Product: 2012 Blizzard Bonafide
Length/size Tested: 180cm
Environment of Conditions:
*Location of review: Squaw Valley
*Runs Taken: 2 days
*Snow Conditions: packed powder, windpacked, wet powder, cut-up cruddy snow, you name it....
*Demo or Purchase: neither... loan from SJ
3-word capsule review: Believe the hype
I had a chance to ski the Blizzard Bonafide this weekend at Squaw. The ski was a 180 cm personal ski of SierraJim, mounted with Pivot14 at whatever line he chose. The ski looked and felt perfectly tuned. The first day was nice, clear and windy with mostly wind buffed soft surfaces with a few hard sports in between. The second day was wet powder that was cut up and piled up in a lot of places. Overall I had a chance to subject the skis to a range of pretty typical Sierra skiing conditions, except real deep powder and sheer ice. I have other skis for the first, and I don't particularly care about the second, so I'd consider it a relatively comprehensive test.
The ski itself is 98mm underfoot, with a decent amount of tip rocker, which can be characterized more as an early rise. The tails are also rockered, but in a rather subtle way, about 20 cm of the tail section is slightly upturned. The skis have two and a half layers of metal, but still seem pretty light. The stiffness can be classified as medium stiff with a remarkably consistent and smooth flex profile through the rockered sections, more about it later. Apparently the cores are made from light but strong wood "Paulownia" with some bamboo stringers and something else. (Unrelated trivia fact: Paulownia, was named in honour of Queen Anna Pavlovna of The Netherlands (1795–1865), daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia. It is also called "princess tree" for the same reason.) For those who have not seen the photos, the graphics is slightly translucent grey with red shapes that form a bull's head on one ski. Both skis also have a metal appliqué of the said bull in the front mid section. All in all, a pretty neat package.
It took me a few turns to figure out the position on this ski but after that I was pretty comfortable. I felt that the sweet spot had a decent size, but not too huge. Get too much into the back seats and the Bonafide will run from under you in no time. This ski will certainly reward a skilled driver who knows how to ski the front all the time (unlike, say, Salomon BBR which I felt made backseat driving actually kinda fun...). Things I noticed right away were that the ski was incredibly quick, especially for a 98mm underfoot, turn initiation is nearly instantaneous, transition is also quick, ski does not get hung up, the tail is there and even has a decent amount of pop, despite having the rocker. It felt quicker than the marked 21m turn radius. So far, so good, now let's go faster. This is where the magic started. I felt like the skis were locking on the edge and the more I pushed the skis the longer that edge would feel. The ride was not bumpy or nervous, it actually felt quite smooth, at time reminding me of my ProRiders. In comparison the LPRs are still damper and they lock on edge immediately and more positively, but they are not even remotely as quick as the Bonafides. The key sensation is that the ski bends into the turn very easily, but then as you start pushing further, it stiffens up very quickly. It almost felt like the ski had two levels of stiffness that switched once you bend it past the ideal turn shape; I don't know if it makes much sense, but that's what it felt like. Maybe that's what the flipcore is about, maybe not...
Even at 180cm the Bone was quite stable, no chatter, no tip flap once you put it on edge. Also quite resistant to knocks: I was making arcs down the groomer when some snowboarder came from behind and clipped me, I kept going. Incredibly, he made another turn and clipped me a second time, this time he went down, I still kept going. That dude also had the audacity to complain afterwards, but whatever... So, a pretty exciting groomer ski.
Off trail things just got better, I felt that I had a light quick ski that I can toss and turn when I need to but at the same time it would find an edge and ski that edge right when and where I needed it. Skiing steeps was effortless and maybe a little bit more exciting than I wanted it to be, this is where I wished I had the 187 instead of 180, still I felt that if I pushed the ski, the egde would magically grow and be there when I needed it. The quickness of the ski really shined in chutes, it makes quick work of skiing tight spaces, very impressive, the rockered tail makes it very easy to turn the ski sideways to scrub speed but it still feels secure and locked in.
Cruddy snow was the same story- if I drove the ski over the pile, the rocker made it go over without any complaints, if I drove it into the pile, they sliced right through and the dampness would smooth things out. It felt like the ski was playing with the crud, instead of bulldozing it; it just felt incredibly versatile instead of being a one trick pony. I get to ski a few wet fresh tracks off KT22, no surprise there, rocker worked, the ski was stiff enough and wide enough to make those turns fun, and at no time I felt unstable. The run ended up in a some trees, that's where the quickness again shined through.
Bumps felt very secure, rockered tips and tails were again the key there, my LPR always hangs up in the bumps, especially the tail; the Bonafide went through with a smile. Pretty incredible in my book.
I am searching for the negatives and I honestly could not find many. The skis sometime can feel a little "metallic", but they are plenty stable and damp to handle anything. I have been skiing very secure and damp skis lately, so I am probably biased in that regard. I am not a hucker, but a few small hops felt a bit harsh on the landing, so if you jump cliffs all day, this is not your ski. That's about it. I have been fond of the early taper shapes lately, this ski does not have it, and it seems that having an early taper would have killed this magic "edge grows with speed" effect.
Why does it work so well? I think Blizzard figured out the way to dial a flex pattern into a rockered ski that makes the typical downsides of a rocker go away. As the result, the Bonafide does not ski shorter than it's length, does not suffer from tip flap, and does not loose any stability. At the same time it is fully able to utilize the benefit of a ski geometry that is pre-bent into a turn shape, that's why it is so quick. The way the flex stiffens once you move the ski past the natural turn shape is also remarkable.
Length: I was on 180, which was OK for me, but I did wish for a longer ski a few times. As the day went on, I was wishing for it less, as the Bonafide is not a soft ski and I was getting tired. Given the rocker shape and quickness of the ski I still think that the penalty of going longer is minimal, so I will be looking at the 187.
Closing words: What a fun ride! I really feel that Blizzard has achieved something remarkable here, the Bonafide is the first rockered ski that I feel I can ski in any conditions without compromising the performance in any way. It is potentially a game changer in the daily driver segment for advanced skiers in the West. If things go my way, the 187 Bonafide will anchor my quiver next year (and more or less as soon as I can get my hands on them).
Average days on snow: 0-10, 11-25, 30+ (pick one)
Years Skiing: 0-5, 6-15, 15+ (pick one)
Aggressiveness: Conservative / Moderate / Aggressive / Competitor (pick one)
Front of the ski:
Test in progress (Headwall chair, Squaw)
From my earlier first impressions post:
This is a phenomenal ski, nothing less. It is quick edge to edge, yet manages to lock on edge and hold that edge very securely. Damp ride at speed, yet it has very good snow feel. It is also the most natural turn engagement feeling that I remember in a long time. It does great in bumps, and with a slightly rockered tail, it is also much quicker than the stiffness and sidecut would suggest. As you drive it more, the ski seems to feel longer. Tight chutes, bumps, wide open bowls, piste...this ski does it. It is also stiff without feeling stiff and planky. There is tip flap , but is entirely inconsequential ( you don't feel it, and if you are looking at your ski tips when you are skiing, that's not good anyway. I have been on a few rockered all mountain skis, and they all felt lacking, this time Blizzard got everything right, the flex, the stiffness, the amount of rocker and the shape of it. This ski is possibly a game-changer for the expert all-mountain ski segment. More to come..