Changing a ski like the Blizzard Bonafide is like Volkswagen releasing a new Jetta, or I suppose Toyota releasing a new Tacoma or Subaru a new Outback would be more appropriate for the skiing audience. Regardless of the analogy, it’s a big deal. The Bonafide has become an iconic ski. Most skiers, especially those who take the sport relatively seriously, are familiar with the name, the look, and in a lot of cases the feel and overall performance as well. At this point, we’ve seen a few different versions of the Bonafide. Each time it changes, we’ve taken a lot of time to explain what’s different about it. Overall, the changes we’ve seen over the years have been intended to retain what we love about the Bonafide (power, stability, edge grip, unflinching confidence at speed, etc), but make it a little more forgiving or approachable. The ski we’re getting for 2021 continues that trend, and in a lot of ways marks a more significant change to the ski than we’ve ever seen before.
Before we get into the changes, we thought it would be important right off the bat to say that making a ski more forgiving, more versatile, or more approachable, does not mean it’s being dumbed down. In fact, if anything, there’s more technology in this ski than ever before. Nothing was removed, so to speak, we’re only getting tweaks to construction and new materials. We also get a new shape too, but let’s start with construction.
If you’re going to learn one thing about the new Bonafide 97, it should be Blizzard’s new TrueBlend wood core design. This is a key element in the ski’s design and it’s also being used in other models like the Brahma 88 and women’s Black Pearl skis. This wood core is specifically engineered for each individual length of the ski, and we’ll talk about that more when we get to performance. High density beech wood stringers are strategically positioned along a longitudinal plane, laminated alongside the lighter, less dense poplar wood core. This is kind of oversimplifying it, but the idea is there are more high-density stringers underfoot, and less as you reach the tips and tail. That gives Blizzard’s engineers the ability to precisely control the flex of the ski, and perhaps more importantly, it’s affecting each length of ski. Stiffer, harder flex underfoot, then softer tips and tails. And yes, each length is different! TrueBlend was developed as a way of providing balanced flex patterns and proper performance in each length. In other words, a 171 cm Bonafide 97 is going to perform quite differently than a 189 cm Bonafide 97. In the past, when manufacturers use the same construction for every length, it often actually makes the shorter lengths stiffer, which really doesn’t make any sense. Shorter skis are going to be used by lighter, smaller, or less aggressive skiers, so they shouldn’t be stiffer, they should perform in an appropriate fashion for that individual skier.
So, that’s TrueBlend, and truth be told, I think it’s really cool. Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole construction story of the Bonafide 97. We still get two full sheets of metal as well as bi-directional carbon fiber in the tips and tails. In fact, we actually get more metal in the Bonafide 97 compared to previous models. There’s now an extra layer of metal underfoot along with a rubber anti-shock layer underneath that metal layer. Still sandwich construction, still vertical sidewalls, still all that good stuff.
Alright, let’s talk about shape. Things start to get really interesting when you think about the effect of the combined changes to construction and shape. First off, it’s now 97 mm underfoot, not 98. No big deal. The sidecut has been changed ever so slightly, however, and it has a more significant taper angle from tip to tail now. Previous Bonafides were 135.5/98/119.5 mm, this new version is 136.5/97/118.5 mm. So, wider tip, narrower waist, narrower tail. The turn radius is slightly shorter, but for all intents and purposes, it’s the same. What’s fascinating to me is that the new Bonafide 97 has more taper in the tips and tails (more noticeable in the tips), but a little bit less rocker. The camber height is also a few mm higher on the Bonafide 97 than previous versions. At first, I couldn’t really wrap my head around that, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Because the tips and tails of the ski are designed to be, in general, softer flexing, they don’t need to be as rockered. You’re actually getting a better snow feel out of this new version by providing a longer effective edge, but more willingness and compliance in the tips and tails. Another important thing to note is we now have 5 lengths in the Bonafide, separated by just 6 cm. The previous ski had 4 lengths separated by 8 mm. We had a similar conversation when we talked about the new Enforcer 100, but let’s recap. Providing more length options means skiers can more easily dial in what’s right for them. It also shows serious commitment from the manufacturer to provide the correct performance for each skier, as creating molds for 5 lengths is quite a bit more expensive than for 4 lengths.
Those length options are important when we start thinking about performance. TrueBlend is designed to actually provide pretty significant differences in performance across each length, and it’s noticeable in the Bonafide 97 for sure. We had multiple testers try multiple lengths this season and the results were really interesting. Overall, the simplest way to describe the performance of the new Bonafide 97 is it’s still as powerful as it ever was, but it’s easier to release the tips and tails and it’s also less jarringly stiff in the tips and tails, which helps a lot in variable snow conditions and tricky terrain. Don’t take that, however, and think it’s going to feel like a Rustler 10. It’s still a precise, powerful ski. It’s not smeary or drifty like a Rustler 10, but it does allow you to release the tail edge more easily than on previous versions. That basically means it makes rounder turns at slower speeds more easily, which is nice. The previous Bonafide often felt like you needed to hit 40 mph before you could really do anything. The Bonafide 97 is easier to manipulate at slower speeds, which helps a ton in terrain like moguls, trees, etc.
Now, let’s go back to those multiple length options for a bit. The shorter lengths use shorter beech stringers. That means the shorter lengths are actually softer flexing and more forgiving than the longer lengths. Also, because the length options are closer together now, you can really pick and choose what works for you. For example, for myself, previously the 180 cm length felt like correct length. Now, both the 177 cm and 183 cm are perfectly reasonable options, and they’re different. Being located here on the east coast, I would probably go with the 177 cm for the increased maneuverability in tight terrain like our Vermont trees. Remember, it’s still a Bonafide, and you still get a ton of power underfoot even if you go with the shorter of two length options. If I lived out west, however, I would probably go with the 183 cm length because I wouldn’t need the increased maneuverability and I would prefer having stiffer tips and tails for more stability at speed in open terrain.
My coworker Bob is another good example of how TrueBlend affects performance in different lengths. Bob tested both the 183 and 189 cm lengths and found that at his size and with his ability level the 189 cm was the way to go, but I would venture a guess that most skiers his size would actually prefer the slightly more forgiving 183 cm length. Bob logs 120+ days each ski season and has a formal, competitive freestyle background. He used to rip bumps on 200+ cm skis, so doing so on a 189 cm Bonafide isn’t tremendously difficult for him. In fact, he even mentioned that the new tips and tails give the ski more skid and smear ability, which really helps in the moguls.
In the past, we’ve often talked about how the Bonafide is realistically too much ski and too demanding for an intermediate skier. Is it still? Maybe, but maybe not. I think an athletic intermediate could ski it, but they should go with the shorter length if they feel like they’re between two sizes. I could see an intermediate skier enjoying, say, the 171 cm Bonafide 97, or even the 165 cm length. All things considered, however, it’s still a ski that’s best on the feet of advanced and expert skiers. It still has the unflinching confidence at speed that it’s always has, it still has tremendous edge grip, now it just allows for more skier input and more variety in turn shapes. You’re less locked into a carving turn than on the previous ski, but if all you want to do is arc big, high speed turns through different snow conditions, it’s still hands-down one of the best options out there.