It dawned on me today after buying a new K2 Wayback 80 for summer use that I have never reviewed my 88s. I’ve owned two pairs of Wayback 88s, and for several years it was the setup I used the most by a long shot. I’ve skied this stick in every type of snow you can imagine and skied my first pair to its entire lifespan, so I have good overall insight on this model. Every spring, I get dozens of messages from folk about what I think about this ski and over the years, my impression has not changed. I view the K2 Wayback as a “dependable, predictable backcountry tool”.
Often people look at the Wayback 88 as a “spring only” ski due to how “skinny” it is. I remember when an 88 underfoot wasn’t considered skinny, so I always laugh when people tell me I can’t ski powder with a Wayback 88. That said, most modern skiers will find skiing deep powder with the 88 much more work than a floaty fat ski. If the pitch is steep or you can pick up speed, the workload is better in deeper snow. For example, the last time I skied Aemmer Couloir was with the Wayback 88 in waist-deep snow, and it was a blast; meanwhile, trying to ski the same depth on low-angle terrain is near impossible, even for the best skiers.
The Wayback 88 has a slight and snappy early rise that gives great float and feedback in many conditions. The tail is stiff and snappy and can be used for precise manoeuvres on everything from dropping complex pillow walls to jump-smearing the side of a summer trail to control speed. On the flip side, this ski will buck you when you do something wrong, but it’s predictable, and once you get to know the ski, you will likely know in advance that you have made a wrong move and are about to pay for it!
Light, Solid And Inexpensive
At 1200-1300g, these sticks are pretty damn light for how solid they are and have a low price point of around $700. It would be hard to beat the value of these skis, and it’s probably one reason you see lots of people on them. Jump turning in tight couloirs is as effortless as ripping a groomer, and that’s a deadly combo for those looking to limit how many skis they have in their closet.
My first pair of Wayback 88s lasted around 300-350 days of skiing. If I were picky, I would have retired them at about 250 days as the last 50-100 the ski started to feel soft. Most skis I’ve had lasted about 25% fewer days on average, which made this one stand out as a great value ski. Most people I know ski 30-40 days a year, so you’d be looking at many years of use.
Tool Not Toy
I see the K2 Wayback as a “dependable, predictable backcountry tool”. They are dependable as they last long and can also take a vicious beating (I am not easy on gear, ski over rocks in summer, get a lot of core shots from rocky terrain, etc.). They are predictable as the snappy flex and stiff underfoot reacts to the conditions the same each time. Once you get to know the ski, your lack of reaction will be why you wipe out. I often use the word “tool” to describe this ski because I view it as such. This one is for serious work in the backcountry – smashing cornices, ski cutting, long and fast missions, bashing skin tracks in dense wind slabs. But it’s not a toy. You aren’t going to want to grab the Wayback 88 to ski rolling deep powder. Well, you aren’t. I sure as hell have learned to love it over the years!