Ski: 2022-2023 K2 Mindbender 99Ti W, 172 cm
Test Locations: Mt. Crested Butte, CO; Taos Ski Valley, NM
Days Skied: 11
Available Lengths: 154, 160, 166, 172 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length (straight-tape pull): 171.8 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1928 & 1945 grams
Stated Dimensions: 134-99-120 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 113.5-98.5-119.6 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius (166 cm): 15.4 meters
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 58.5 mm / 24 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: 3.5 mm
Core Materials: Aspen + Titanal “Y-Beam” Layer + fiberglass laminate
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -10 cm from center; 75.9 cm from tail
In March, K2 announced several changes they were making to their Mindbender Ti series of freeride skis, which had been unchanged since their initial release in 19/20. The “Titanal Y-Beam” that K2 has used in their previous versions of the Mindbender Ti series was tweaked to create sections in the forebody and underfoot that were more torsionally rigid and stable for turn initiation and edge hold, but taken away in certain areas to allow for easier release through the tail. They also integrated their “Aspen Veneer” core, which consists of a lot of thin aspen stringers, as well as tweaks to the rocker profiles of the skis (most notably, deeper tail rocker lines).
While I spent a lot of time on the Mindbender 106C Alliance and Mindbender 115C Alliance and got along well with both of them, they were mostly suited to soft snow conditions (note: K2 ditched the “Alliance” name for their women’s skis for 22/23, instead option for a simple “W” designation). So, when the new 172 cm Mindbender 99Ti W arrived at Blister Headquarters, I was really excited to compare it to many of the other all-mountain, women-specific skis in this category that I have spent most of the season on.
As you will find out in my review, my desire to ski the Mindbender 99Ti W outlived the season here at Mt. Crested Butte, and I look forward to more time on it next season.
Women-Specific Aspects of the Mindbender 99Ti Series
The women’s Mindbender 89Ti and 99Ti are built with the same shape, construction, and materials as the men’s Mindbender 89Ti and 99Ti, respectively. Aside from different length offerings and graphics, the skis are the same.
What K2 says about the Mindbender 99Ti W
“The K2 Mindbender 99Ti Women’s freeride ski is built for women who demand ultimate versatility from their skis. Our Titanal Y-Beam construction keeps things damp and stable when speeds are high and conditions are choppy, while the All-Terrain Rocker profile and moderate waist width maintain quickness and agility when you find yourself in tight spots or technical terrain. Titanal has long been used in high-end skis and is known for providing a damp, stable ride at high speeds and on variable terrain, but our Y-Beam technology takes things a step further with dramatically enhanced performance tuning. Refined for the 2022 collection, these Y-shaped prongs set over the edges in the shovel of the ski provide precise, powerful turn initiation, while the narrower metal shape in the tail of the ski provides the support you need for charging while still remaining maneuverable, forgiving, and easy to break free from turns.”
Shape / Rocker Profile
The new 22/23 Mindbender Ti series features deeper rocker lines than the previous versions, particularly in the tail. In general, the Mindbender 99Ti W has deeper rocker lines than many directional skiers in its class, though the Mindbender 99Ti’s rocker lines are quite low-slung; they stay pretty low for a while, so you can still engage much of the rockered portion on edge when you lean it over. The Mindbender 99Ti W has significantly deeper rocker lines than some other comparable skis in this category, such as the Volkl Secret 96 and Blizzard Black Pearl 97.
The shape of the Mindbender 96Ti series is very similar to previous iterations, with a bit of early tapering in the shovels and tails and a slightly more “squared” shape in the shovel and tail.
Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Mindbender 99Ti W:
In Front of Toe Piece: 8-9.5
Behind the Heel Piece: 9.5-9
The flex pattern of the Mindbender 99Ti W feels pretty similar to the previous Mindbender 98Ti Alliance, though the new ski feels a bit stiffer overall. Its tips and shovels are fairly easy to bend, but it’s very strong around the middle, then finishes with a tail that’s a bit stronger, but not wildly stiffer than the tips.
The Mindbender 99 Ti W has a traditional mount point, at -10 from center, which is in line with many other directional skis in its class, like the Secret 96 and Black Pearl 97. This mount point felt intuitive and natural for how I wanted to ski the Mindbender 99Ti W, so I felt no need to change it.
The Mindbender 99Ti W is not a very lightweight ski, but compared to other metal-laminate skis like the Nordica Santa Ana 98, Secret 96, 4FRNT MSP CC, and Black Pearl 97, it is right in line when it comes to weight (if not marginally lighter).
For reference, here are our measured weights for some notable skis. Keep in mind the length differences to try to keep things apples to apples.
