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2014-2015 K2 Annex 98

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the K2 Annex 98, Blister Gear Review

K2 Annex 98

Ski: 2014-2015 K2 Annex 98, 184cm

Dimensions (mm): 131-98-119

Sidecut Radius: 22 meters

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 186.0cm

BLISTER’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1956 & 1996 grams

Construction: Metal Laminate with Aspen/Paulownia/Maple Core

Boots / Bindings (DIN setting): Salomon X-Pro 120; Marker Griffon (DIN at 11)

Mount Location: Factory Line

Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley

Days Skied: 4

For the 14/15 season, K2 is bringing back their 98mm-underfoot Annex 98, so it was time to see where this directional ski fits in among the rest of the field.

Here’s K2’s own description of the Annex 98:

“The Annex 98 freeride ski is designed for hard-charging skiers looking to shred top-to-bottom runs down the fall line, whether in-bounds or just outside the ropes.”

Ok, so a directional, “hard-charging,” fall line-oriented ski that is light enough to handle some sidecountry & touring duties. Got it.

That description (the ‘hard-charging / fall line’ stuff) coupled with the fact that the Annex 98 has a metal laminate, would lead me to put the ski in the company of the the 13/14 Volkl Mantra or the Blizzard Bonafide.

But the Annex 98 is a bit lighter than those skis, and is intended to handle both in-bounds and out-of-bounds duties, moving it a little closer to skis like the 13/14 Nordica Hell & Back and the 13/14 Fischer Watea 96—though these latter two skis don’t have metal in them.

So what do we actually have here?

Two Skis in One

The Annex 98 is a hybrid design for sure, and the front half of the ski has little in common with the back half of the ski. (Having surveyed the reviews of the Annex 98 from other publications, it amazes me that none of them really discusses this aspect of the ski, because this is the whole story of the Annex 98.) Let’s start with the back half:

The Tails of the K2 Annex 98

The tails of this ski are stout. They are a rather fat, flat tail that tapers only near the end of the ski, and only turns up a touch. Plus, the tails are nearly as stiff as the 13/14 Volkl Mantra, and they are stiffer than the Blizzard Bonafide’s. I’d call them Medium-Stiff / Stiff.

In other words, coupled with the Annex 98’s traditional camber underfoot, the back half of this ski has all the elements of a pretty powerful carver, a ski that wants to be put on edge and arc turns, not just slither and smear its way down the mountain. Matching K2’s description, the back half of the ski is a pretty serious, fall line ski.

Then there’s the front half…

The Shovels of the K2 Annex 98

Unlike most fall line-oriented chargers (the Mantra, Hell & Back, Bonafide, etc.), the Annex 98 has heavily tapered tips, which is a tip shape that is far more characteristic of fun-shape skis like the Armada JJ, Rossignol S3 / Sin 7 / Soul 7, and the DPS Wailer 99 and Wailer 112. What all of these skis have in common is that they are lightweight, very quick, and super easy to turn.

What is also characteristic of this group is that they generally have quite a bit more tip rocker than those fall line chargers, and they have softer—often much softer—flex patterns.

So while the back half of the Annex 98 has the stout flex pattern of those fall line chargers, the front half of the Annex 98 has a much softer flex pattern, akin to this “fun-shape” group. (I would categorize the Annex’s 98 as ‘soft / very soft’.)

In sum: with the Annex 98, we’ve got a fun-shape ski in the front half, and a fall line charger in the back half. To provide another point of reference, the K2 Shreditor 102 that Jason Hutchins reviewed has much softer tails than the Annex 98, but its shovels are very similarly soft.

If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you know that this isn’t my favorite flex pattern. I value consistency in a flex pattern as much as I value any aspect of a given ski’s design. So I’d personally rather ski a uniformly soft ski (e.g., the Shreditor 102 or the Line Sir Francis Bacon) or a very stiff ski (e.g., 13/14 Volkl Mantra or Salomon X-Drive 8.8). If the flex pattern is more uniform, the ski generally has a pretty big sweet spot and throws up fewer surprises while skiing. (If you want to read more about this, see my review of the Dynastar Cham 117. While the Cham 117 is quite a bit wider, its flex pattern is quite similar to the K2 Annex 98.)

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the K2 Annex 98, Blister Gear Review

Jonathan on the K2 Annex 98, The North Face, Taos Ski Valley.

Having said all that, the next most useful thing I can add is that, obviously, these are merely my preferences. If you already know that you tend to like the combination of soft shovels and stiff tails, then this ski absolutely fits the bill.

Ok, let’s flesh out the Annex 98’s on-snow performance a bit more…

Groomers

As noted, if you like to actually get on edge and carve, the tails of the Annex 98 are your friend. But on roughed-up groomers at high speeds, the shovels of the Annex 98 were (for me) too soft to smooth out the terrain, and they felt insubstantial. Lighter skiers (I weigh 180 lbs.) may have a better experience here. And heavier skiers that don’t care about really pushing high speeds, but do enjoy getting their skis on edge will likely enjoy the Annex 98—especially on smooth groomers.

