Under the hood: K2 Mindbender

Posted August 5, 2019 @ 9:58am | by George Michaelsen

The Kirschner brothers invented the Fiberglass ski on Vashon Island, Washington in 1961. A few years later in 1964 they began delivering skis.  K2 has been bending minds since the beginning and they've done it again with the K2 Mindbender series for 2020.  We asked Jed Yeiser the engineer behind the Mindbender's how they came about.

'Development of the skis started slowly, and we really struggled to get the blend of performance attributes we were looking for until we started to de-couple torsional and longitudinal flex profiles. That idea birthed Y-Beam and Spectral braid, and the rest of the design process cascaded from there. Ultimately, we wanted to build the kind of skis that all of us want to ski on. There were (and still are) a number of excellent freeride skis on the market from competitors. Those skis can be more or less broken into two categories – skis that are extremely stable at speed, ‘chargey, confidence inspiring in hairy situations, and a bit of a handful when the throttle isn’t pegged. The second category is made up of more nimble, lively, playful directional skis that release easily, but can get overwhelmed at high speeds or through rough snow. We wanted to make skis that were able to do both of those things – you’re always going to have to bias performance one way or another – but we wanted a ski that could fit in either of the categories I mentioned above based on the way the skier was weighting the ski. The more you drive the shovels of the mindbenders, the more responsive and confident they get, especially through variable snow – but if you’re skiing from a more centered stance, they still retain much of the playful and drifty character we were looking for these skis to have.'

We spent more time on the Mindbender's this season than we anticipated, they were just that good and do everything Jed says they do.  We didn't just ski them here at home in the East, we skied them all over from Jackson, to Aspen to Whistler.  However the most fun time was when 5 of us (Dylan, Eric, George, Matt & Neil) flew out to Seattle built some skis at K2's Arc facility, ate some great food, tested some skis for 2020 and 2021 at Steven's Pass and at North Cascade Heli, yep heli skiing. 

K2 Warehouse, Prototype Facility Seattle WA USA

We took the 6am flight to Seattle from Boston, after landing around 1030 we headed straight to the K2 Warehouse and ARC Facility, where all K2 ski and snowboard models are born.  

Ski Mold, Cassette, K2

K2 produces all the prototype aluminum ski molds in the ARC facilty on the CNC machine.  Each ski mold (tool) costs rougly $1000 to produce, that doesn't include any of the machinery to produce the skis or labor.  When you factor in materials for the skis and labor (not machinery) at the prototyping level each prototype costs roughly $2000, each tool makes roughly 3 - 5 prototypes at $2000 a pop.  There could be 4 - 5 rounds of tools produced on average before settling on a final ski that goes to production, bringing the prototype cost to as much as $50,000 per model. All prototyping for K2, Ride, Line etc is done at the Arc Facility just south of downtown Seattle.

Building Ski Molds

CNC machine, molds lined up, and wood cores being milled.

How to Press Skis

K2 Mindbenders after coming out of the press.  The excess will be cut off with a band saw before going to finishing/tuning.

Building Skis, finishing process

Laying up a ski, is a whole lot like making a very complex sandwich. Hence, sandwich sidewall construction.

Laying up a ski, sidewall construction

How to press skis

A tasty ski recipe, lots of ingredients, lots of steps. All of which need to be completed meticulously by hand.  In case you were wondeing The Mindbender 108 Ti is made up;

1. UHMWPE Bases

2. ABS Sidewalls

3. Steel Edges

4. Two different species of wood in the core (Fir and Aspen)

5. Three different fiberglass weaves/weights used throughout the ski.

6. Two different thicknesses of Titanal (basically a 6061 Aluminum with a substantially higher Vandium and Titanium content as alloying elements)

7. A thin polymer veil to promote bonding between the Titanal and topsheet

8. Foamed PE core extensions

9. Tail protector injected from Glass Filled TPU

10. Co-extruded TPU Topshet

11. Low VOC resin/epoxy.

 

A glimpse at the future.  <- This sentence expires February 2020.

2020 K2 Skis

In case we ever drop a record, the photo on the left is going to be the one that brings us fame. We had 2 coffees, a warm IPA and a shot of tequila while at K2 HQ for those wondering.

A trip to Seattle isn't complete without a quintessential shot of Pike's Place.

Unfortunately, due to the fact we were all having such a blast shredding with the K2 crew, we neglected taking many actual skiing photos. Be assured there was no shortage of steep trees, fast groomers, sick side jumps and even some slush bumps by the afternoon. If you ski at Steven's or are on your way to North Cascade Heli from Seattle, a stop in Leavenworth is a must. It's a cool little Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade mountains that serves up some solid German style food and beer.

North Cascade Heli A Star

 

This is a little weird, Matt who takes all the photos and handles marketing is in this shot holding the Mindbender 108 Ti's not sure who took the photo (probably K2's Will Eginton), but that's a photo of Matt wearing a backpack full of camera gear walking towards an A-Star.  Also a rare sighting of Matt wearing a helmet.

Nothing but stoke.

George and Eric, The Ski Monster

Bro's being basic, (Eric, Ryan (K2), George)

The North Cascades Washington, often confused with the Alps. Left to Right - George, Eric, Ryan (K2)

Tower, this is Maverick, requesting a flyby.

Everyone out.

North Cascade Mountains

Amazing how good the quality of shots are on Matt's iPhone 3.

We had to test a snowboard or two, Neil on the K2 Manifest.

George The Ski Monster Boston

The photo on the left is actually Dylan's backgound on his iPhone.  George showing off some base of the Mindbender 116's in the middle shot, and an aggressively average pole plant on the right.

A view of one of the tasty zones we just skied from the Heli.

Eric charging on the Mindbender 116 C's.

If Dylan had Bumble, this would be one of the many beard photos.

K2 Mindbender 116 and 108

A photo of the K2 Mindbender 108 Ti and 116 C in their natural habitat.

The Mindbender series is a different animal, the logo on the skis says K2 but it skis nothing like the K2's you have skied in the past. They are powerful, quiet at speed and have more confidence at said speed than you do. All the skis in the line are confidence boosting skis; with flex patterns, profiles and sidecuts that make sense for their respective waist width.  This is the new K2 and we like it, we like it a lot.   

PS. The K2 Mindbender 99 Ti,  90 Ti and the women's Alliance 88 Ti are top notch East Coast skis, consider the status quo disrupted.

 
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