Blizzard Black Pearl 88 Review

August 31, 2018
Blizzard Black Pearl 88
GEAR INSTITUTE RATINGS
88
Flotation
7
Stability
8
Edge Hold
8
Carving Pleasure
8
Turn Variability
7

The Good

  • User-friendly
  • Reliable edge grip with immediate access underfoot
  • Smooth, even flex
  • Huge sweet spot

The Bad

  • Tip doesn’t entirely engage at initiation
  • Stiff for smearing turns
  • Lacks energy in high-speed, aggressive turns
THE VERDICT
As the middle model in Blizzard’s freeride, all-mountain Black Pearl line, the Black Pearl 88 is a versatile ski ideal not only for a variety of terrain and snow conditions, but also for a wide range of skiers. Versatility and a huge sweet spot result from a balance of lightweight construction and wide frontside shape, which creates an easy flexing ski with enough torsional rigidity so that it can handle high speed, aggressive turns. To some testers, the less than shapely sidecut means a lack of snap out of the turn as well as mediocre float from the relatively narrow tip. However, high marks from testers appeared across the board for all criteria including Stability, Edge-hold and Carving Pleasure, with the exception of slightly lower scores for Turn Shape Variability and Float.
FULL REVIEW

The Blizzard Black Pearl 88 is versatile ski ideal for a wide range of skiers thanks to a balance of construction and shape, which creates a forgiving ski that can also be pushed at high speed. Overall, testers gave the 88-mm-waisted ski high marks for all categories, with highest scores in Edge-hold and Carving pleasure, and slightly lower scores for Turn Shape Variability and Resort Float. “Reliable edge grip and a smooth even flex,” says one tester about this middle model in Blizzard’s three-model freeride all-mountain line. “Excels in all turn shapes, but lacks zip in trade for reliability and stability,” says another.

Some testers noted the tip shape—a rounded profile without much taper—lacks engagement at turn initiation in high-performance turns. That shape, however, also adds forgiveness and maneuverability into turns for a range of ability levels. One tester felt that the Black Pearl 88 “favors a slightly aft stance so that when forward and pushing the ski, it doesn’t respond dynamically.” Expert skiers may detect a lack of snap, or energy, out of the turn, however, that lack of pop also creates a smooth and stable feeling for a variety of ability levels.

The Black Pearl 88 has a sweet spot “the size of a mountain,” according to one tester. “It’s soft enough in the tip and stiff enough in the tail to support different stances and skiing styles,” says another tester. All testers agree that the ski is well balanced, resulting in, according to one tester, “a predictable, no-surprise ski.” Blizzard says the women-specific design of the Carbon Flipcore W.S.D. blends performance features with a lightweight construction. This includes a unidirectional carbon layer, a multi-directional fiberglass layer with carbon inserts and a poplar/beech wood core. The carbon frame provides torsional stiffness, while promoting a moderate flex, which helps make the ski appealing to a variety of ability levels.

The latest iteration of the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 has a wider shovel and deeper sidecut than previous models. The shape comes from a Blizzard women’s design concept that aimed to create a wide, frontside sidecut that’s easy to turn—both for the 88 mm waist and the wider Black Pearl 98 (98 mm waist). The rocker profile is designed for maneuverability in carved turns as well as some resort float. With Blizzard’s Flipcore and Carbon Flipcore technology, the rocker is created in the molding process and not added post-production, purportedly creating a more natural flex pattern in the ski. Indeed, testers commented on the smooth flex pattern, with one tester praising, “the harmonic blend of big progressive flex to sidecut.”

Resort Flotation

The Blizzard Black Pearl 88 has adequate resort float for days in light fluff. In reality, an 88-mm-waisted ski leans more toward frontside all-mountain performance over floating effortlessly in a foot of freshies, and this is true for this model. However, testers noted that the tip felt narrow for the ski, which had the effect of slightly lower scores for Resort Float. The lightweight compound sandwich sidewall construction, however, attributed to a “no-thinking” turn in all conditions, in terms of possessing an immediate reaction underfoot when needed for making directional turns. Al in all, the Black Pearl 88 is an all-around carver turn and “a little bit stiff for a smear turn,” according to one tester.

Stability

In tester speak, reliability means stability and the consensus is that the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 is one reliable ski. “Predictable” and “forgiving” were also used to describe the model as well as “balanced and well-engineered.” Testers agree that this ski can cater to a huge range of abilities—those that like a huge sweet spot to support them as well as aggressive skiers who want a ski they can ride from tip to tail at high speeds. One tester felt that the ski favors an aft stance (read: backseat), thanks to a soft tip, however that didn’t decrease Stability as much as tip engagement in a carved turn.

Edge-hold

Maybe not razor-sharp, but testers appreciated the edge-hold of the Black Pearl 88. “Really reliable edge grip,” says one tester, and “effortless to ride the edge thoroughly through the tail,” according to another. The Black Pearl 88’s wood core reinforced with carbon (which doesn’t add a lot of weight), camber underfoot and a sandwich compound sidewall construction make for a capable carver, particularly in medium-radius turns. It’s only the tip engagement that testers felt could be improved. “It’s soft in the tip and stiff enough in the tail to support different stances, but in aggressive turns, the tip doesn’t engage like a pure carver,” says one tester. What the ski lacks in slalom-type tip engagement, it makes up for in a reliable edge grip for a variety of skier types.

Carving Pleasure

The Black Pearl 88’s turn radius is 13 m at 159 cm length (as opposed to say, the Alight Pro, which has a radius of 10 m and 69 mm waist), so it has the capacity for a relatively tight carved turn. “You can engage the tip with little effort and ride the edge through the tail,” says one tester. “It’s a fierce carver when pushed.” Testers all gave high scores for this category, mostly impressed with the ease of turning and thus the accessibility to a variety of ability levels.

Turn Shape Variability

Testers’ scores varied in this criteria. According to one tester, the Black Pearl 88 “excels in all turn shapes,” however another tester says, “the ski is made for the medium-sized carved turn enthusiast.” It comes down to shape preference and waist width. Though the new design brings a wider shovel and deeper sidecut to the 88-mm-waisted ski, the tip felt narrow and slow to engage during the turn initiation, resulting in a feeling of smoothness, but no “bite” of engagement or snap out of the turn.

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