K2 Ski Alliance, founded in 2000.
Who We Are: A diverse group of women, all ages, nationwide, with different skiing styles and abilities that come together for the love of the sport, and to assist in the development process of K2’s women’s specific ski equipment.
The Allliance is the first industry program of it’s kind, ever. And the crazy thing is, it’s still pretty much the only one. Our biggest goal besides making great product is to act as an example for other ski companies to support women. Because who doesn’t want more girls involved in the sport?
Take your average lift line on a pow day. Hand pick the ones with the lucky extra X chromosome, put them in a line up and there you have a cross section of what the Alliance squad looks like. Just a little bit of everything!
A 14-year-old from Estonia who barely speaks English (and also happens to be one of the most decorated female skiers ever), teenage high schoolers barely more focused on skiing than boys, PSIA level 3 instructors, freeride rippers stronger than you’ll ever be, to grandmas in their mid-60s.
From park skiers to big mountain skiers, resort focused to dedicated backcountry girls, the K2 Ski Alliance is the perfect mix of women to contribute to a product line that is as diverse as the group of ladies developing it.
As far apart as we are from each other, we are a family. We communicate with each other and our ski engineers to produce the best product on the market. We make mistakes and are happy to admit it. We learn from them and fully embrace the process of trial and error.
Overall, we aim to provide a sense of community to our customers; for them to feel like they are a part of something bigger, an Alliance of like-minded females, no matter what the level of skiing is or where they live in the world.
The Three Tiers of the Alliance:
Research and Development, i.e. R&D: These girls work with K2 engineers and designers to dream up, test and create the next wave of future product.
Regional Alliance: A network of women around the world who are local brand ambassadors. These girls work with their territory reps to spread the K2 luv on hill, at their local shops and at events and demos in their region.
Athletes: These ladies represent K2 in the spotlight and each contribute to the brand’s personality on and off the mountain. We look to these girls to give us product feedback in order to help us design and promote the gear they use and love.
Then there is you. If you like K2, if you identify yourself as a female and you want to be part of this collective, then welcome to the family. We are hooked on skiing and want to share our passion with you.
Let’s hear the truth about these so-called “women’s” products you make:
What does it actually mean to have women’s specific product?
It means the gear performs at the optimal level because it’s built with the female skier in mind. It is product with features designed specifically for girls from concept to creation (engineering to graphic production).
What actually goes into making women’s specific product?
Check out the testing blurb below. It’s a wild process. And it’s a long one. But we like doing it and we hope you like what we make for you! Out of the gates to the finish line, we try and make sure females are involved in each and every product we make.
Are all women’s K2 products different than the men’s product?
Depending on the needs of the product, there are shared innovations between the categories.
For example, a few of our women’s skis share the same construction as the men’s version. Why is this? When a good engineering concept is born and proven to be successful, we may use it across a spectrum of products.
Don’t forget we produce skis, boots, poles, helmets, goggles and accessories! We can proudly say though, that our entire women’s product line is tested and approved by girls, with most items having a unique build for the gals.
How specific to women are these products?
It depends on what we’re talking about. For skis, it can vary in the materials used (different types of wood, metal, urethane or carbon compounds), stature or weight of the incorporated bindings, type of steel edge, style of tip protector, color of the sidewall, texture of the topsheet, ink variations of the graphic, flex profile, aesthetic of the logo and much more!
Other product categories have components that are built specifically to fit a woman’s body: pole grips designed for women, boot liners and cuff heights, helmet shapes, goggle frames, etc. The list goes on and on.
In the rare case that the construction doesn’t vary much from the men’s version, you can be sure everything else about the product will be tailored specifically for the female customer.
What is the bigger picture?
Well of course the goal is to make gear that makes you comfortable and confident on the slopes. We are here to help you have a good time because #seriousfun is what it’s all about, right?
The Alliance also has input on graphic concepts and designs, model names, marketing initiatives, social content and collaboration, as well as events.
>K2 proudly started International Women’s Ski Day in 2013, which has grown into a grassroots, worldwide celebration. Follow along with us by checking out the hashtag #IWSD.
>>Thank you for taking the time to learn about the Ski Alliance. We take great pride in this program and hope that it inspires you to spend more time in the mountains.
>>>Keep up with us on social media and make sure to hop on the chairlift with one of the Alliance members if you have the chance. In all that we do, we #luvk2!
