If you're the type of skier who gets up early for fresh corduroy, antsy to leave your two clean marks in the freshly groomed snow, the Blizzard Black Pearl 88 could suit you very well. It takes a dedicated and attentive driver to hold the wheel and help the Black Pearl maintain course, but this ski will deliver stability and deeply sliced trenches. For these reasons, the Black Pearl 88 took home our Top Pick for the best carving ski. However, this ski might not be ideal for someone who's just learning to carve or anyone who is specifically looking for a perfect powder partner or tree skiing buddy.Editor’s Note: We updated this Blizzard Black Pearl 88 review on March 6, 2022, to include a closer look at our testing process, an assessment of performance against value, and recommendations for comparable products.
Blizzard Black Pearl 88 - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Quick edge to edge, strong carving ski
Cons: Need to be engaged to ski it well, not much excitement, sinks in deeper snow
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Blizzard Black Pearl 88 - Women's
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|Pros||Quick edge to edge, strong carving ski||Crud blaster, dependable, great one-ski quiver option, good for every ability level||Awesome powder tool, fabulous fun factor even for light skiers, affordable price||Great stability at high speeds, good on hard snow and crud, more affordable than others||Superbly stable at high speeds, great edge hold|
|Cons||Need to be engaged to ski it well, not much excitement, sinks in deeper snow||No wow-factor, not a lot of rebound||Gets bouncy in crud, slight tip flap, doesn’t carve perfectly||Only for shallower pow days, needs strong skier to guide them||Too burly for lighter gals, not nimble|
|Bottom Line||Though not especially playful in deep powder, this ski is our top choice for carving with its skinny waist and quickness edge to edge||A great all-rounder ski that we think is the most versatile option for a one-ski quiver||A fun and responsive toy for powder days, groomer antics, and bumps, with a value-oriented price tag||This model will do great in everything but the deepest powder and is ideal for an aggressive skier||A good choice for hard-charging speed demons that still performs decently off-piste|
|Rating Categories||Blizzard Black Pear...||Nordica Santa Ana 98||Elan Ripstick 94 W||Faction Dictator 2.0X||Volkl Secret 96|
|Stability at Speed (20%)|
|Carving Ability (20%)|
|Powder Performance (20%)|
|Crud Performance (20%)|
|Terrain Playfulness (15%)|
|Specs||Blizzard Black Pear...||Nordica Santa Ana 98||Elan Ripstick 94 W||Faction Dictator 2.0X||Volkl Secret 96|
|Waist Width||88 mm||98 mm||94 mm||96 mm||96 mm|
|Available Lengths (cm)||147, 153, 159, 165, 171, 177||151, 158, 165, 172, 179||154, 162, 170, 178||155, 163, 171, 175, 179, 183, 187||149, 156, 163, 170|
|Length Tested||171 cm||172 cm||178 cm||171 cm||170 cm|
|Turn Radius||15 m||16.3 m||18 m||18 m||16 m|
|Camber Profile||Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot||Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot||Rocker tip and tail, cambered inside edge, Amphibio tech||Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot||Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot|
|Weight Per Pair||8.0 lbs||8.1 lbs||7.4 lbs||7.9 lbs||8.5 lbs|
|Construction Type||Sandwich compound sidewall||Energy Ti W||SST sidewall||Sandwich||Full sidewall|
|Core Material||True Blend Woodcore||Performance Wood & Metal||Tubelite wood||Paulownia & Poplar||Beech and poplar|
Our Analysis and Test Results
With their True Blend Woodcore technology, Blizzard mixes different combinations of wood in different portions of the ski, successfully making the platform underneath your feet stiffer than the tip and tail. The Black Pearl 88's ability to dig railed tracks into the snow in a carved turn, and its lightning speed transition from one edge to another, earned it our carving award. Our ski tuners also commented on the quality construction and materials in this ski.
Stability at Speed
The Black Pearl 88 integrates Blizzard's Carbon Flipcore technology, and as long as you are continuously moving forward on the ski at the start of each turn, it rewards you with a stable ride at most speeds. If you forget to shift forward to the ski's sweet spot, or you just simply want a break from the constant physicality of making an aggressive turn, the ski starts to feel just slightly looser.
Our testers felt the Black Pearl 88 benefited from this additional stability underfoot, creating a dependable constancy - but only if we managed to stay on top of it. If we got a little lazy or tired and weren't coming back to the sweet spot every turn, we found it felt a little sloppy and unreliable.
