Dimensions (mm): 146/117/134
Turn Radius: 26m @ 189cm
Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 189.23 cm
Boots / Bindings: 2012 Dalbello Il Moro T Comp (28) / Look P14 / Din (9)
Mount Location: On the line, “Traditional mount”
Test Location: Alta Ski Area / Alta Sidecountry / LCC Backcountry
Days Skied: 25+
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 10/11 Obsethed, which is unchanged for 11/12, except for the graphics.]
Seth Morrison’s film segments are some of the most popular and most talked about season after season. The same can be said for Seth’s pro model K2 skis, starting with the Seth Pistol back in the early 2000’s, right on up to K2’s current version of the Obsethed – which remains the same (except for a new topsheet) for the 2011-2012 season.
Seth’s pro model skis have slowly been gaining more width and more rocker over the years, with the previous model of the Obsethed (08/09-09/10) featuring a 105mm waist and a10mm rise / 20cm run tip and tail rocker.
For 2010-2011, the Obsethed received a complete redesign, and I must say: K2 and Seth hit one out of the park with this new ski. It’s as if the current, 132mm waist, K2 Hellbent had a love child with the last version of the Obsethed, and that child managed to pick up the best genes from each. Or if that image is a little too weird for you, try this: the new K2 Obsethed is like a more directional, snappier, more versatile version of the original K2 Hellbent.
Let’s start with the details. K2 finally updated its topsheet and topsheet/sidewall junction. Everyone knows that the pre-2011 K2’s with a vertical sidewall (non-cap) were very prone to chipping. What I mean by “very prone” is that, within a couple weeks of regular skiing, your new skis looked worse than an east coast ski hill’s 10 year old rental fleet.
The new “Twin Tech” construction rolls the topsheet down to meet the sidewall at a more obtuse angle, instead of having a 90 degree junction where the topsheet meets the sidewall. This new design is significantly better, and after thrashing these skis for weeks on end, there isn’t a single chip on my pair of Obsetheds. The new topsheet also appears to be less susceptible to scratching as well – another bonus.
Every new version of Seth’s pro model has seen an increase in width and rocker, but this year’s received a much greater increase. The previous version had dimensions of 138/105/125, while the 10/11-11/12 Obsethed has jumped up to 146/117/134.
The skis rocker/camber profile has also changed dramatically. Gone is the 10/20 (mm rise / cm run) “All-Terrain Rocker” in both the tip and tail. The new Obsethed features K2’s 20/40 “Powder Rocker” in the tip, while keeping the “All-Terrain Rocker” in the tail. Take these changes and couple them with a slight reduction in the amount of camber underfoot, and no one will be surprised to learn that the Obsethed’s deep snow prowess has significantly increased.
The flex pattern of the ski has also been changed on the new model. Instead of a full Fir core of years past, the new Obsethed is a mix of both Fir and Aspen. The ski hand flexes quite a bit softer than the previous models, but what it feels like it loses in stiffness it definitely gains in snappiness. (One side note on hand flexing: don’t let this be your sole guide when you’re running through skis at your local ski shop. The Obsethed is a perfect example of a ski that feels insanely soft in your hands but skis much different.)
A few small but important changes have to do with overall length and backcountry usage. I’m not exactly sure why there isn’t a standard or why this seems to be so hard for some companies, but advertised length versus actual length can vary greatly from company to company. K2’s have been notoriously long over the years. In 2009-10, the 189cm Obsethed measured in at 195cm, and the179 cm came in at about 183cm. But now – and finally – K2 skis measure their advertised length. This year’s 189cm Obsethed is 189cm long with a straight pull tape (Gasp! Shocking!) Maybe other erroneously measured brands will follow K2’s suite here.
For those who venture out of bounds, K2 has added their replaceable tip and tail rivets to the Obsethed. With the purchase of K2’s pre-cut climbing skins, life has never been easier. The skins are already fit to the ski (no trimming necessary) and all you need to do is pop out the rivet at both ends of the ski and place the hook of the skin through at each end. If you’re tired of touring with twin tips because of the hassle of a slipping tail attachment, K2 has the answer for you with this new system.
A note on those little “pop-out” rivets: keep an eye on them to make sure they are tight while skiing resort, or they might disappear. Both of the tail rivets on my pair of Obsetheds have been donated to Alta…maybe I’ll find them this summer.
Ok, enough with the details. What really matters is how the new Obsethed skis. After being on and off the ski for about 3 months, I can say these skis are great. If you read my bio you will see that the original K2 Hellbent was (and still is) one of my favorite skis. That being said, I don’t believe the original Hellbent is perfect; I wish they were (1) a little stiffer and snappier (2) had a little camber for hardpack and slow-speed, technical areas (3) came in a measured length between 185 and 196.