1556 & 1575 Liberty Genesis 96, 165 cm (19/20–20/21)
1592 & 1637 Head Kore 97 W, 170 cm (21/22)
1622 & 1638 Blizzard Black Pearl 88, 165 cm (20/21–22/23)
1638 & 1639 Atomic Maven 93 C, 172 cm (21/22–22/23)
1687 & 1695 Elan Ripstick 102 W, 170 cm (20/21–22/23)
1693 & 1710 Moment Sierra, 172 cm (21/22)
1709 & 1710 Blizzard Sheeva 10, 172 cm (17/18–22/23)
1762 & 1801 K2 Mindbender 98Ti Alliance, 168 cm (19/20–21/22)
1792 & 1792 Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free, 172 cm (20/21–22/23)
1797 & 1839 Rossignol Rallybird 102, 170 cm (20/21–22/23)
1812 & 1817 Salomon Stance 94 W, 174 cm (20/21–22/23)
1831 & 1852 Rossignol Rallybird 104 Ti, 171 cm (20/21–22/23)
1833 & 1842 Volkl Secret 96, 163 cm (21/22–22/23)
1881 & 1895 Salomon QST Lumen 99, 174 cm (19/20–21/22)
1903 & 1917 Nordica Santa Ana 93, 172 cm (20/21–22/23)
1917 & 1935 Nordica Santa Ana 98, 172 cm (20/21–22/23)
1928 & 1945 K2 Mindbender 99Ti W, 172 cm (22/23)
1933 & 1975 Volkl Secret 96, 170 cm (21/22–22/23)
1955 & 1990 Coalition Snow SOS, 173 cm (19/20–20/21)
1969 & 1988 4FRNT MSP CC, 171 cm (20/21–22/23)
1983 & 1999 Nordica Santa Ana 100, 177 cm (18/19 – 19/20)
2015 & 2024 Blizzard Black Pearl 97, 171 cm (20/21–22/23)
2104 & 2115 Volkl Secret 102, 170 cm (19/20–21/22)
Now, onto how the Mindbender 99Ti W performs on snow:
Kara Williard (5’9”, 167 lbs / 175 cm, 75.7 kg): The 172 cm Mindbender 99Ti W provides close to what I’d consider baseline performance for what I want from a 99mm-wide ski on groomers. It initiates turns quickly and locks in with ease. It feels smooth throughout its flex pattern, including in the shovels across pretty harsh snow and refrozen corduroy. I found the Mindbender 99Ti W to be a lively and energetic ski that has no trouble speeding up, slowing down, or adjusting turn size, even on the steepest groomed pitches. The midsection of the ski provides a stable platform with a very noticeable energetic rebound, making it really fun and easy to snap in and out of turns quickly. The Mindbender 99Ti W is a lively, yet powerful and damp ski that is really fun on groomed terrain, including at high speeds.
While there are some skis that offer more stability and precision at top speeds, or on the firmest of groomers, such as the Blizzard Black Pearl 97 and Volkl Secret 96, the Mindbender 99Ti W feels like a more lively ski that is a bit easier to initiate and roll in and out of turns without a ton of effort.
Moguls, Trees, and Tight Terrain
I skied the Mindbender 99Ti W in what inevitably becomes mogul season at Mt. Crested Butte and Taos — moguls in trees, moguls on steeps, and then just really massive moguls on what are traditionally mogul runs. To me, the Mindbender 99Ti felt like a quick and energetic ski that felt both intuitive and smooth across moguls across all conditions. It provides a nice balance of stability and maneuverability for me; I could push my skiing in a way that was confidence-inspiring because it never felt punishing to me and allowed for smooth recovery when I did get off-balance. I found the Mindbender 99Ti W to be a highly intuitive ski that was great when I wanted to feel more comfortable in more challenging terrain. The Mindbender 99Ti feels nimble compared to some of the other similarly heavy directional skis I’ve been on, but it’s also more damp and stable than skis that are lighter and looser, which adds to its versatility and means it doesn’t require me to ski it in a very particular style to get the most out of it.
The Mindbender 99Ti W is easy to initiate and roll in and out of turns without a ton of forward pressure on its shovels, though it does respond best when I’m skiing it with a forward stance. There are skis that are a bit more playful in tight terrain and/or feel a bit better when skied with a more centered stance, such as the Nordica Unleashed 98 W and Faction Dancer 2X, I find the Mindbender 99Ti W to provide a more stable, damp, and smooth platform (especially in firm bumps).
For someone who is looking to improve their skills in tight terrain or moguls without feeling like they are reaching the upper limits of a ski as they do progress, the Mindbender 99Ti makes for a compelling option. It stands out because of how quick and maneuverable it feels, given how smooth and composed it feels in rough conditions.
