Long Term Review: Blizzard Bonafide (2012 model) and Kastle BMX98 (2012 model)
Skier info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, ski 30-50 days a year. Good skier, can ski the whole mountain with confidence (aside from a mental fear of no-fall zones); love crud, off-piste snow, bumps, and groomers; not a big air guy, although I will take solid-sized drops if the conditions are good. I am a pretty technical skier, trying to learn as much about technique as I can. Coming to the sport late, I find myself thinking about skiing on a technical level much of the time, and try work on something every day on the hill.
I have had both of these skis in my possession for most of the spring, starting back near the first of March. They are similar skis: both 98mm underfoot, both with a one-ski Western quiver focus, for those that are skiing off-piste more than on. Differences: the BMX98 features an early-rise tip only, the Bonafide has a very similar tip, but a long early-rise tail as well. The Bonafide has metal, the BMX98 does not. The Bonafide was 187cm, the BMX98 178cm. They also use different manufacturing techniques. With that said, they are geared toward the same skier (either a guy who needs a bigger ski for East Coast storms, or an everyday ski out here for the good skier looking for a great off-piste ski that does fairly well on groomers and hard snow too). In short, a Western One-ski Quiver. Unless we got a big snow year (like last year), I would be perfectly happy skiing this as my biggest ski. Once you start hitting 14-16+ of new, and up, it makes sense to go wider, but I find this width to be a ski that I can ski all day long and not have a desire to go back to the car. For those that can only have 1 ski, it is a width worth looking at out there.
I will do a head-to head for these skis in various conditions. Please note that while the 187cm Bonafide seems long; with all of that early rise tip and tail, it skis shorter than measured. It probably equates more to a 182cm. Conditions were everything; blower pow; mid-density pow, heavier new snow, lots of heavy crud, good selection of challenging, steep bumps, ice, soft Western-style groomers, trees.
About these skis (My overall impressions): The Bonafide, along with the Magnum 8.1 and Supersonic, are my favorite Blizzards. The BMX98 is a shorter, more versatile version of my BMX108, and a narrower pro-ride level ski for good skiers.
Condition: off-piste heavy crud:
Bonafide: simply a spectacular ski here; It is forgiving at the tip and tail, and keeps you out of the worse of the snow, almost like the skis knows where you want to go and what you want to avoid. It skims the snow, and wants to turn given the slightest input. It is so fun to ski, even Rick Perry could think of 3 good things to say about this ski.
BMX98: this ski is a bit meatier in the tip; still very forgiving, but less turny. Likes to run flat a bit more; just as stable, more of a crusher than a finesse ski. Likes a bit more speed to come alive. Powerful.
Conclusion: a draw. The BMX will respond a more straight-ahead power style, the Bonafide to those wanting to skim the snow and release more aggressively and with ease.
Condition: off-piste new snow, both blower pow and heavier snow, up to 16” new.
I found both skis to have plenty of float for the 6 to 16 inches of new we tested them in. Ridiculous amounts of float, in fact. Must have something to do with the tips. One day we tested the Bonafide and BMX128 (on the 16” new day) and both came away thinking the Bonafide was so much more fun, as you were in the snow, not on it, and moving vertically in and out of the snow, and not just skiing edge to edge while planing on top of the snow. Unless you are a big guy or the snow is deep and heavy, I don't think you need more width that either are giving you here. Our Kastle rep, who lives in Colorado, things the 98 is the perfect ski and as wide as you ever need in his state as well; he doesn't take the 108 or 128 out, really ever, when he is skiing at home.
Bonafide: 187cm is so much float! You can just surf any snow condition, and it is enough tip, far enough in front of the skier, that wind-lips are not an issue. Perhaps a little narrow for really heavy snow, but for all of the days we tested it, I was perfectly happy with that width. Again, super forgiving, and the ski really works the snow; you get a lot of “feel” on this ski; and it pops you out of each and every turn.
BMX98: a little more work (due to the shorter length) in wind lips; the tail releases more progressively and slower than the Bonafide, meaning you can really draw out the turn if you know how to. It also likes slightly bigger turns. I found the tip to be just in the right spot to surf out of the new snow, keeping me in control and not working very hard. Super quick in the trees.
Conclusion: Bonafide has a slight edge, mostly due to a longer ski not getting hung up in wind lips, and slightly softer tip.
Condition: bumps, both icy and soft.
