was about the perfect width for touring, but 96 mm seems even better, with no negatives.
The Talkback has proven to be a super versatile ski for me. I skied them in just about every snow condition. From fitness laps at the resort, to mellow backcountry touring, to some steep spring skiing they did everything I pushed them to do. The right amount of tip rocker and waist width make this ski excel in just about anything. Frozen breakable crust was its nemesis, but what ski likes that stuff?
I found the Talkback in the 170 cm length to be snappy and quick turning, which I like. But it will hold long radius turns at speed if you ask it to, and the tails are stiff enough that if you get in the backseat, they’ll hold. They are good in pow, but not as good as some of my wider more rockered quiver residents (okay, I have one pair of planks that are not K2’s….).
In particular, I loved the Talkback on some of the early spring morning steep stuff: strong edge-hold, quick turning, stable, but will forgive you, if for example you forget to put your boots back in ski mode before starting down a frozen couloir. Yep, did that. Another thing I look for in a ski is that it allows me to smear pretty easily, like side slipping when needed, as it does have a slight upturn in the tail. Overall the one word I would use to describe skiing the Talkback is… versatile. If you’re looking for one ski to do most things really well, then this would be an excellent choice.
What about the 14-15 K2 Wayback? We got these in a 177 cm length. They are 128-96-118mm, just like the Talkback. They share the same Paulownia / Maple core, according to our test models. They both have the All Terrain Rocker, and slight upturn in the tail. Average weight for the Waybacks is 1452 grams, per ski. In our charts Talkback and Wayback are virtually identical in weight vs surface and length.
Skiing the Waybacks, as mentioned above, felt about the same as the Talkbacks. They did everything the Talkbacks did, and just as well. I did notice the extra 7 cm in length of the Waybacks. They were slightly more stable at higher speeds, still quick turning, but just a bit slower reacting than the Talkbacks. My guess is that someone taller and/or heavier than me could easily flick these longer skis around, or just ski faster and straighter than I normally would. Other than those minuscule differences, the Wayback and the Talkback are the same ski in my opinion. (Editor’s note: It’s probably time to relate that yes, Talkback is officially a “women’s ski.” In this case, our take is that both reviewed models are unisex.)
Both these skis also have tip and tail holes, and the tails are notched for skins. Both also have the SnoPhobic topsheet as well, which I found to sort of work, but snow still accumulated on the tops of the skis while skinning up.
However you want to look at it, Wayback as a longer version of the Talkback, or the Talkback as a shorter version of the Wayback. I found both skis to be worthy of my quiver. The Talkback was the most versatile of the two for my style of ski touring, simply because it was a bit shorter.
Fantastic skis all around. Now if K2 would just come out with some retro Comp 710 graphics, I’d be even happier. Awesome job K2!
Shop for K2 backcountry skis here.
Scott lives near Carbondale, CO with his wife Jenny. He often meditates on finding that perfect career while pushing his heart rate to places it probably shouldn’t be.