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Sep 22 2014

Review: Volkl’s BMT Series – 94/109/122

It was two seasons ago my preconceived notions about rockered skis, especially the too fat variety, were blown to smithereens. For me, that means anything wider than 110mm at the waist which simply cannot hold sufficient edge for good all round, backcountry skiing.

The example was Volkl’s V-Werks Katana, a magical mix of wood core and carbon fiber technology that not only demolished my notion that super fat skis can’t carve on ice, it also showed that camber wasn’t required to hold that edge, or rebound out of a turn, and it didn’t have the heft of a tank to deliver such performance. The biggest breakthrough though was how damp it felt, unlike most carbon-fiber skis.

Volkl's Big Mountain Touring series, BMT 94 shown. Less than 7 lbs./pr at 186cm long.

Volkl’s Big Mountain Touring series, BMT 94 shown. Less than 7 lbs./pr at 186cm long.

V-Werks – Rocker that Carves

The success of the V-Werks design, a fully rockered ski that carves, is not that new to Volkl fans, but a carbon fiber version was. Based on the success of the V-Werks Katana Volkl realized they could transfer that technology to backcountry skiers who already believed light is right. With the downhill performance of heavier skis for a fraction of their weight what backcountry skier could resist it? Thus was born the Big Mountain Touring series of skis, in varying waist widths of 122mm for lift assisted powder farmers, 109mm for powder hunters, and 94mm for ski mountaineers. There was talk of an 84mm version for the curmudgeons among us for whom 84mm is fat enough, but the market for skinny sticks doesn’t exist stateside.

The size most backcountry skiers want - BMT 109

The size most backcountry skiers want – BMT 109

Anyone who is a fan of rockered skis in undoubtedly enamoured with how playful they are in deep and cruddy conditions. Classically cambered skis, especially those with a hard tail require full unweighting to change edges. It’s an exciting sensation, but in deep snow can slow down how quickly you turn, especially in tight trees where turns need to be delivered staccato style. Rocker is a supreme advantage here, and the BMT’s deliver. However, that rocker isn’t so dramatic that it defines the turn. With natural radius in the 20 meter range, depending on length, medium and big radius turns are the default preference, a function you’ll agree with fully in a treeless alpine bowl.

Admittedly this review is based largely on the BMT 94 since I haven’t actually skied the 109 or 122 version. For perspective though, I have skied the V-Werks Katana with a 112mm waist and except for expected differences in waist width, their turning personality was consistent.

When you want more for you money go big with BMT 122

When you want more for you money go big with BMT 122

For the backcountry I’m stuck on 90mm waisted skis being the most versatile, give or take a few millemeters up or down. The BMT 94 is on the high side of that, but when combined with the rocker it is the most agile of the bunch, and though it isn’t quite as floaty as the wider siblings, it stayed near the top. For those who define fat as more than 100mm, you’ll be more satisfied with the BMT 109, and of course, if that fails to float your boat, Volkl offers the BMT 122, a ski that any self respecting heli-skier will add to their quiver because it will surely be the envy of every other heli patron.

Damp on snow performance

Can those thin sidewalls really hold a edge? Yup. Really!

Can those thin sidewalls really hold a edge? Yup. Really!

Blizzard fans are familiar with the hard snow performance possible with a rockered ski as exemplified with the Cochise. The BMT series has the same sort of functionality, for 20% percent less weight. Of course, in the world of reducing weight, less costs more, perhaps 40% more. With the BMT 94, turns in snow with substance, like fresh whipped cream in the Sierra, saturated slush, or more commonly, firm and chunky crud, even though my heels were locked, felt like tele turns. These skis plowed through with a smooth round arc and an inescapable carving sensation no matter what snow was underfoot, from polished mogul troughs to sloppy junk and all forms of chunder in between.

When comparing the BMT94 to similar width carbon-fiber skis the difference was pronounced. There was no hesitation or lack of confidence on hard, icy snow, the edges dug in and held whereas most carbon fiber skis tend to chatter, or slip a bit. In bumps and crud response was smooth and consistent, For instance, BD’s Carbon Ascent or G3′s Carbon Synapse with admirable light-ski performance were decidedly snappier but in hard crud you felt every jolting chunk that the Volkl’s BMT 94 simply crushed. How Volkl does this with a ski that clearly has a lot of carbon-fiber in its construction seems counter-intuitive. My natural inclination would expect it to be less damp, when in fact it is more damp. Perhaps the thinner edges yield enough to prevent chatter while still holding but that is pure speculation on this writers part.

