2020 K2 Mindbender 90 Ti Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Another week, another 2020 Ski Review here on SkiEssentials.com! This week we’re looking at the new K2 Mindbender 90 Ti. Back in January we released a full review of the Mindbender 108 Ti. This ski follows a similar trend, using the same overall design and construction concepts, but in a much narrower waist. According to K2, it was “born off-piste and raised on hard snow” and is “every bit as capable railing groomers as it is blasting crud and day old powder.” That sounded pretty darn good to us when we first learned about this ski, and since then we’ve had it on the feet of a lot of different skiers in varying terrain and snow conditions. Our overall opinion of K2’s claims? They’re certainly not lying, that’s for sure.
Let’s start by recapping some of the design elements of the Mindbender 90 Ti. The series, as a whole, ranges from 85 mm underfoot all the way up to 116. That’s a huge range in waist width, but pretty similar to what we saw in the Pinnacle collection. There are two key construction styles, all falling under the umbrella of Torsion Control Design. The “Ti” skis get Titanal Y-Beam construction, while the “C” skis use a Carbon Spectral Braid. We’re going to look at some of the carbon-focused skis later this year, but for now we’re focusing on Titanal Y-Beam. The concept here is that you can really dial in the torsional stiffness in different parts of a single ski. By using metal along the edges in the forebody of the ski you get powerful turn initiation and a strong feeling ski when you’re driving a turn. In the tail of the ski the metal is focused in the center, giving the ski less torsional stiffness, which allows you to release the tail edge more easily. It’s a really cool concept and kind of feels like it’s blending construction that we’ve seen in skis from K2 and other manufacturers. K2 also uses their Power Wall construction technique in which they mill out about a ½ cm of wood underfoot and replace it with ABS material. It increases stability and gives the ski a stout, smooth feel underfoot.
The shape of the Mindbender 90 Ti is also designed to give the ski a lot of versatility. Camber underfoot is combined with tip and tail rocker. The tip rocker is quite long, but doesn’t rise high off the snow. In fact, it almost takes up half of the forebody of the ski when you de-camber the Mindbender 90 Ti. This long, low rise rocker retains long edge contact on any type of snow surface, even really firm groomers, but also allows for easier turn initiation and better performance off-piste and in softer snow. There’s less rocker in the tail, and it actually rises more abruptly too. It almost looks like a mini twin-tip in the tail, so much so that I couldn’t resist skiing it switch here and there. The taper profile of the Mindbender series is key to performance. It’s not drastic early taper like we saw in the Pinnacle collection, rather smooth, subtle early taper. The ski straightens out near the tips and tails, which helps give it a smooth, catch-free feel. The shape and construction of these skis, when you consider it as a single entity, is quite an engineering feat. Everything works together really, really well.
If you ask K2, they’ll tell you these Mindbender skis are all about having fun. Ripping carving turns is fun, smashing through moguls is fun, maneuvering through the trees is fun, everything you can do on skis is fun. I really like their idea that the ski was “born off-piste and raised on hard snow.” That’s a really good way of thinking about this ski and is a nod to its versatility. Its shape has obvious off-piste, freeride influence. There are a ton of skis in this ~90 mm underfoot category, and the Mindbender definitely has one of the most versatile shapes. That long tip rocker combined with the smooth, subtle early taper give it a more playful feel than a lot of skis in this width range. They’re a blast in moguls, and are a hoot in deeper snow too. In fact, there aren’t really any skis in this width that I’d rather ski in deep snow. The shape gives it such a smooth, catch-free feel. It kind of reminds you what skiing used to be like before we had the opportunity to ski giant, powder-specific skis. Skiing powder is fun on narrower skis too, and the Mindbender 90 is a perfect example of that.
The ability to release your tail edge combined with a pretty quick edge to edge feel makes these skis a whole lot of fun in moguls and trees. I am not the world’s best mogul skier, but felt like I was doing pretty darn well on the Mindbender 90 Ti. It’s beneficial having something at least this narrow in moguls. A wider ski can be a bit of a handful as they like to smash into each other a little too much. The narrower width combined with that smooth tip shape really helped me in moguls. It’s also a stiff enough ski that you can drive it into and down the backside of a mogul without feeling like you’re stuffing a tip or over-flexing the ski. It gave me the confidence to ski a slightly more direct line than I would on a lot of other skis. I knew I could release the tail edge if I needed to bail out of a mogul line quickly, and also knew the ski would stay stable and allow me to open up the speed a little bit at the bottom of a run and just go. The same performance translates to tree skiing, and I think a lot of east coast skiers will be psyched with the performance of the Mindbender 90 Ti in the trees and on natural snow trails. Western skiers can benefit too, but with deeper snow, the wider Mindbender 99 Ti may be more appropriate. Depends on how and what you like to ski.
Now, on groomers, there are definitely skis out there that feel more responsive, there are definitely skis that pull you into a turn more quickly, but those skis don’t even really compare to the Mindbender 90 Ti in all the applications we just talked about. It’s still pretty darn powerful, especially when you’re driving the tip. It feels like it wants some skier input if you want to achieve energetic linked carving turns, but it also doesn’t feel like it needs skier input at all times like some skis in this category. You can relax on the Mindbender 90 Ti, which is nice. You can even ski with your weight a little more centered and you’ll benefit from the decreased torsional stiffness in the tail that allows you to pivot and smear turns. It’s going to work with a lot of different skiing styles. Do you keep your feet pretty close together and have more of an upright stance? No problem. Do you ski with a wider stance and a lower center of gravity like a modern GS racer? Also no problem. The Titanal Y-Beam design does a really good job allowing for and complimenting different skiing styles.
So, what’s the takeaway here? In our opinion, it’s versatility and fun. I think this ski arguably has a more even mix of performance characteristics than just about anything in the same width range. As mentioned before, there are skis that will carve a little better, and there are also skis that feel lighter and more maneuverable, but the Mindbender 90 Ti has a refreshing blend of performance. It also distinctly feels like a K2, and in my opinion more so than the Pinnacle collection did. It reminds me of how I felt skiing the original K2 Enemy back in 2001. They’re just a lot of fun in just about every application. It feels like a K2 in performance, attitude, design, the amount of fun you can have on it… I don’t know how else to say it, it just feels like a K2, and I’m really happy about that. My old Enemies are still in my possession because, in my opinion, that’s a historic ski. Maybe in 20 years there will be a 33 year old somewhere that feels the same way about these Mindbenders.