2020 Blizzard Black Pearl 82 Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Blizzard's Black Pearl collection of women's all-mountain skis has left a significant impression on the women's ski market over the past few years. Perhaps most notably, the Black Pearl 88 has been the best selling women's ski in the country pretty consistently since its introduction. It even makes it into the top 10 best selling skis in total, including all men's skis as well. A big reason for that is the fact that these skis were developed by women, not by a male engineer who thinks he understands female skiers. Blizzard's Women To Women project is revolutionary in its representation of women in the ski world and the resulting products. Blizzard understands that the number of female skiers is growing and wants to provide a community that speaks their language. It's a refreshing approach to women's skis and we've been thoroughly impressed with the skis they've developed. For 2020, we have a new addition to the Black Pearl collection and Blizzard's women's ski line, the Black Pearl 82.
Following in the footsteps of the rest of the collection in terms of overall design and construction, the Black Pearl 82 offers a new width option that fills a slight void that existed beforehand. Blizzard uses their Women's Specific Carbon Flipcore construction in the Black Pearl 82. Uni-directional carbon fiber is integrated into a sandwich construction that utilizes a lightweight wood core designed specifically for women. Uni-directional carbon fiber has great properties for a ski. When thinking of carbon fiber, most people imagine a Bi-directional carbon weave. By positioning the carbon along a single axis, you're getting the benefits of energy, responsiveness, and stability, but with a little more forgiveness than a ski with bi-directional carbon. The men's Brahma 82, for example, uses bi-directional carbon along with metal. Not only does that make it heavier, but also more torsionally rigid. While that helps for a heavy and/or aggressive male skier, it's not doing much for a lighter female skier, but we'll talk more about that when we get to performance.
The shape of the Black Pearl 82 is also proportionally consistent with its wider and narrower sister skis. It uses a rocker/camber/rocker profile with more tip rocker than tail rocker. The camber takes up the majority of the ski, however, and it's also relatively high rise camber. We wouldn't necessarily call the sidecut shaping of the Black Pearl 82 tapered, but the tips and tails do straighten out a little bit compared to the true radius of the ski. This helps give it a smoother overall feel. The 166 cm length has a 15.5 m turn radius, which in our opinion is just right for a ski like this. It's not so small that it constantly wants to turn, and not so long that it feels like a runaway freight train.
So what about performance? Luckily, we've had a lot of different testers on the Black Pearl 82 over the past season. Starting way back in early December 2018 and going through our 2020 Ski Test, it's safe to say we've put the Black Pearl 82 through its paces. The resounding feedback on the Black Pearl 82 is that it's a very balanced ski. It has a smooth flex pattern from tip to tail thanks to that Women's Carbon Flipcore construction. It's not exceptionally stiff, but it's also not a noodle. For most women, this flex pattern works really well. It's stiff enough that you can push it thanks to the carbon, but it's not too demanding or unforgiving. Some of Blizzard's men's skis can be pretty demanding, including the Brahma 82. We often recommend those skis for advanced to expert skiers only, but intermediates can certainly enjoy the Black Pearl 82. Experts needn't worry, however, as it has a high performance ceiling as well, it just feels more balanced than the stiffer, heavier men's skis for a bigger range of ability levels.
On groomers, the Black Pearl 82 really comes to life. It's quick edge to edge thanks to the 82 mm waist width. It feels more maneuverable than most frontside-specific skis because it's lighter and your center of gravity is lower due to not needing a system binding. It's energetic out of a turn thanks to that uni-directional carbon fiber and the high rise camber. It holds an edge well, but it enters and exists a turn easily. That's where the uni-directional carbon really starts to shine. By having slightly less torsional stiffness, it requires less skier input to get into a turn. Once you're there, however, the supportive flex pattern allows you to hold a carving turn and finish it without washing out. On the other hand, if you want to wash out and finish your turn with more of a skid to control speed, it lets you do that. It's a good balance of edge grip and releasability. Bi-directional carbon would make this ski significantly less smooth in terms of controlling your edge release. Will some women push it past its limits? Sure, but if you don't have a formal race background and you're not practically brushing your hip against the snow when you're making a carving turn, it's likely plenty of edge grip for you. The same can be said about the lack of metal. Will some women want more vibration damping? Again, sure, but most will much, MUCH prefer the lighter-weight feel of this construction.
Simply put, the Black Pearl 82 is a fantastic bump ski. We like it more than the Black Pearl 78 or 88 for mogul performance. The 78 gets bogged down and can feel catchy at times in un-groomed snow. The 88, while also a good ski for moguls, isn't as quick edge to edge and doesn't feel as nimble as the Black Pearl 82. Whether you're ripping a zipper line through steep bumps or making slower, rounder turns through more moderate pitches, the Black Pearl 82 feels great. The same can be said about tree skiing, especially here on the east. Sure, when we think about tree skiing, we like to think about powder, but that often isn't the case around here. Those that still like to play around in the woods will benefit hugely from the quick edge to edge feel and overall nimble nature of the Black Pearl 82. Blizzard calls their Black Pearl series an All-Mountain Freeride collection. We know, 82 mm seems a little narrow for a freeride ski to us too, but when you think about its performance, that categorization makes sense.
So, who's it best for? Well, to be honest, there's a big range of skiers that will enjoy the Black Pearl 82. Maybe you're mostly a groomer cruiser, but prefer being on an all-mountain ski over a narrower and/or system binding frontside ski. Those skis are typically heavier than the Black Pearl 82 and really aren't providing a huge benefit unless you're specifically focused on precision. Maybe you're an adventurous all-mountain skier who likes to seek out challenging terrain, but you've recently noticed that your entire ski quiver looks like water skis and you don't really have anything narrow for those non-powder days. There are a lot of skiers guilty of this scenario these days, and the Black Pearl 82 will provide a refreshing alternative to those wider skis. Overall, it's a fantastic ski that feels friendly, peppy, and strong all at the same time.