Alpine Skiing: The K2 Four

Outside magazine, February 1996

Alpine Skiing: The K2 Four
By Will Gadd

I'm wary of any piece of equipment touted as having a "brain," as K2 touts its new Four alpine skis. I don't care how "smart" the piezoelectric damping system sounds; I prefer not to delegate the cerebral part of skiing to a pair of inanimate planks. Their questionable intelligence aside, however, the K2 Four carves better than any ski I've used in the past 15 years. The Four is fat--but not to the point of powder-ski obesity--with a snowboardlike hourglass shape. Put it on edge, and you can't help but carve a joyous turn. The only other skis that will carve this well are modern GS skis, but they require cement-block boots to drive through a turn, which the Four doesn't.

Now, the brain: According to K2, piezoelectric damping is used in military jets and space shuttles to keep the wings from vibrating off. Translating that for skiers, the Four sports a muscle-car-style "brain bulge" with a small LED light in front of the binding. Start crashing through the bumps or cruising at high speeds, and the ski's damping circuitry (and the light) goes on. I don't know if it's the high-tech damping or the hourglass design, but something makes the Four eat right through ruts and other vibration-producing obstacles with ease.

K2 designed the Four to ski best in shorter-than-traditional lengths. That the skis still carve well at this length is true testament to the success of the Four's radical shape. The 14-millimeter sidecut works especially well to float the ski through crud or deep, wet snow, two ACL-threatening conditions. The only drawback I could find with the Four was while skiing just shy of ski-patrol-attracting speeds: Trust me when I suggest mildly detuning the outside edges of the tails to stop the skis from turning at inopportune times. But I'm ready to trade my closetful of skis for one pair of Fours--as will many a thinking skier.

$625. From K2, 19215 Vashon Highway S.W., Vashon, WA 98070; 800-426-1617.

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