Touring Performance

By the numbers there are lighter skis out there, but not with the same downhill performance. With a pair of 186mm BMT 94′s coming in at less than 7 pounds per pair these skis fully qualify as light weight skis, making good uphill performance a given. The tip isn’t heavily rockered, but the overall rockered profile will definitely help float the ski when breaking trail on a morning of fresh and light fluff, significantly reducing the trench factor.

Mounting

Stay inside the white and you'll be alright.

Stay inside the white and you’ll be alright.

The thin edges of the BMT skis at the front and tail of the ski do give concern for overall durability in the field. Of more immediate concern will be the ability to mount tech bindings to the narrow platform underfoot. Worry not, Volkl knew business partner Marker was coming to market with a 2-pin tech binding and provided enough wood core underfoot to accommodate the Kingpin, the Duke, or bindings with an even wider mounting pattern up to 50mm like Plum’s Yak. The mounting zone is H-shaped, so not all the area is available for drilling holes that will hold.

Balancing weight versus cost

As should be obvious, this was the most amazing ski I “tested” of this seasons offerings. There may be equal or superior skis, but none I’ve tried yet. This ski definitely calls to mind the principle that quality isn’t cheap. If this isn’t in the budget, to get equivalent downhill performance you will pay with sweat on the uphill, which in the long run isn’t such a bad thing. But if you can afford a cool grand for such performance then why not?

Volkl
BMT 94
MSRP: $1275

Sizes Available (cm)
166 cm
176 cm
186 cm
Dimensions (mm)
122-94-112
122-94-112
122-94-112
Turn Radius (m)
18.5 m
22.5 m
26 m
Weight (g)
2800 g
2940 g
3140 g
Weight (lbs)
6 lbs. 3 oz.
6 lbs. 8 oz.
6 lbs. 15 oz.

 
BMT 109
MSRP: $1275

Sizes Available (cm)
166 cm
176 cm
186 cm
Dimensions (mm)
134-109-119
134-109-119
134-109-119
Turn Radius (m)
18.5 m
22.4 m
26.5 m
Weight (g)
 
3280 g
3480 g
Weight (lbs)
 
7 lbs. 4 oz.
7 lbs. 11 oz.

 

BMT 122
MSRP: $1275

Sizes Available (cm)
176 cm
186 cm
Dimensions (mm)
143-122-133
143-122-133
Turn Radius (m)
23.8 m
28.2 m

* – weights listed provided by Volkl, not independently confirmed.

© 2014
 

  • Dostie

    RS mentioned on the EYT facebook page that the black color of the BMT skis is a fail. Admittedly I didn’t take these out for a tour or I might have mentioned that factor (spoiled by the touring efficiency of Dynafit, the Marker Tours were the fail for me). Indeed, it is a negative feature in the BC. OTOH, very few skis are immune to the top sheet heating up from the sun, even white ones. But black would certainly be a worst case condition and the actual touring weight could quickly double in the right conditions.

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  • Matthew de Torres

    Hi, can you drive the 94′s or 109′s with NTN Freedoms and terminator x’s? Will freedoms even mount on them?

    Thanks,
    Matt

  • Dostie

    Looks like it’ll work. The mounting screws are 40mm apart for the Freedom, and the wood core of the BMT’s is 54mm wide putting the holes not quite in the middle of the wood available. As always, using a jig is recommended.

  • Kubismo

    Dostie – forget Freedoms! Can you mount the tongue-wag-inducing Meidjos to these?

  • karlo88

    Hi. I’m 5’10″ 180 lbs, expert skier. I’m considering BMT 94, lengths 176 and 186, for touring where one would descend off-piste in the alpine, then through trees (some tight), then through resort. What length did you ski on and what are your details? I love the idea of the 186 with the bigger radius, but am concerned about getting in the “staccato” turns in the trees as you described.
    Also, have you had a chance to compare the BMT 109 with the BMT 94 in various conditions?
    Thanks

  • Dostie

    You’ll probably prefer the 109 at 176 length. Agree that 186cm makes tight turns in trees a bit more difficult, though not impossible. I’m skiing free heel, so the extra width makes edging harder. With a locked heel, 109mm wide yields plenty of float, and you can still hold an edge – especially with this design. It really does hold an edge better than most any ski with comparable dimensions.