Chop / Crud
It’s been a pretty cloudy, cold spring here, which means really firm crud. Thankfully, the Mindbender 99Ti is a great ski for some of these less-than-ideal days. The Mindbender 99Ti offers a very damp ride and smooth, consistent flex pattern, even when getting rocked and vibrated by some very refrozen snow. While the Mindbender 99Ti W isn’t quite as planted as the Nordica Santa Ana 98, Black Pearl 97, or Secret 96, it is quite a bit easier to finesse at moderate speeds and feels more playful and easier to release. Even in bad snow, I felt a little more willing to ski at higher speeds or make a more committed turn on the Mindbender 99Ti because it felt easier to turn and/or shut down when I got going too fast.
In soft chop, the Mindbender 99Ti is pretty optimal for slashing around and surfing the chop, rather than blasting straight through it, though it’s fairly willing to do both. It doesn’t get bucked around or thrown off track all that much, yet it can also serve as an energetic, quick-turning ski that will surf atop the soft, cut-up snow. For someone who is really intent on charging through chop at top speeds, the overall damping and high-speed composure of the Black Pearl 97 or Secret 96 still might be marginally better at this approach (though neither of those skis floats nearly as well in deep chop).
Without skiing the Mindbender 99Ti after any really significant storm, I can’t speak to what it would feel like in bottomless powder, but I did ski the Mindbender 99Ti in 5-8” of snow atop a crust or supportive base. The Mindbender 99Ti W does feel a bit looser, easier to turn, and easier to flick around than the Black Pearl 97 and Secret 96, as well as offering more flotation from its shovels. That said, it definitely doesn’t offer the playfulness and flotation that I really enjoyed from the Mindbender 106C Alliance. For a 99mm-wide ski, it performs quite well in soft snow, but unsurprisingly, it doesn’t match the surfy flotation of wider alternatives.
I revisited some of my favorite steep lines a couple of weeks ago at Taos Ski Valley after not skiing there in four years. The conditions ranged from completely refrozen coral reef to prime spring corn. The one consistent feature was the steep, fall-line pitches, and I was happy to be on the Mindbender 99Ti across this variability.
This ski initiates turns on steep fall-line angles without much commitment needed from the skier, but still offers a very stable and smooth platform. With this combination, I found it great for quick turns or full-on jump turns, without feeling like I had to be 100% on my A-game all the time to keep it in control. The Blizzard Black Pearl 97 and Volkl Secret 96 feel a little more planted and smooth on very firm steeps, but I also feel more committed to really driving those skis on steep terrain, or else they can feel a bit punishing and difficult to turn. There were moments on the Mindbender 99Ti when I was thinking a lot about the 4FRNT MSP CC, because of both skis’ balances of stability and maneuverability, though the Mindbender 99Ti W is a whole lot more energetic.
Throughout this season, I became perfectly okay admitting to myself that I really enjoy directional, all-mountain skis in the 170-175 cm realm, which is slightly shorter than I used to choose, and that’s okay for my skiing style and the terrain I most often ski. The 172 cm Mindbender 99Ti W feels like a pretty easy, maneuverable ski to me, but it also feels pretty stable and supportive, which is something I prioritize when it comes to opting for a shorter length of a ski. I wouldn’t say the Mindbender 99Ti W skis short, but because of how intuitive and maneuverable it felt, I think there might be some aggressive skiers who could opt for a longer length for more stability if they feel caught between lengths.
Who’s It For?
The Mindbender 99Ti W could work for a whole lot of different people, from high-intermediates to experts, because the Mindbender 99Ti W is (1) highly versatile and (2) super intuitive. While there are very hard-charging expert skiers who might want an even more planted, precise, and/or stiffer ski, the Mindbender 99Ti is still quite damp and supportive, while also being very energetic and maneuverable.
I am not saying that everyone will get along with the Mindbender 99Ti; there are definitely more playful, less directional skis that feel more maneuverable and forgiving, as well as many lighter options that feel quicker. But for someone looking for a highly versatile all-mountain ski that does a lot of things really well, the Mindbender 99Ti W is a sound choice, especially for those who feel caught between the heavier, minimally rockered directional skis and the lighter, less stable options.
I ran out of time this season to ski the Mindbender 99Ti W as much as I would have liked to, but the several days I did get on it were a whole lot of fun. Especially on days when conditions weren’t optimal, it was great to make the most out of them on a ski that was versatile across all terrain and the highly variable spring conditions. It’s a ski that does a lot of things quite well and provides elements of both the more stable and more accessible sides of the ski spectrum. I am pleased with the new version of the Mindbender 99Ti W, and I think a lot of other people will be, too.