A weekend with K2 in The Mt. Baker backcountry

We joined K2 this past weekend at Mt. Baker to cover the launch of some new backcountry products aiming to make life a whole lot easier off the beaten path of resort chairlifts. The demand has increased for a reasonably priced, quality product to put you in position to access terrain you never thought was possible. With the development of these new products there is no excuse why you haven't claimed those spots you've been eyeballing for the past decade on that drive up to the mountain. From splitboards and snow-shoes, to a bountiful backcountry pack, the crew at K2 puts you in position to have some epic yet safe days out in the backcountry.

Photos & Words: Alex Nawrocky

One thing that should always be on the top of your list for a successful backcountry experience is safety. We all had that fresh on our mind early on during the first day with our AAI guides. Just because we're accessing terrain that's a football field away from inbounds riding doesn't mean you can't get buried under 2 feet of snow and risk your life. Luckily for us, we had some of the most educated backcountry guides in the game showing us the goods, or in our case on Saturday, showing us the NO BUENO aka super sketchy avy danger zones.

k2_backcountry_leftphoto2.jpgAfter we split into two groups, my crew proceeded to (watch our guide "Chip") dig a pit the size of a 2-story apartment building. We knew going into the day there would be some high avalanche danger because of the drastic weather changes over the past week. The changes in weather (warmer temps after a large snowfall) created layers in the snow equaling out to unstable snow pack with a crust build up in between layers. Cliff or as I'd like to call him "Chip" ran several tests on the pit he dug.

First was the stability test and judging by our veteran guide's worrisome facial expressions, today was no joke. We pretty much had a slab break on us after one shovel tap = C1. There's no point taking risks on a day like this so we ended up tooling around the gully we were in and took a lap or two on the Panoramic Splitboards giving us a bit of feel for the product. I decided to really put the snow-shoes to the test with a nice little hike around with some camera gear on my back. Trying to boot pack in dense snow with 20-30 something pounds on your back without snow shoes or a split board is just plain silly. Hence the reason why K2 is now at the forefront with the development of the their new cutting edge backcountry gear.

Here's a breakdown of the new gear:

K2 PANORAMIC SPLITBOARD

All terrain rocker for float and power (early lift in the tip & flat under the foot = floating on clouds in pow, but still holding edge control on hard pack)

Integrated skin system (clip in the tip & tail)

Bambooyah core technology ("a perfect blend for float, power, and control")

K2 Panoramic kit- $899.95 (Includes Voile binding system which has you switching from skinning to mashing pow in a matter of a minute)

K2 Panoramic (board only)- $599.95

K2 BACKSIDE TOOLS

Pilchuck kit (Probe, Pack, Rescue Shovel) – $189.85

Backcountry Pack (features hip & shoulder load lifter, lined goggle pocket, molded back panel, ice axe loop, insulated hydration sleeve, tuck & roll straps)

Probe (features backslide auto-lock, non-slip shaft extending to 300cm)
     – Carbon Probe – $89.95 / Aluminum Probe – $59.95

Rescue Shovel (features Hoe-mode- designed to pull snow away rather than digging out)
      – Rescue Shovel Plus – $74.95 / Rescue Shovel – $64.95

LockJaw Pole (Easily adjustable and shafts are enhanced with Inclinometer and Snow Depth rulers) – $109.95

ATLAS ASPECT SHOW-SHOES

REACTIV-TRAC construction features saw-toothed perimeter

FORE & AFT traction

Heel lift bar which eases calf fatigue

PACKFLAT binding accommodates larger boots

Atlas BC utility strap for emergencies

Aspect 24 (4.59 lbs) 100-190 lbs / 45-85 kg- $269.95
Aspect 28 (4.94 lbs) 135-225 lbs / 60-100 kg- $269.95

For the minimal amount of time I spent on this gear it performed well up to standards. I'm no Dirksen but by the end of the day I was switching between skinning and snowboarding faster than I could lace up my boots. There's a lot of emphasis on convenience and safety with this new line and it comes across quite clear after spending a matter of hours on it.

K2 is here to help you stop making excuses and procrastinating about that trip into that unknown epic zone. Go get yours once fall rolls around, because as soon as you know it all your friends will be showing you GoPro footage of those lines you've been dreaming of for years.

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