I also owned the previous version of the Obsethed (08/09-09/10), and to be honest, I was not its biggest fan. The 179 seemed too short for charging, yet too stiff and dead-feeling for playing. The 189 Seth measured in at 195cm, was not nimble enough for tight spots, and was close to impossible for my skinny self to throw around in the air.
The 2011 Obsethed takes all the qualities I loved about the original K2 Hellbents and fills in all of the attributes I had wished for. The new Obsethed floats in powder much better than the previous model. It basically feels just like the older Hellbent in the deep stuff, offering a very “surfy” feel in all depths of pow. We have been very, very fortunate this year at Alta (thank you mother nature and the snow gods) and the new Obsethed has had more than its fair share of powder day testing.
Not only does the new Obsethed rule the pow, but once the snow gets cut up, it floats you across the crud like it doesn’t even exist. This is where the hand flexing is most misleading: the new ski definitely feels like it has a soft shovel, but while skiing, you feel its progressively stiffer flex in the mid section that keeps the ski calm in the rough stuff.
The best part about the Obsethed in these conditions is that it still has a very large sweet spot. You can press into the tips and charge the pow and chop, or you can choose to stay in a more balanced, upright position. The ski is fantastic both ways. (Take note here that I am a pretty light guy – 160 lbs. – so those significantly heavier may need to stay more balanced to not overpower the ski in chop.)
In 3-4 day old packed snow, the skis are great for smearing medium to large radius turns down open faces like Alta’s Eddie’s High Nowhere, or through the more open trees of Westward Ho and Eagle’s Nest.
And if you really want to open things up, the ski is plenty stable at speed, and railing 50mph carves down West Rustler was a total blast. The skis are definitely snappier then the older Obsethed, but not so much that the skis buck you off of every little bump in your path. Instead, the skis loft you nicely into the air off anything you choose to pop, but stay settled down otherwise. On groomers, the ski is comfortable laying into long radius arcs at high speed, and have a nice release from turn to turn.
Swing weight in the air felt pretty average – maybe even below average for how big of a ski it is. I would, however, like to have been a few centimeters forward if I were tricking this ski a bunch.
For those interested in using the Obsethed as a backcountry ski, I believe it is a very worthy tool. While it’s certainly not for the super weight conscious, it’s not overly heavy. And it excels in the highly variable snow you find in the backcountry. With this ski there is no need to worry about hitting any depth of wind crust, sun crust, inverted snow, or even avy debris. The big-rockered tip and stable flex keeps the ride smooth and consistent, no matter what you encounter on your descent.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try the K2 pre-cut skins so I can’t vouch for that system. What I can say is that I loved that rockered tip when setting a new skin track in deep snow. The Obsethed’s rockered tail obviously doesn’t offer as much grip as a flat-tailed ski while skinning up a frozen skin track, but there were only a couple instances where I had a slip on the way up with my Black Diamond Ascensions.
The area where the Obsethed didn’t impress me was traveling at medium speeds and trying to execute quick, short radius turns in bumped up terrain. It’s not that the skis wouldn’t do what I asked them to, it’s just that it took more concentration and a lot of effort to make it happen. I believe this had a lot to do with how far back the bindings were mounted. Moving the bindings forward will quicken up the skis, and I will update this once I spend some time on the ski mounted farther forward.
A fix for this little hiccup in the skis performance was just to let the skis run a little more, smear a slightly larger radius turn, and skip over the tops of moguls rather then shred the troughs. (Remember that this is a ski that is 117mm underfoot and has only a tiny bit of camber, so quick and snappy turns are a lot to ask for out of a ski this size.)
While we’re being critical, I have to add that, while K2’s Die-cut base looks great, it is very soft. If you ski in areas with lots of sharks, get ready to do some base repairs. The good news, however, is that K2’s oversized edge is robust, so base damage shouldn’t be catastrophic.
The most frequent question I get asked about the new Obsethed is: “Is it as versatile as the old?” It’s a tough one to answer. For west coast skiers who live in high snowfall areas, I believe this ski is more versatile than its predecessor, and could surely be your one ski quiver. This is especially true for the younger “jibby” crowd that likes to play around, but also likes to charge a few high-speed runs. Those in locations with less snowfall will probably prefer something with narrower dimensions as an every day ski, but would find the Obsethed as a great pow day and day-after board for their quiver.
At the moment, the K2 Obsethed is my go to powder board; the ski I grab to go session kickers in the backcountry; and the ski I slap Alpine Trekkers on for all but the longest backcountry laps. I would use it as my everyday ski here at Alta (and I did for awhile) if I didn’t have a garage full of skis to test.
Overall, the ski offers up no huge surprises – you probably aren’t going to say, “Holy Crap! This feels different than anything I’ve ever skied!” – it simply does almost everything really well.
The K2 Obsethed is playful, but it can also charge. It is comfortable in and able to conquer a broad range of conditions and terrain, much like the guy it’s named after.