Most everyone who follows me on social media and in real life knows that I have a soft spot for Scott skis, and despite my predilection for these superlative Swiss skis, that fact has never prevented me from appreciating other companies and their equally amazing product… After all, I’m a ski tester at heart and I live by the code that a good ski deserves praise, no matter who built it.
When the 19/20 ski testing season began in late December of 2018 one ski more than any other really, truly captured my curiosity… One ski truly blew my mind once I got to ski on them at Avila deep in the Quebec Laurentians. Did I fall in love because of my exceedingly low expectations? Was that puddle of drool sitting there because nothing they’d produced since my old VO Slaloms from 1989 ever turned my crank? Was I so surprised because they were made on a continent other than Europe or North America? Or was I smitten because I had simply given up on K2 as the kind of company that could produce something as awesome and fun to ski-on as the Mind Bender 99?
The Mind Bender family is a new one at K2. One that I accurately predicted would put them back on the map. When I first tried a pair of 99’s I was quite simply aroused. I loved the way they solidly initiated each turn then eagerly drove through every arc, the way they exited each turn stoked to launch into the next one… always Velcroed to the ground, solid like a much heavier ski yet almost as playful as my benchmark Scott Cascade 110’s.
As I was wrapping up my tenure at Sutton, my last departing wish was that my buddy Chris could magically make one of their super-rare blue prototype skis available to little-old me, me who was about to become a big fat nobody in the ski buying business.
Now, it’s never easy to get gear… The silly 80’s with their giveaway ways are long gone. No one gets anything for free anymore… but it’s a bit easier to get stuff thrown your way when you’re making buying decisions. It’s just part of the perks of the job. As for me, I was taught by the venerable Jim Kennedy on how to make sure you don’t ever have to pay for gear again… and there’s a cost to that.
I’m so very lucky to have had companies support me throughout my career, in the good times and the bad, companies like Dalbello through my good friend Murray, Scott through my friends Aaron, Andrew and JFL, Oakley through Karl, Hestra through Sebastien, Picture and Prêt through Luc, Icebreaker through Jean-Seb and POC throughDominic. Superlative product repped and sold by the best of the best.
So it meant so much to me when Mr. Prunier handed me a pair of prototype Mind Benders on my last week at Sutton. There was absolutely nothing in it for him other than to make a lifelong ski bum and ski collector as happy as can be. Karma will be good to you Chris. Trust me.
Once I had my new babies in my possession, the quest for the perfect ski binding for them began. There were three contenders: The Look Pivot. Light with powerful energy transmission and a very short mounting footprint that hardly affects ski flex, The Knee Binding (one of my favourites) for its ACL-friendly rear heel release properties and finally The Salomon STH mainly because they remind me of the old 727’s of my youth but also because of its elastic toe with adjustable wings that hold the boot beyond the DIN toe cap. After some time I settled on the STH and thankfully my old friend and Salomon rep extraordinaire Gilles was kind enough the perfect pair of STH 16’s in screaming chicken yellow.
The next step was to have them prepped and mounted by my youngest protégé… After all, I taught her everything I know so why not pass the torch to the newest Jedi Master. Once She mounted the bindings perfectly and tuned and prepped the skis as if they had come out of the Fischer race department, complete with chevron structure and perfectly honed edges at .8 / 88
Soon after I got to try them on for the first time at Sutton and my oh my if they didn’t ski exactly as I hoped they would. While they weren’t as light and playful as my Scrapper 115’s, while they didn’t slice and dice like my Slight 93’s and while they didn’t have the insane height-speed stability of my Powd’airs they did remind me of the old Volkl Gotama’s in the way they handled everything with unflappable confidence including my patented (if slightly old-school) air turns. My guess is that K2 is gonna sell a bazillion of these.
Thanks again Chris!