In my opinion a 100mm(ish) waist ski of average weight (vs width) is possibly the best class out there for human powered backcountry skiing. Versatile, easy on the skintrack, and still tons of fun on the down without lack of weight causing funny behavior at speed. My choice in this category for the past few years has been the K2 Coomback.
Descended from the venerable Coomba, designed by the late Doug Coombs, the Coomback ski is quite similar, with the addition of a rockered tip and a few other tweaks. The rocker was a welcome addition, helping in variable snow and powder, while not affecting edge hold on hardpack to any significant degree.
Coombacks of any vintage are surprisingly versatile — my go-to ski for any and all conditions. For having the most fun in pow I’ll grab some bigger, more rockered sticks, and for spring days the weight savings of a skinnier pair is nice, but the Coomback is a perfect middle ground. Weight weenies and old-timers might disagree, but in my opinion 100mm is the perfect quiver of one size.
For this year, K2 added a web of carbon fiber in the tip and tail areas of the ski. This stiffens the ski a tiny bit, and adds more torsional rigidity.
In terms of how they skied, I honestly didn’t notice much of a difference with the 11/12 Coombacks vs. older versions. Some might say the earlier Coombacks are a little soft, but it’s nice to have a forgiving ski when your legs are tired after a long day. I was a little worried that the added stiffness of the carbon would compromise this, but thankfully my tired legs haven’t noticed any difference. In the end, the carbon probably just helps them ski hardpack a tiny bit better, without compromising the “easy” side of the equation. In other words, good ski engineering.
Another change from my old Coombacks, although not completely new, is the snow-phobic top sheet. I believe this is made out of a super thin layer of P-tex, so it ostensibly has the same snow shedding properties as the ski base. It’s pretty hard to tell how effective this is, since snow conditions vary so significantly even within a single day. What I can tell is that snow still does stick to the ski, at least some of the time, but slightly less than some other topsheets.
One gripe I had about the old topsheet material was the durability. It seemed unreasonably soft, and my edges removed a significant amount over the course of a few seasons. The new material has held up much better. The graphics are of course changed from last year, and I like the look much better as well.
I’d call the new sticks an incremental development of a great ski. K2 has to be careful improving the Coomback, since even the original Coomba was a stellar ski that many still rip on. Even if it is imperceptible, more torsional rigidity is always a plus, so K2 chose a great way to tweak the ski this year.
(Full disclosure: I landed a prestigious (to myself, at least) design internship at K2 in Seattle for a few months. I promise it hasn’t affected my pristine unbiased Wildsnow editorial ethics. In terms of giving you guys some insider tidbits, K2 counter-espionage has me under continuous surveillance due to my association with my sneaky journalist dad, and I signed a ream of non-disclosure agreements prepared by a crack team of lawyers, so the chance of spy photos is slim. However I can tell you exciting stuff is in the pipeline, some of which I’ve been wanting to see made for years!)
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.