Not really a review per se, but more of a discussion starter.
After skiing nothing but Blizzards the past couple of weeks, I have come to the conclusion, that, for me, makes by far the most sense. The 2 skis to own from Blizzard (if you are going to purchase 2 skis) for western conditions, are the new 2013 8.5ti, and the Cochise (in my case, the 2013). Skiing everything from scratchy snow to deep 16" of fresh, and in between, heavy crud, bumps, and groomers, these 2 easily covered the sweet spots in ways that few skis do.
Here is what I was experiencing: on the Cochise, this ski just was money in deeper snow conditions, and good snow in the trees. Very stable in rough snow, excellent float in the 185cm length, easy to ski, provided the snow was somewhat new. Really fun overall, as long as there was room for it to work, and quite playful. Once things got heavy and tracked out, starting to bump up, it was time to switch skis. Enter the 8.5ti:
Skiing it in 174cm, moving the binding back 5mm over the recommended mount spot (it skis short, with not much tip). Just a revelation, even in heavy, but somewhat skied-out crud. That tip gets out of the snow in a hurry, and when small bumps start to enter the picture, this ski is among the best. Really a far better ski than the Cochise in heavy kicked-around crud, and skied out snow. Once things were bumping up more, I was really ripping on this ski: easy to "ski well" on it, staying fall line, and countered, letting the skis do the work in the terrain. Encouraged good skiing at speed, and was forgiving enough for the occasional back-seat bobble. Absolutely ripped in soft, end of day bumps and skied out trees. Also an acceptable (but average) groomer ski for this width.
So, why these 2 skis, over something else? Why not buy something different? Well, what it came down to was that these were the perfect compliment to each other. Once I found the snow to be starting to get challenging for the Cochise (small bumps forming, rough crud that was kicking around the big rocker on the Cochise), the 8.5ti swept in and ruled those conditions (I found the 174cm 8.5ti to be quite a bit more stable in the beat-up snow at speed than the longer 185cm). There really was no in-between where I was wishing for something different. The next day, when the snow started to get pretty deep for the 8.5ti, I jumped back on the Cochise and was ripping around in the deep snow again. These are 2 great skis!
Other skis I tried, but would leave them out of my 2-ski discussion:
-8.0ti: felt like too much of a carver in 172cm, and a bit long and stiffish in the 179cm
-Bushwacker: somewhat similar to the 8.5ti, but not close to the same level of performance in fast bumps and crud at speed.
-Bonafide: more of a tweener ski, not comparable in soft-snow float to the Cochise, nowhere near the fun bump ski of the 8.5, not really a good groomer ski. A good do-everything ski, but best left out of the 2-ski discussion if you are looking for a wide range and not much overlap. It is the triathlete of the ski world: decent at a bunch of things.
-Gunsmoke: more of a pow ski, not as powerful or snappy as the Cochise.
Thoughts? I can get a ton of range out of this 2-ski quiver. I might want a wider ski for truly deep days (the Cochise doesn't feel that big) or a narrower hard snow ski for groomer days (not really my preference unless it is the only skiable terrain).