Weighing in at exactly 8 pounds per pair, the Black Pearl 88 has the bulk expected from a frontside carver built with a "wide" sheet of titanal to beef up its core and dampen its ride at speed.
Some of our heavier testers also commented that it did not feel designers built this ski to withstand the forces created by a larger skier. If you're a medium-weight female, and you're willing to put in the effort to stay on top of this ski, they should provide a solid and dependable experience at higher speeds.
In the world of tipping and ripping carved turns, the Black Pearl 88 reigns supreme. It much prefers to dig into the snow and hold an arc; when we tried to flatten the ski and butter across the surface, the Black Pearl 88 was not as interested in participating. This propensity for edging does not make this ski an ideal companion for tree skiing or sliding on boxes and rails in the terrain park. Still, it does make digging high-speed trenches an absolute hoot.
As noted earlier, the Black Pearl 88 demands a competent captain at her helm; she won't roll over for just any common sailor. If you can stay alert and move forward at the start of the turn, she'll engage securely, and you'll be in for a fun ride across the fall line. However, this particular maneuver on this ski is not for novices. It's not the type of ski that simply arcs when you look at it sideways - you have to know what you want from it to make it happen. Once you do, though, the Black Pearl 88 moves incredibly quickly between sets of edges, giving the skier a much more exhilarating ride than we remember from older Black Pearl iterations.
While this ski has one of the shorter turn radii on paper in our test group, at 15m, all our testers agreed that it didn't feel like this was true to reality. It feels like it takes the Black Pearl 88 much longer than a 15m radius would imply to arc its natural carved turn shape.
If you enjoy carving a medium to large radius turn, this could be a great choice for you; but if you enjoy a tighter turn, don't let the 15m marking fool you into thinking the Black Pearl 88 turns that snugly.
Even in small amounts of fresh snow, the Black Pearl 88 has a thin frame underfoot that does not allow it to build a platform of snow to push against and spring back to the surface.
When we tried to use this tactic, it simply sunk deeper. We could force a turn from underneath, particularly in less or lighter consistency snow. But don't expect the tips to always stay on top if things get deeper or heavier.
With its skinny little 88mm waist, the Black Pearl 88 is not a powder hound. Its slightly rockered tips help it maintain flotation in about 6 inches or less of the fresh stuff, but more than that, it tends to flounder.
The profile of the Black Pearl 88 tends more towards camber than rocker. That, combined with its particularly narrow waist, made it difficult to keep this ski on the surface.
Our testers were impressed with this ski's performance in chunky off-piste conditions. The stability underfoot that we discovered on the groomers proved functional and appreciated when taking this ski into variable terrain.
The Black Pearl 88 is stiff enough to slice through choppy snowballs, and its agility when moving between edges allowed it to change directions as quickly as necessary in the crud. Perhaps because the tips are not excessively rockered nor fat, they do not seem to get deflected by lumpy snow conditions.
While we did find the new Black Pearl 88 to have more spring in its step than older and fatter skis from this line, we still felt like we were pulling teeth a bit to get it to come out and party. If we pushed it on the groomers, we could feel more rebound in a high-speed carved turn than on Black Pearls of old. However, this was the only environment where we felt its playful side showed itself.
It is a reliable ski, but it isn't particularly energetic and doesn't love to fly. The flat tail feels sketchier to ski backward with or land switch onto.
While its desire to carve rather than skid and pivot makes them a poor choice for anyone just learning to ski bumps, the Black Pearl's quickness from edge to edge makes it a reliable tool for an advanced bump skier.
As one of our ski tuners pointed out, the quality of steel used in the edges is far superior to many in our test, which should allow for many multiple tunes before the skis must be retired. The friction and impact caused by aggressive mogul skiing can quickly wear down edges – especially in the springtime – so this quality construction is to your benefit.
Should You Buy the Black Pearl 88?
The Blizzard Black Pearl 88 sits just within the upper half of the price range compared to the other skis in our test, but this is a quality-made ski that would provide high-end carving performance for the right skier. The only thing lacking with this ski is versatility – if you're looking for one ski to take you from groomers to powder and tree skiing adventures, you'll want to look at skis that score more evenly across the board.
What Other Women's All-Mountain Skis Should You Consider?
The Blizzard Black Pearl 88 performs highly in our front-side oriented metrics of carving and stability at speed and handles well in off-piste crud but falls a little short in other areas. In particular, if you are looking for a playful powder ski, the Elan Ripstick 94 W will perform in ways that the Black Pearl 88 simply cannot. The Black Crows Captis Birdie is fun and forgiving for intermediate skiers looking for a more approachable option.
— Renee McCormack
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