Bonafide: I liked this ski; it had a different feel than any other ski I have been on in bumps. Lots of energy, a little too much at times. The tail is like skiing a pogo stick if you load it accidentally. The tip is smooth and predictable; it skis shorter than you would think, and has a smooth entry into the trough upon extension. It was a little vague underfoot; definitely not skiing like a normal ski in the bumps. It took a bit of getting used to, but was solid.
BMX98: with early rise, and a flex not too stiff at the tail underfoot, this is a pretty traditional ski. The turn entry upon extension is super smooth, with the tip flex just right. The tail is a little stiff, you have to watch out for getting in the back seat, but if you get the rhythm down and don't push it too hard, it is easy to get a good flow going on this ski. I found I got more purchase on this ski if I used a slightly more downhill (coiling at the waist) but flowing pole plant, and was able to exit the old turn well that way. Probably because the tail holds a little long for a true bump ski. Doing that, the ski really flowed for me, it ate up bumps. This is a sweet ski for bumped-out afternoons at Squaw.
Conclusion: both were nice, but I like the BMX98 here. Just a bit more predictable and flow-y.
Condition: cut-up good snow at speed, what we see much of the time at Bachelor. Snow 5 days a week and not many skiers gives you barely-disturbed crud quite often.
Bonafide: smooth, stable, and powerful. What isn't to like? No real weaknesses. Super easy to ski. Lots of fun.
BMX98: more damp than the Bonafide, but otherwise it's equal. No real speed limit. Easy to ski, but makes me pine for the old BMX98, which was perhaps the best ski I have ever tried in these conditions. The new ski lack metal, and although super fun, just doesn't have the silky smooth horsepower of the old model.
Condition: firm snow.
Bonafide: holds relatively well; a little short in running length, but it has metal, so it is decent on really hard snow. When you lose edge grip, it is fairly predictable.
BMX98: similar to the Bonafide, but as it has no metal, the grip is similar, but the feel different. It was more on/off: when it cuts loose, it isn't progressive. With that said, edge hold is very good for a ski of this width. If I were running a GS, I would probably prefer the Bonafide in terms of grip on ice (in the way it cuts loose predictably) but would run better times on the BMX98, as it is more damp and seems to hug the snow better.
Conclusion: another draw
Condition: smooth, fast groomers (Western style, which is to say grippy and soft).
Bonafide: fun, lots of energy! Skis way shorter than the 187cm implies: feels nearly the equal here of the 178cm BMX98. It just shoots you out of the turn, if you load the tail. Super quick for a wide ski. More stable than the Cochise when way up on edge; it has a longer running length, and feels like it. Grippy, smooth entry and exit into the turn, and forgiving. Doesn't really feel like any ski I have experienced here; not really either a race-ski dampness, or a softer, forgiving big-rocker ski that really doesn't cut it on groomers. It is hard to quantify what is going on underfoot with the Bonafide, but it skis well.
BMX98: If you were going to look at a solid, stable, GS feeling big mountain ski that wasn't super wide; perhaps a successor to the legendary Legend Pro, but with more sidecut and a modern tip, you have the BMX98. Which makes it a great groomer ski. It has no metal, but you wouldn't necessarily know that skiing it; it holds very well. The feel is damp, smooth, with no speed limit; full-on GS feel. You would swear that if they beefed it up with metal, narrowed it out, and eliminated the rocker tip, you would have a really solid ski for the course. As it, it is a warp-speed groomer ski; at least as stable as the Bonafide, but seems to have that GS confidence at speed. It is more that a speed limit; it is being predictable, and knowing that the ski underfoot is going to do what the driver is telling it to. This skis like a Mantra on groomers, but it more manageable for lightweights like myself. I don't know if 98mm skis get much better than this on groomers. Maybe a Rossi Experience 98 comes close? If they released a VXL from Stockli in that width, watch out.
Conclusion; draw, comes down to an overall feel you prefer. I would grab the BMX98, but others would grab the Bonafide. Totally subjective.
Overall, I have one win for the Bonafide, one win for the BMX98, and a bunch of draws. That about sums it up: I have both skis in my garage, ready to go for this season, and have no idea which ski I will get rid of, as surely I don't need both of these skis. Weight advantage goes to the BMX98, so if I go with AT bindings for this ski, the Kastle gets the nod. Other that, this is a tough one.
When I get a chance, I will post some pics of us skiing on both of these.