2020 K2 Mindbender 108Ti Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Last week we took a dive into 2020 skis with the new Nordica Enforcer 88, and as promised, we’re continuing the 2020 trend with another ski, the K2 Mindbender 108Ti. You’re going to see a lot of marketing material surrounding this ski and the rest of the line this week as K2 has been waiting until today (January 15th, 2019) to release any information about it. You may have seen some skiers out on the slopes with prototype K2 skis over the past few weeks. While they had a different topsheet graphic and a different name, those were actually part of this new Mindbender collection. This is, in fact, actually a huge collection of skis with a grand total of 12 options spanning men’s and women’s. We know, you’re sitting there wondering what skis these replace. 10 points if you guess it… the Pinnacle collection is, somewhat-unfortunately, going away. The Mindbender skis, however, are quite a bit different, which we’ll talk about more. So, pick up a Pinnacle while you can if you like that shape and feel; they’re great skis.
Before we jump into construction, shape, and all those nitty gritty details, let’s touch quickly on what inspired this collection of skis. K2 claims that this line was driven by feel. There is science and technology behind the designs, but K2 focused more on athlete demands and a skiers mentality as opposed to an engineer spitting specs and technical jargon at a product manager. That, in our opinion, is pretty cool, and also feels like a very “K2” thing to do. K2 as a brand has always been about fun, and this Mindbender collection really is going back to those roots. As they put it in their catalog, they’ve refocused on fun. High speed skiing is fun, precision, high angle turns are fun, but smearing, slapping, and slashing is also fun. Skiers just want to have fun.
Alright, enough back story, let’s get to the skis. This Mindbender 108 Ti is the second widest ski in the collection, and notably the widest that uses metal, but we’ll get to construction in a little bit. First, shape. Camber underfoot with rockered tips and tails would accurately describe it, but that would also accurately describe the vast majority of skis in this width/performance category. Tip rocker is relatively long, but doesn’t rise super high off the snow. It’s more subtle than the rocker we saw in the Pinnacle, which has a noticeable point in the mid-forebody of the ski where the rocker starts. There’s much less tail rocker than tip rocker, although is relatively proportionate to how long the tail is compared to the tip (this is a traditional mount ski, not a twin tip with a more forward mount point.) The camber underfoot is substantial, but not super high. Enough to give the ski an energetic, stable feel underfoot, however. There’s also some smooth early taper in the ski, seen on both the tip and the tail, but it’s much less pronounced than what we’ve seen in the Pinnacle. Also, instead of coming to a point, the tips and tails are blunt and somewhat-squared-off. The rocker and taper combines to create a longer effective edge in just about every application when compared to the Pinnacle series.
Construction is really cool. K2 has developed what they call Torsion Control Design. The idea is to customize the amount of torsional stiffness in each part of the ski. Going back to their concept that carving turns is fun, but smearing turns is also fun, K2 wants the Mindbender skis to do both. They believe the two performance characteristics aren’t mutually exclusive, and we like that idea. In the Mindbender 108Ti, the most important construction technique to accomplish this is their Ti Y-Beam. This is a pretty cool concept and blends some of the construction techniques we’ve seen in other skis. In the forebody of the ski, the metal is only along the edges, and doesn’t meet through the tip. Underfoot, the metal is the full width of the ski, then in the tail there is only metal through the middle of the ski, not along the edges, and again it stops before the tail of the ski. The theory here is that you get precision and edge grip out of the front of the ski, while the tail of the ski allows you to pivot, smear, and release the tail edge at will. A really cool concept to say the least. They also use Power Wall construction underfoot. About ½ a cm of the wood core is milled out and replaced with ABS. You can see it visually, as K2 made it red. This ABS sits in between the metal edge and the titanal layer, which creates a more powerful, stable feel.
So that’s the breakdown of this new ski’s shape and construction. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask, but let’s talk about performance now. Luckily we’ve been testing this ski, as well as the Mindbender 99Ti, for almost a month now. We’ve had it in a lot of different snow conditions and are excited to report what we’ve found. Overall, the Mindbender 108Ti feels more like a freeride ski than anything else, although you could call it an all mountain freeride ski in my opinion. I would give it that title because it performs admirably on firm snow, especially for a ski of this width. You can drive the tips aggressively, and the ski responds really well. This ski has a relatively long turn radius at 22.9 m in the 186 cm length, but it still makes some nice round, responsive turns. There is a noticeable difference between the tip and the tail and you can change how the ski reacts based on how you’re weighting, which is basically the theory behind this construction. If you’re forward in your boots and giving them a lot of skier input you get some responsive, round turns. In fact, they link carving turns impressively well for a ski this wide. If you want those turns to feel quick and energetic, you need to either be on a steep slope or be comfortable really driving a ski. You can tip them on edge and just go along for the ride, but to generate lateral acceleration you need to give it some skier input.
Alright, this ski is 108 mm underfoot, let’s stop talking about groomer performance. In soft snow this ski really comes alive, and the construction starts to make a lot of sense. You can ski it in a more balanced position in soft snow. Want to rifle off some quick turns to shed speed or get through a tight spot in the trees? All you have to do it let your weight sink into the tail of the ski a little bit, and all of a sudden it gets super maneuverable. In my opinion, they achieved what they set out to with this design. You get precision and power when you want it, but a surfy, smeary, and maneuverability when you need it. I skied it on a couple powder days at Stowe, both of which were really windy. One of my favorite things about this ski was how it transitioned from deep, soft snow, to wind-scoured, ultra-firm, icy terrain. If you’ve ever skied Stowe on a windy powder day, you know what I mean. My test runs down Hayride come to mind specifically. The ski played and bounced around through deep drifts on the sides of the trail, but also had the confidence-inspiring edge grip I was looking for when I got back on an icy, scoured pitch. In fact, edge grip probably surpassed my expectations. They’re not as playful as some of K2’s Factory Team twin tip skis like the Marksman or Poacher, but the blend of playfulness, power, and precision is going to make a lot of skiers happy.
Let’s recap. K2 was focused on fun, and also focused on versatility in turn shapes and styles. Did they achieve it? I think so. I had a lot of fun on the Mindbender 108 Ti. I skied the 179 cm length, and at 5’10 and 150 lbs, that length was more than manageable. In fact, if I was buying this ski, I would probably consider sizing up to 186 cm for a little extra float and stability, although I’m not sure I would need it. The 179 cm was refreshingly easy to ski for me (I tend to put myself on skis that are arguably too long). They were easy to flick around, but I never really felt a lack of stability. The longer length would allow me to open up the speedometer a bit and do a little more straight-lining, but that’s not really what this ski is all about. They don’t quite have the forgiveness of the Pinnacle collection, and I do think there are skiers out there better off on the Pinnacle (intermediates, less aggressive skiers, etc), but this Mindbender collection is going to be accessible and approachable for a lot of different skiers. We’ll look at the Mindbender 99Ti next, but there are also skis within the line that don’t use metal, which are going to be more appropriate for those less aggressive, intermediate-level skiers. Overall, after quite a bit of testing, we’re digging this new ski. Does the combination of performance out of the different tip and tail construction result in mind-bending performance? Let’s just say the name makes more sense after you ski it.