The bane of any avid backcountry skier is breakable crust, but it’s an unfortunate reality if you’re spending a lot of time ski touring. When I first read Shane McConkey’s “Mental Floss” somewhere around 2004 (it was originally written in 2002) I learned that rockered skis make a lot of sense when dealing with some of the most difficult snow imaginable.
My experience on many pairs of rockered skis since then are definitely consistent with McConkey’s ideas. While I didn’t get a ton of time on the V-Werks BMT 109 in these conditions, I did get a few runs and felt them to be quite competent. My previous experience with skis that have a somewhat pintailed shape is that they do not do as well in breakable crust, but again, I did not experience this with the BMT 109 at all. I attribute the performance in these conditions to the long, progressive rocker and the relatively large 26 meter turn radius.
I’ve written in other ski reviews that the most unpredictable types of snow are most easily skied on the most predictable skis. The smooth combination of rocker profile and sidecut on the BMT 109 create a good example of a ski that’s predictable in tough conditions.
I didn’t spend a lot of time on the BMT 109 in soft chop, but did get several runs in the afternoon at Porters Ski Area that featured sun-softened tracked snow.
[Tangent: One of my pet-peeves for these conditions is skis that are designed with significant early taper in the tips. While many people like how they make a ski feel short and turny on hard snow, and a little driftier in untracked pow, I typically find that heavily tapered tips and tails are a detriment in chop and crud. Highly tapered tips generally feel hooky and grabby in these conditions, and do not inspire confident high speed skiing.
Why? It seems to me that the problem is the repeated and rapid changes in effective edge length when the ski is tipped into a carve. On sections of hard snow, the effective edge extends from the widest point of the ski in the tip to the widest point of the ski in the tail. Then, when the ski encounters a section of softer, deeper snow (think tracked-up maritime pow or sun-softened snow) the remaining tip and tail (beyond the widest part) are able to engage and the whole length of the ski pushes into the soft section of snow.
At high speeds and edge angles this can be quite unnerving as the heavily tapered tips and tails distal to the widest parts of the ski are intermittently grabbing/edging on the soft snow, then rapidly releasing on harder sections. It creates a lot of flap and inconsistency, even in a relatively stiff ski. Okay, end of tangent.]
All of that said, the BMT 109 does have some early tip taper, but it doesn’t really ski like it. By my measure, the widest part of the BMT 109 is about 23cm from the tip, but the taper is very subtle beyond that widest point (see enclosed pics). Just as with the rocker profile, I think this subtlety allows for the BMT 109 to be relatively predictable and smooth in chop, despite the early taper. (To be clear, I’m not saying that the BMT 109 is some crud or chop buster, but that it performs better than expected in these conditions given its weight. (See our upcoming Deep Dive article on the BMT 109 for comparisons on this front.)
Smooth Corn / Groomers
I had a couple of great, smooth corn runs on the 109’s on the backside of Porters Ski Area near Crystal Valley, on a sun-softened slope shortly after skiing fun wind-affected powder on the opposite aspect earlier that day. At that point the skis were still mounted at the +3 position. They were very easy to engage into a turn, and took little effort to drive the tips into the top of the turn.
When trying to scrub speed and skid some of the turns while at +3, the skis did feel a bit more chattery than I was expecting. Fortunately, moving the binding to the recommended mount mostly remedied this, and left me feeling more balanced on the ski with less chatter, more overall stability, and no significant sacrifice in turn initiation.
While carving at high edge angles, the BMT 109 felt smooth and tracked well. While it is damp for it’s weight, it is still a 109mm-underfoot lightweight touring ski and it’s prone to deflection when hitting firm inconsistencies and bumps on groomers.
I rarely ever comment on a product’s cosmetics, but while I like the clean black and green aesthetic of the BMT 109, I do prefer white or light colored skis for touring. The theory is that dark colored or black skis absorb more heat and therefore melt snow that can later refreeze, creating more icing up and thus forcing you to carry a bunch of snow up the hill on top of your previously lightweight touring ski.
I was skeptical of this, but have experienced it first hand on skis like my 14/15 white and black Blizzard Spurs that, under the right conditions, will have ice and snow on the black parts and none on the white parts. It doesn’t happen all the time, but I prefer lighter colored or white touring skis for this reason. (And no, I’m not too worried about losing white skis in the snow.)
(On a day spent Yo-Yo-ing backcountry laps in Tarn Basin, Jonathan Ellsworth was on the BMT 109, and was getting quite a bit of snow build up on the shovels of the BMT 109. It seemed like the lighter-colored G3 Synapse 109 and the Salomon MTN Explore 95 were not having this issue to the same degree.)
We’ve encountered a few rocks with the BMT 109 without issue, but one week of skiing is hardly a full durability test. As we said in our review of the V-Werks Katana, we’re not advising anyone to go thrash these skis through rocky terrain.
A Note on Bindings
The BMT has a clear statement written on the topsheet that they should only be mounted with Marker Bindings. This is due to the relatively small and “H” shaped reinforced mounting plate on the V-Werks skis, and concern that screws that might fall outside of it will tear out and ruin the ski / mount.
We used Marker Kingpin 10 demos on our pair. It may be that some other companies’ bindings will work with the mounting plates (like a lighter weight G3 or Dynafit tech binding that would also pair well with this ski), but it may affect the warranty. Make sure you discuss this with your local shop tech before settling on a binding for any V-Werks ski.
The Volkl BMT 109 is an excellent all-around backcountry ski that will be fun to ski in just about any condition you’ll encounter, inbounds or out. Among the growing group of lightweight touring oriented skis in this width class, the BMT 109 is not the lightest, nor the most powerful / stable, nor the best in crud or powder. But, so far in my experience, it’s the best all-around performer in its class.
And of course, there’s another big question looming here: How does the V-Werks BMT 109 stack up against the V-Werks Katana, which has a very similar shape. Why choose one over the other?
We’ll answer this question and draw comparisons between the BMT 109, the Blizzard Zero G 108, the G3 Synapse, and the Black Diamond Carbon Convert in our upcoming BMT 109 Deep Dive.
NEXT: ROCKER PROFILE PICS