Moguls

The shovels of the Annex 98 feel very light and quick on snow, pretty ideal for bumps. But those flatter, stiffer tails aren’t super conducive to smearing your way through the moguls, so the better your technique, the more I think you’ll enjoy the Annex 98 in moguls. (And the more uniform the mogul lines, the faster I think you’ll be able to rip through the mogul fields on the 98. In messed-up bump lines at speed, I’d personally prefer a ski with a more uniform flex pattern.

5 Comments

  1. waxonskinsoff July 21, 2014 Reply

    There seems to be a vaguely familiar ski ‘feel’ running through a number of models in the K2 backcountry oriented ski lineup. Having experience with the 181 Coomba (non rockered tip), 188 rockered Coomback, 188 Sidestash (enhanced tip rocker version) and 178 Darkside (lesser tip rocker version) there are some handling characteristic similarities with your assessment of the latest Annex model, to varying degrees. My experience is primarily based on backcountry snow conditions running the gammut of quality from unskiable crust to hero pow; very little time was spent inbounds.

    All K2 models skied basic right side up pow and consistent untracked snow conditions well. The issues arise in temperature/rain crust and heavy punchy moister coastal snow and deeper stiffer, settled faceted pow. Somehow, I suspect, the variable sidecut with the more deeper shape in the fore of the ski struggles to balance with the straighter rear. Noted more in the Coomba/Coomback and to lesser degrees with the Sidestash and Darkside. With the Coomba/Coomback I struggled to find a true sweet spot in crust deeper moister coastal powtatoes and deeper faceted stiffer snow. The skis tended to overturn at the tip forcing a weight shift to center/back. At this point there seemed to be a lack of centered feel in which to balance and work effective round shaped or z shaped turns. Frequently balance would further be forced to the rear and the straighter tails would protest completing turns and/or breaking free/smearing resulting in a bit of a ‘cookie cutter’ effect while being taken for a rear weighted ride.

    Experiences were similar but less dramatic on the Sidestash and Darkside. The more robust flex and wider overall width of the Sidestash assisted with tip stability and power however, the deeper rocker line combine with potentially a slight mismatch with the forebody side cut just didn’t allow a consistent tip engagement that was balanced with the rear of the ski in these more marginal snow conditions. The effect was less impactful than on The Coomba/Coomback and the power of the ski allowed a bit more in the way of style reinforced ski persuasion.

    The wider Darkside handled a much broader spectrum of snow conditions with aplomb and panache. Deeper yet stiffer facets were laughed at, consistent, smooth breakable rain or temperature crust with shallower penetration was a nimble, balanced tap dance and all drier pow was an enjoyable sunday walk in the park. Issues arose from deeper moister wet spring snow, breakable spring crust on deeper penetration moist snow beneath and some funkier wind slab and crust conditions. The forebody of the ski would slightly fold and the sidecut issues would reappear in terms of the ski feeling slightly unbalanced and hooky at the tip. Having said that, I would characterize those conditions at being at the extreme end of bad snow conditions penetrating into the gray area before unskiable….anything within those margins and the Darkside was generally a reliable, enjoyable, poppy yet fairly stable ride.

    I will be experimenting with some forebody stiffening lexan strips and some custom base spooning on the Darkside to see if they improve the ever so slightly ‘folding’ aspects of the forward third of the ski to eliminate that variable in tweaking their performance for edge of envelope snow conditions…looking forward to product testing in bad snow this winter! ;)

  2. waxonskinsoff July 22, 2014 Reply

    I should mention some personal stats from which the above observations were made from. Skier: 179cms tall, 172 pounds in weight. Skiing for 35+ years, prit near back country specific for the past 20. Ski an average of 80 days/season, 126 days this season. Boots employed are: Mainstay— Dynafit Mercury, mostly without tongue, tongue in for tougher snow conditions and more challenging 3D snow. Once in a while— Garmont Delirium, upright forward lean position. Also of note; aforementioned obs for the K2 skis mostly drawn from experience with the Mercury boots with and without tongue. It was noticed that more subjective control of the various skis was obtained with the more burly Delirium, however, the basic character of ski response was similar though impacted the joy of skiing in a less negative sense. There were occasions where the Delirium felt like too much boot for the skis aside from the Sidestash where a good power balance was achieved.

  3. Blister Member
    dennis July 23, 2014 Reply

    wow. that is karate kid stuff!

  4. Blister Member
    kurt February 10, 2015 Reply

    Do you guys plan to review the Annex 108? I’m trying to decide between the 98 and the 108 for my first touring setup. The 98 would be fine for the northeast where I live but I’d also like the option of using it out west which has me leaning towards the 108.

  5. Andreas Markussen January 8, 2016 Reply

    HI have bought a pair of Annex 89 14/15, I weigh 187 pounds and I am 172 tall. I am an intermediate skiier.

    When I tried the ski on Hard snow, then they did not grip.
    I dont know if it is because I bought the skiis to long, or if I should get a pair of racing skiis for the days, when the pists har icy, or very hard.

    What height are you? And what length did you use?
    I have a Telemark binding on these.

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