2018 K2 Marksman Ski Review: An Ideal Choice for Surfy Skiers // Ski Reviews
Let's be perfectly honest: with so many brands making so many great skis every year, it can be hard to stand out. To combat this, it's not at all uncommon for ski manufacturers to "peacock" a bit- showing off unique or unusual design ideas to gain some of that coveted consumer attention. Sometimes there's legitimacy to these eye-catching innovations, while other times they fall into the realm of the gimmick and they expire within a year or two.
Pretty weird way to start a review right? Why even bother bringing all of this up? Well, because most skiers are going to notice one specific thing about the K2 Marksman before anything else: the asymmetrical tip and tail design. The first time I tried these skis, I had the benefit of demoing them directly from the local K2 sales rep, meaning I had the opportunity to ask about the intention of the design. To be totally honest, I was wearing my skeptical pants that day and I was curious to see whether this was a legitimate feature, or more of an eye catching gimmick. Here's what the rep told me, more or less:
When you're up on your edges and holding a carve, the edge of your inside foot is going to have a slightly tighter turn radius than your outside foot. This is something that's especially noticeable in powder as the added resistance from the snow can lead to your tips carving at different rates. To combat this, the K2 Marksman has asymmetrical tips that, in theory, reduce tip hooking in deep snow as the radii should be more in tune with each other.
Now here's where you're likely expecting me to tell you that this tip design was something along the lines of, "the best ski innovation in years!" Truthfully though, it was a bit hard to test the theory on a foggy, rainy day in April. Here's what I can tell you though: these skis had one of the smoothest arcs of any ski I tested that day. It was able to hold a long, strong edge while also remaining surprisingly nimble edge to edge considering the waist width (106mm). I never experienced any kind of unexpected tip hooking, even when skiing switch. This might seem normal, but anyone who has ever skied switch on a pair of demo skis knows how easy it is to catch a tail edge. Ultimately, I can't vouch for how well the idea works in powder, but I can attest to the skis ability to rip groomers with unexpected strength and agility. Worst case scenario: the technology doesn't impact powder riding, in which case you still have an amazing all mountain ski. Best case scenario: the tip design is as advertised and you have an amazing all mountain ski that really shines on powder days. According to Webster, that's a win-win situation.
For a guy like me though, perhaps the most impressive part of the K2 Marksman has nothing to do with peacocking technologies. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The core construction of these skis is beautifully simple. It's built with strips of wood laid parallel, and a series of carbon stringers running vertically along the top and base of the ski. The simplicity of this design results in two things that I love: predictability and pop. Rather than layer metal, or carbon, or fiberglass materials into specific zones (which, I'll admit is a technique that certainly has its place in the world of skiing), the uniform paneling of wood creates a ski that has an incredibly smooth, even flex. It's something that I only realized I'd taken for granted after skiing the Marksman. Let me explain it another way: the way these skis flex led to the uncontrollable desire to butter, press, smear, and slash any chunk of snow I laid my eyes on. These skis can turn slopeside chunder into a terrain park, a benefit that I believe we can credit to Mr. Pep Fujas's involvement with the design.
Incidentally, that brings me to my next point: the pop. It's been a long time since I can remember being so impressed with the sheer pop of a ski. There were literally times when I'd look to lightly pop off a roller, only to find myself doubling my anticipated trajectory. Now, I'll admit I may be on the verge of giving false credit here, but my intuition suspects that the carbon stringers in these skis have something to do with it. Really though, it doesn't matter. I treat this situation as if I fell victim to a placebo effect: I don't care what the cause is as long as it works.
And man, do these skis work. As a skier, I'm the type of person who skis a blue square as if it's the steepest pitch in Alaska. I'll charge until things get too choppy to handle, at which point I'll look to turn my body sideways and push my heels into whatever pile of snow I can use to slow myself down. Then, it's game on until it's time to dig in the heels again. In moguls, it's the same. Rather than use my knees to absorb the ups and downs, I'm treating the sides of bumps like a snake run: weaving, smearing, and carving the berms to the bottom. If there's any opportunity at all to leave the ground or ski switch, I'll look to take full advantage of it.
Skiing in such a way demands a high level versatility from a ski. It should be able to go fast with confidence, while also being able to smear sideways in a half moment's notice. The ski needs to be forceful, yet smooth. It also has to be soft, yet responsive as the added spice of popping off a roller or pressing into switch mode is what makes each run worth it. In my experience, it's surprisingly difficult to find a ski whose personality matches my own. The K2 Marksman however, does exactly that.
So, is the K2 Marksman a great choice for someone who spends most of their time laying hard carves down black diamond groomers? Probably not. Not because the Marksman is incapable of the feat, but only because there's likely a better option out there for that type of skier. It's also probably not a great ski for someone who spends most of their time exclusively in the terrain park. Again, the Marksman would be a fine choice, but there are skis built specifically for big air and double flips that would probably be a better fit.
I will tell you who the K2 Marksman is definitely for though: skiers who likely started their ski "careers" skiing in the terrain park, but have since taken their freestyle tendencies to the rest of the mountain. They're for the type of skier who may find himself skiing switch on just about every run. In all honesty, it's probably even that skier that's going to get yelled at once or twice a season by a more intermediate skier who didn't realize that they weren't actually in any danger of being hit at all (totally not speaking from experience here...).
If it's not obvious enough already, I've absolutely fallen in love with the K2 Marksman. It's the perfect width for my everyday ski at 106mm, and utilizes the holy trinity of tip rocker / camber / tail rocker. The result is an incredibly versatile, yet playful ski whose only limitations are your own. If you're the type of skier who can't help but slash, butter, and charge their way from top to bottom, then I can't recommend the K2 Marksman enough. Do yourself a favor, get a pair of Marksmans next year and prepare to have your mind blown.