Cochise 106

The Cochise 106 knows how it should be skied, even if you don’t. It’s well aware that it won’t be able to carve a short turn at minimal speed, so it keeps close to the fall line until it can shift into third. Once it reaches cruising speed, it dons its dancing shoes and shows just how indifferent to heinous crud a ski can be.

The Cochise 106 is one of the few Big Mountain models that doesn’t get the heebie-jeebies on hard pack. Its imperturbability where other skis literally tremble is due in part to its classic, wood and Titanal construction and in part to its Flipcore baseline.

This latest incarnation of the Cochise represents a return to its roots as an all-terrain ski, as it was conceived to be. While the 21/22 version of the Cochise is a bit easier to bow, it’s still a fall-line-loving powerhouse. If it’s afraid of anything it sure doesn’t show it.

Whether riding a high edge on groomers or banking off a wind berm, the Cochise provides an unwavering platform you can depend on. It’s the perfect match for the expert who won’t flinch in the fall line. Even though Cochise has changed over the years, it hasn’t contorted into something it’s not: it’s still the same Power ski it always was.

Black Pearl 88

Blizzard already had the best-selling ski in the U.S., men’s or women’s, when it made two changes to the Black Pearl 88 that made the best even better.  The first major sweetener was TrueBlend, a meticulously arranged parquet of lightweight poplar and denser beech that is adapted for every length, and coordinated with modifications to the baseline and sidecut. The goal of TrueBlend is a perfectly balanced flex that feels smooth yet energetic.

The second major booster was a women’s-specific Titanal plate underfoot that spreads its calming effect over nearly the full length of the ski. “Every length is calibrated to create an optimal, round flex that travels well in all conditions,” notes Blizzard tester Cara Williams.  “The latest Pearls are actually slightly heavier (+150g) than the previous model,” she notes, “but I discovered after only 3 or 4 high-speed turns, that once you click in, the function and performance outweigh the literal weight of a ski – it’s more important to be the right weight than light weight.”

Brahma 88

It’s a joy to discover an all-terrain ski with the strength and stability of an Old School GS race ski that can be reined in to less than 40mph and still move edge to edge with the ease of a figure skater. The Brahma 88’s softer extremities allow it to roll over terrain so smoothly it’s as if the ski were part of the flow of the run and not a separate component. In keeping with the best the All-Mountain East genre has to offer, it’s as comfy on glassy groomers as it is in 18-inches of fresh.

“This is a fun, nimble ski,’ says Rafferty from Peter Glenn. “Comfortable in short-radius turns in the steeps, comes around happily in moguls and gives a smooth ride at high speeds. If you prefer a slightly softer feel than the Bonafide without giving up significant performance, the Brahma 88 is worth considering. I never felt that it was doing anything counter to my efforts. I think of this as a friendly ski.”

To keep things friendly, pay close attention to length selection. If you’re not one of the biggest lads on the hill, you don’t need a 189cm. Remember, the Flipcore baseline doesn’t reduce its effective edge length once it’s tipped and pressured, so when you’re between sizes you’re probably better off going shorter, particularly if you like trees, bumps and chutes.

Bonafide 97

Over its relatively long lifespan, the Bonafide has found a few thorns in all the roses thrown its way. One criticism is that its brawny build is best managed by experts, and there’s something to this claim in that the Bonafide performs better with some energy flowing through it, meaning it likes to be ridden fast. Some find it boring and wonder what the big deal is. In the Bonafide’s defense, all high-performance skis perform better under an expert’s guidance and an affinity for speed is not, by itself, a demerit. Furthermore, if you want rebound energy out of a Bonafide you have to load it. If you just stand there looking cute, it won’t react because you haven’t told it to.

While there are worse problems to have, being known as an experts-only ski is a concern nonetheless, one Blizzard addressed last year with the introduction of the TrueBlend core. The objective of TrueBlend was a smooth, round flex adapted for every size, married to a flex pattern and baseline likewise adapted by length. The key to its execution was the precise location of denser strips of beech in a predominantly poplar core. Each size was treated like its own model, so the shorter skis were also softer and more accessible to lighter and lower skill skiers.

“There’s nothing this ski won’t do with ease,” comments Jim McGee of Peter Glenn. “It won’t overwhelm a strong intermediate but will really reward the expert,” he concludes.

Phoenix R13 Ti

Blizzard applied its well-honed knack for morphing a unisex template into a genuine women’s model to its new Thunderbird/Phoenix series of mostly Frontside rides.  The flagship Phoenix R13 Ti cuts a women’s specific (W.S.D.) TrueBlend core into a unique sidecut that shifts the entire shape forward 1cm, then moves the mount point to match it.

The Phoenix R13 Ti isn’t a watered-down design, but a brilliant, high-energy carver meant for women who know how to arc it and spark it. The international team of women who fined tuned its design are technical masters who log hundreds of test runs in pursuit of a better ski. When one of our female testers essayed the men’s Thunderbird R15 WB, she gave it perfect scores for technical merit; since the Phoenix R13 Ti is made along the same lines, it’s highly probable the women’s skis can rip just as well.