Blizzard Kabookie, Head Rock n' Roll 95, Elan 999, Blizzard Bonafide review
I had a chance to ski these 4 skis recently, in fairly firm, off-piste and on-piste snow. Bumps were soft to hard, trees were crusty with some soft snow here and there, groomers fast.
Skis: Blizzard Kabookie 180cm, mounted with Griffon demo bindings
Head Rock n' Roll 95, 180cm, mounted with Look PX12 demo bindings
Elan 999, mounted with Look Px12 demo bindings
Blizzard Bonafide, mounted with Griffon demo bindings
Skier: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, 35 years old, ski 30-50 days a year. Working on becoming more dynamic, can pretty much ski anything on the hill. Tend to favor skiing trees and bumps, or laying it over on hard snow.
Blizzard Kabookie: new for 2013, the Bonafide shape but without the metal. Moderate flex, quite a bit lighter. I have been skiing the Kabookie alot recently: it really is a superior soft snow ski. For the skier looking for a quick, pliable tree and bump ski that is on the wider side, it deserves serious consideration. On this particular day, I was really enjoying the flex: the tip was nice and supple, and this ski is super easy to change direction. It likes a combination of down-unweight movements with pulling feet back/extending, as it is soft enough in the tip and tail to really respond when you ski it actively. Same with bumps: it is supple, although perhaps a little softer than ideal in the tail, not quite as fun as the 999 and Rock n' Roll. Predictable though, easy to ski. In crud, there is little in the way of a speed limit, and it is made for rolling through rough snow. On groomers, it was a bit laterally soft to really lay over and expect to get much out of the ski. It held well, but was lacking a carver mentality and much in the way of energy.
Summary: a very capable soft snow ski, versatile, easy to ski well on. Not a great hard snow tool. Great Western ski for those who live off-piste.
Head Rock n' Roll 95: stiffer underfoot than the Kabookie, less rocker, softer tip. 95mm underfoot with a 19m radius. This ski has a much different character than the other 3 tested here. It skis narrower underfoot, feels more like a responsive 88mm ski than the others, probably due to the sidecut and big tip. It really carves well for a wider ski, and hold on hard snow is as good as the much stiffer Bonafide, while having more power and energy than that ski. You can lay it over and know it will come around on the outside ski, that the tip will engage early and pull through, which it not always the case when you lay a ski with a lot of rocker over, as those skis have tips that can feel dis-engaged. When this happens, I get a wandering feeling, and I find myself keeping the skis closer underneath my hips than I would like. The Head has none of that: the tip is glued to the snow and pulling throughout the turn. In crud, this ski has a more powerful feel than the Kabookie: it is a touch stiffer and heavier. The Kabookie seems to skate, glide, and dance over rough snow: the Head is just as damp, but just skis with a touch more of the “snow mover” feel that some skis have. Probably because it has a relatively soft tip with a stiffer forebody in front of the binding. In bumps, this ski is very good, a bit more aggressive perhaps in the tail than the 999 and Kabookie, and has great tip flex. In trees, again, it is quick. I found it to like a slightly different move; the tipping and separating of feet in turns (long leg/short leg) vs. the full unweight, retract, release, tip and extend that the other skis liked. The 95 could be skied like that too, but it liked lots of pressure on that outside ski if the skier has time to let it develop.
Summary: another great choice for all-mountain skiing. Likely the most versatile in this group, at least for me. Really ticks all of the boxes for a technically oriented all-mountain ski.
Elan 999: basically the Spire: a fairly soft ski with 2 sheets of metal, 98mm underfoot, with a 24m radius. Slight pin-tail, substantial rocker in the tip. Skied in 181cm. In terms of feel, this ski is closest to the Kabookie. Flex is close to the Kabookie as well. Nice soft tip, round flex. Laterally, just a touch stiffer. Basically what I wrote about the Kabookie could be written about this ski as well. If anything, even more off-piste oriented. Great control in trees, soft snow, junk, and bumps. Super easy to pivot, change direction, but if you want to ski it aggressively with active feet and releases, it comes out of the turn in a hurry. Skis like a narrower ski, in that it isn't hooky, doesn't have a mind of it's own. Rather, it goes where you tell it to, does what you want, and nothing more. Skis quicker than it's 24m radius would indicate. The tip is surfy, flexy, and really gets out of junky snow. This is probably the best pure crud ski tested here, and in the trees. Not great on groomers, lacking energy, and the outside tip can wander when laid out. One of my good friends (who comes from a race background) has the 999 as his Snowbird/Squaw road trip ski, aside from his carvers for groomer days, and can't stop raving about it. Lucky guy, he is always on a “business trip” with a meeting that takes place next to some stellar ski hill.
Summary: As a go-to off piste ski for variable conditions, it is one of the very best, and would be at the top of my list for a road trip ski to a steep ski area.
Blizzard Bonafide: skied 180cm. Same as the Kabookie, but with 2 sheets of metal, and quite a bit heavier. 20m radius in 180cm, if I remember correctly. I have skied this a ton, and nothing was really different about it this time. By far the stiffest ski here, too stiff for me. It doesn't feel that stiff when I flex it on the wall, but on the snow, it is pretty stout. The 999 and Rock n' Roll 95 have a fairly soft tip, whereas the Bonafide's tip is the same flex as the underbody of the ski. Kevin, who is 6 foot 1, 195lbs, loves this ski; he is a good skier, and can get it to bend up. On the snow, it feels like a pro freeride ski. Loves speed, air, big turns, choppy snow, unpredictable snow and ice. Anything you can throw it at it. I didn't care for it so much in the bumps and trees: it was a pretty punishing ski here. On the others, I would drive the tips into a bump trough and trust that they would comply with the snow crease; on the Bonafide, it doesn't give at my weight, and instead pushes back, which isn't a confidence-inspiring feeling. The tail was more forgiving, but the Kabookie was undoubtedly the better ski here. The sweet spot in bumps is small compared to the rest.. In trees, it was more manageable, but I had to be more precise than on the other skis. If I was pulling my feet back to help release, it was a bigger move than was required on the Kabookie. On the latter, I was making high performance, dynamic turns by simply being relaxed, letting energy carry from turn to turn, and putting the feet where they needed to go. The Bonafide was stiffer, and put me behind the game more than once; I felt more gripped, under more tension, and just couldn't relax. It grips well on hard snow, but lacks energy at my weight: bigger skiers will like it better. I was able to load it up with some pretty serious edge angles, and got something back, and it does track well on groomers. Probably a moot point though, as 99.8% of the skiers on the hill can't generate the edge angles required to arc a turn on hard snow. Most people think think they are carving while not realizing that sliding sideways, with an edge set at the bottom of the turn, isn't "carving".
Summary: very good ski for bigger skiers. If you need a strong freeride tool, or just like to cruise on hard snow and want something forgiving (large platform for pushing off, skids and drifts well), this is going to be a top choice, a hero ski even. If you are my size and a technically proficient skier, looking for quickness in tight spots and stability in wide open terrain, check out the other 3 skis. The Kabookie is much better for people my size, at least for how I ski.
Just so you know the snow conditions, here is a quick clip of bumps on the Head that day:
Edited by dawgcatching - 1/16/13 at 11:18am