For over 15 years, K2 Sports has supported the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). To date, K2 has contributed over $1,150,000.00 to research efforts. To show additional support, we proudly place a pink ribbon on our women’s skis.
A glance at the TEST life:
Before the R&D Alliance gets on snow, we meet in house to go over concept designs. The engineers present their ideas to the Alliance and get initial feedback. They tweak their comps as needed and produce a huge round of prototypes for testing. For this purpose, we’re going to focus on skis.
Because we’re working on product a full year and half before it hits the ski wall at shops, the prime time for testing is in the spring and summer. At Mt. Bachelor or Mt. Hood in Oregon, we average four trips over the testing season and typically there are five or six of us, depending on the amount of prototypes we have.
You may have read about the process at magazine tests (producing your fall Buyer’s Guide results) but our method is quite a bit different, and maybe a bit more intense.
An example test day would be waking up at 5:15 or so to be out of the door by 6am. Chugging coffee in the car and scarfing down a bagel, we arrive at the mountain and get briefed by our engineers on what category skis we will be working with for the day. They hand out waterproof test cards and pencils and talk to us about the test groups. There are four groupings of skis on average, with each group usually having five or six skis. Groups are identified by letters: A, B, C, etc. and skis are numbered 1, 2, 3 and so on.
In the A group for example, the engineer may say, “Group A has 85mm-waisted, metal laminate skis. You are to focus on overall versatility and performance.” They tell us that while skiing, think about, for example, how the tips feel- are they damp and solid with good initiation? Or are you feeling/seeing some chatter going on? How is the edge hold of the ski on hard pack? Enough camber? Does the ski feel damp enough in the variable snow?
The engineers have specific questions for each group of skis. After briefing us on the day’s fleet, we break up into pairs or small groups depending on boot size.
Tip: if we group girls together by their boot sizes, then we don’t have to adjust the bindings as many times i.e making each run transition go more smoothly.
During these tests, time is so valuable. We have to ensure we get up for first chair so the mountain is as empty as possible and snow conditions are prime.
When we head to the lift, we are usually carrying at least three pair of skis and have a backpack full of goodies- a screwdriver, an extra pairs of gloves, a spare Goretex jacket, water, a snack and an extra goggle lens just in case.
(The weather in Oregon during the spring and summer is extremely variable).
Sometimes we’re testing in 70 degree weather on the glacier and sometimes it’s 30 degrees, pouring rain and no visibility.
The skis we’re testing are all masked with a white top sheet. We are encouraged to not look down at the models we’re testing. It’s all supposed to be about feeling and getting to know what you like and do not like about the ski in one to two runs. Why ski each ski for such a limited time? The goal is to not adjust your skiing style to the ski but to go off of your initial feelings about the prototype.
Usually, you can tell what you’re feeling in the ski within the first ten turns. The things you don’t like scream out at you and the things you do like are noticed right away. You make mental notes throughout the run, solidifying your feelings and continuing to change up your turn shape and speed so that you can get a feel for the model in varying styles of skiing, putting yourself in the mindset of the person that that ski is being designed for. Are you a beginner that is comfortable on only greens and maybe some blue runs? If so, you’re going to ski slower in longer and wider turns with less carving and probably not in soft or off-piste snow. Or are you an ex-racer, looking to flex and really work the ski? Seeing how well it lays over and how well you’re able to initiate your turn.
The testers also need to take many things into account such as the weather and snow conditions that are changing throughout the test day, as well as the lengths of the test skis and even small things such as the weight of the demo bindings on them. Every little thing warrants an extra consideration.
After the day of testing is complete, we head down from the mountain to do our debrief with the engineers. At this point we have ranked which ski we like best and why, to our least favorite and why. We go over the results as a group and so ensues the afternoon of back and forth conversation of why one prototype skied the way it did. Or why one that in theory should be so similar to the one before, skied so differently. The engineers then divulge the varying construction profiles of each of the skis and we compare the K2 protos to the competitor benchmarks.
After all is said and done from three days of repeatedly testing the same prototypes, hopefully the Alliance team has decided on a direction for the next round of test skis. The engineers and in house team drives back to our headquarters in Seattle and gets to work producing a new fleet of skis with the desired changes. This process continues over the spring + summer months until the new models have been fine-tuned and are signed off for production.
It’s a lengthy process, but as mentioned earlier, we love it and hope that you enjoy the product that really is developed by women, for women.