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.)
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…
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.
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.