NEW 3D TECH AND JAPANESE RIDER INPUT COMBINE IN THIS DEEP DAY SPECIAL FROM K2
The K2 Special Effects is a volume-shifted ultra-wide powder board with K2’s new 3D Contour tech in the nose, designed for maximum float on the deepest days. One glance at the outline screams “POWDER!” but as with all the boards we put through the Japan Grabs #powdertested review wringer, I wanted to know how well this could handle the rest of the mountain too.
The Special Effects is not just an 3D Contour tech update of K2’s old-favorite Cool Bean shape though. With heavy input from K2’s Japanese powder and carving connoisseur, Yo Amagai, it has definite influences from his Niseko Pleasures board too. We reviewed the K2 Niseko Pleasures last year, and loved its silky flow and strong edge hold (more on that in the full review here) so the Special Effects had big shoes to fill – and plenty of room for them on its massive 280mm waist!
The K2 Special Effects shape features K2’s Volume Shift™ design – the board volume of a longer board packed into a shorter, wider outline. K2 recommend sizing down 4-10cm from your usual board length. The most noticeable tech on display is the 3D contour shaping on the nose – 8mm of convex roll between the heel and toe edge at the front contact point, that continues forward through the nose like a boat hull.
That 3D nose rocker blends smoothly into zero camber. The flat starts just in front of the front inserts and runs through to the tail kicks, in what K2 call their ‘Directional Rocker Profile’. Rocker to flat to profiles like this are usually great in powder, and that’s backed up by 20mm of taper. The voluminous nose is 327mm wide, with the mega-wide waist at 280mm wide, and a tail width of 307mm. The 6.6m sidecut is nice and tight, as needed for a modern ‘short-wide’ shape, and the 148cm Special Effects packs in 105cm of effective edge behind that nose.
Out of sight, there’s no stock core for this powder shape. It’s got the super-strong Bambooyah™ Core wrapped with their ICG™ 10 Carbon Glass – ten tip-to-tail carbon stringers for extra pop. From the first hand-flex to to deep day powder runs, you can feel the snap and liveliness that the extra carbon stringers give. As a fan of boards that glide, a big thumbs up as always for the high-spec Sintered 4000 base which should be durable and get faster with each waxing.
HOW DOES IT RIDE?
“How would this deep-day quiver board with a massive 280mm waist perform on-piste?” was my biggest concern before riding it …and turned out to be the biggest surprise of the K2 Special Effects. Not every day is powder from top to bottom – even in Japan – so firm snow performance is key for making those days hunting powder nuggets around resort really fun. This board has a nimbleness that belies its 280mm waist width, and it takes pretty bad snow conditions to make me want to be riding something else.
I really didn’t notice a big difference in edge-to-edge speed going from the 270mm waist of the Niseko Pleasures to this super wide 280mm waist. This is thanks to the combination of taper and the 3D Contour nose smoothly aiding the turn initiation. Once on an edge, it holds carves really well – especially when you weight the back foot for some snowsurf style turns. Although the profile is 3D rocker nose to flat, the ride feel on firm groomed snow is more like backseat camber – making for some fun turns in between the pow!
It often seems that short-wide boards are made stiffer than their regular-sized equivalents to make up for the shorter effective edge with stiffness. This isn’t the case with the Special Effects. It has a really friendly medium flex, even on the softer end of medium, which progressively stiffens up ‘just enough’ though the back foot and tail to provide good edge hold without losing the playful feel. Based on how Yo Amagai loosened-up and refined the ride of the Simple Pleasures, this balanced flex pattern has his fingerprints all over it!
Another potential pitfall of short pow boards with big noses is feeling unbalanced when hitting sidehits or ollieing. The Special Effects was surprisingly fun for jumping off cat tracks and natural features, and had that oft-used “skateboard feel”. Based on how much fun it has been in soft and groomed snow around resort, I’d have no problem taking this out for a spring day of slushy sprays and tranny-finders.
The edge hold is good enough for deep carves, and the short effective edge holds up until you hit full charging speeds. You get tossed around a bit in chop without the fore-aft stability of a normal length board. This is typical of ultra short volume-shifted boards, and if you accept that stay centered you can still plane over pretty rough chop at speed. The other weak spot is obviously park, where this is a fish-out-of-water. Eye-watering speed runs or switch park laps are obviously not what the Special Effects was made for. The kind of freestyle this board wants is more creative freestyle carving and slashing, and it gives a surprisingly stable platform for jumping off cat tracks into pow. Talking of powder…
Nimble and floaty, the K2 Special Effects might be the best “Japan trees” board I’ve ridden so far. What does “Japan trees” mean? Powder runs in trees that are sometimes tight, and often super deep. Sometimes low angle, sometimes steep, with lots of features – some to be hit and some to be avoided at short notice! In terrain like this, the Special Effects is so much fun. Stable at speed in pow, and able to hold speed across flatter zones, it feels like the 3D nose gives copious amounts of float, without the drag of some stubby ultra-wides.
In powder there is so much float that you can fully weight the front foot and get the board planing parallel to the snow surface. I usually ride a stiffer 159 ‘normal’ board, and went for the 148 for maximum float, as we are lucky enough to be in the Hakuba Valley where local conditions are often on the deep side. I never felt like i reached the limit of its float, and at around 65kg I could easily have gone for the 143 and had sufficient float and an even more nimble piste carver. The slightest amount of speed brings you up to the surface, and out of the nose up, tail down powder wheelie you might find yourself doing on boards that don’t have much float. The 3D Contour nose has a really fluid and smooth feel in deep snow, and gives the Special Effects a really well-balanced feel. I never felt like I was on a “tiny-tail, big nose” powder shape. Natural terrain features were just as inviting to jump off, and landings felt fine, especially as you know that you can keep your weight centered and that nose will scoop back to the surface again.
Japan tree riding occasionally means pretty tight spots, and this is when the short-wide shape shines. If you need to dump speed in tight spots, but don’t want to fully whitetoom yourself and completely break your flow by throwing the board sideways, you can pull on the handbrake by pushing down on the back foot to sink that short swallowtail.
K2 have been developing short-wides for many years from the Cool Bean to the more recent Simple Pleasures series – and it shows. So much about the Special Effects feels just right. I never felt under-gunned on powder days, and it was playful ride all around resort. If you are looking for a modern short-wide board with epic amounts of float, the Special Effects ticks all the right boxes. If I had to take just two solid boards on a trip, this would make a great two-board quiver with something more traditionally shaped for park and switch riding and landings. If you want that special “deep day” quiver board, that can also snowsurf-style carve the pistes. The K2 Special Effects is a great choice, no smoke or mirrors needed.
This review was carried out in the Hakuba Valley. Get more info on the K2 Special Effects among the full range of K2 snowboards on the K2 site.
Disclosure: The Special Effects was provided by K2 snowboards.
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