This is my first post here. And sadly, I'll have to start this post with an apology for how lost I'm going to sound. And probably for at least half a dozen naive-sounding statements/beliefs about skiing. Please bear with me!
I've read at least 50+ threads here (not to mention other reviews + forums), including the long Blizzard Bonafide review and all the pages/comments associated with it. But I need some serious help focusing in on where to start looking. And I've been off the mountain for so long it's both sad and embarrassing. I'll try to provide as much information as possible-- and please know that I really appreciate you taking the time to help a gear-noob out.
I'm 5' 10", ~150 lbs, 29 years old, pretty lanky though athletic. I think I'm quite a bit lighter than many of the posters here, so I have a hard time extending other posts with taller/heavier folks down to my size. I participate in a lot of sports recreationally.
I've been skiing since I was 6 years old, every year, until the last 5 or so during which I've been on an extended hiatus. This hiatus is what I'm trying to balance against what once was a lot of experience. I learned in the East. I've skied dozens of mountains in VT/NY/MA (Jay Peak was definitely my favorite; Stowe was pretty damn fun). I liked to ski hard and fast (my biggest equipment problem in the past-- albeit with mediocre equipment-- was being able to snap out of bindings when it shouldn't happen) and aggressively, and, at least during extensive East Coast skiing, I never encountered a route or glade that gave me any trouble at speed-- but know for sure I wasn't the most technical person on the slopes. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the more technical/snobby skiers sneered, though I could hang with all but one of my friends who raced during high school.
Right before I stopped skiing, I lived in San Francisco and had a friend whose parents owned a house literally at the base of Alpine Meadows in Tahoe. I used my mediocre equipment out there for a while-- though I really suffered off piste, couldn't hang with the big (at least at that time) floaty skis in the powder (not to mention I'm sure I looked silly on my toothpicks), and would be exhausted by the bottom from having to work so hard to not get bogged down off piste. That said, except for the deeper powder, nothing else at Alpine was trouble for me to take at full speed. And I loved the snow, though it was slower than back East.
I basically rented while I was growing up. I don't know what I rented, but it probably wasn't very good. This was pre-parabolic. Back around the late late 1990s (I think, maybe 1999) I had a pair of K2 IV somethings, with that stupid piezo-electric gimmick. I can't tell you what boots/bindings. But it probably wasn't that pretty. I don't think the stuff was very good, and even after having the bindings tightened up a few times, I still occasionally had problems with bindings letting go at bomb-down-the-mountain speeds... on harder, gristly, packed down stuff. Not good. It all felt sloppy at speed, though I guess I was used to it.
Where/what I will ski:
I just moved to Munich, Germany. So it's going to be mostly German/Austria Alps (Switzerland/France if I'm lucky). I don't entirely know what to expect from the conditions, but from what I've seen, it'll be more like West Coast USA than East Coast. Given the choice I prefer steep, un-groomed stuff, on and off piste. I'm sure I'll still go fast and aggressive. I like bowls and trees, but I also enjoy some bumps (10%) and aggressive, hard packed routes (10-20%).
I'm looking for a 1 ski solution, mainly for financial reasons, but also because I want to keep it simple. I don't expect to touch anything below a diamond, I don't expect to really touch any parks/features (not very good at it; not so much my thing; but sure, I'll go off a jump or two and maybe a rail), and while I like powder, I'm sure I won't ski enough of the big deep stuff to get something dedicated for that front.
After reading quite a bit, my gut says to look at the various 98 options, sticking with something that still has some traditional camber because I'll still ski aggressive/fast down packed and unpacked powder, and perhaps some early lift/small rocker (which I have never tried) for those times in the deeper stuff, trees, and bumps. If I had to guess, it'd be the Bonafide at 173 or 180 (not sure what I need!), but then I wonder: should I be looking at some of the 88 options instead?
Am I pointed in the total wrong direction-- at the beginning of my search?