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Blizzard Black Pearl 88 - Women's Review

Though not especially playful in deep powder, this ski is our top choice for carving with its skinny waist and quickness edge to edge
Blizzard Black Pearl 88 - Women's
Photo: Amazon
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $650 List | $649.95 at REI
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
Manufacturer:   Blizzard
By Renee McCormack ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 21, 2021
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 13
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 7
  • Carving Ability - 20% 8
  • Powder Performance - 20% 4
  • Crud Performance - 20% 7
  • Terrain Playfulness - 15% 3
  • Bumps - 5% 6

Our Verdict

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 Pearl maintain course, but she will be rewarded with 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.

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
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Pros Quick edge to edge, strong carving skiCrud blaster, dependable, great one-ski quiver option, good for every ability levelAwesome powder tool, fabulous fun factor even for light skiers, affordable priceGreat stability at high speeds, good on hard snow and crud, more affordable than othersSuperbly stable at high speeds, great edge hold
Cons Need to be engaged to ski it well, not much excitement, sinks in deeper snowNo wow-factor, not a lot of reboundGets bouncy in crud, slight tip flap, doesn’t carve perfectlyOnly for shallower pow days, needs strong skier to guide themToo 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 edgeA great all-rounder ski that we think is the most versatile option for a one-ski quiverA fun and responsive toy for powder days, groomer antics, and bumps, with a value-oriented price tagThis model will do great in everything but the deepest powder and is ideal for an aggressive skierA 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%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
Carving Ability (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Powder Performance (20%)
4.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
Crud Performance (20%)
7.0
9.0
5.0
9.0
7.0
Terrain Playfulness (15%)
3.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
Bumps (5%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
3.0
Specs Blizzard Black Pear... Nordica Santa Ana 98 Elan Ripstick 94 W Faction Dictator 2.0X Volkl Secret 96
Waist Width (mm) 88 98 96 96 96
Shape (Tip-Waist-Tail) (mm) 128-88-110 132-98-120 136-96-111 127-96-117 135-96-119
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 (cm) 171 172 178 171 170
Radius (m) 15 16.3 16.2 18 27-16-22
Rocker Style Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail, cambered inside edge Amphibio tech Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail, camber underfoot
Weight Per Pair (lbs) 8.0 8.1 7.4 7.9 8.5
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
Intended Purpose All-Mountain All-Mountain All-Mountain All-Mountain, Big Mountain All-Mountain
Ability Level Intermediate-Advanced Expert Intermediate-Advanced Advanced-Expert Advanced-Expert

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. 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. Regardless, the Black Pearl'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.

Performance Comparison


Our favorite ski for carving.
Our favorite ski for carving.
Photo: Scott Rokis

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.


Some of our heavier testers also commented that it did not feel as though this ski was built 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.

This ski feels trustworthy underneath an averaged sized skier at...
This ski feels trustworthy underneath an averaged sized skier at most speeds.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Carving Ability


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 was not as interested in participating. This propensity for edging does not make it an ideal companion for tree skiing or sliding on boxes and rails in the terrain park, but 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 exactly what you want from it to make it happen. Once you do, though, the Black Pearl moves incredibly quickly between sets of edges, giving the skier a much more exhilarating ride than we remember from older Black Pearl iterations.

With a slim 88-millimeter waist giving it rapid edge change...
With a slim 88-millimeter waist giving it rapid edge change capacity, this ski is built to carve.
Photo: Scott Rokis

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 really feel like this was true to reality. It feels like it takes the Black Pearl 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 turns that snugly.

Our testers all believed the turn radius felt much larger than the...
Our testers all believed the turn radius felt much larger than the 15 meters written in the specs.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Powder Performance


With its skinny little 88mm waist, the Black Pearl was not built to be 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 and it tends to flounder.


Even in small amounts of fresh snow, the Black Pearl has a thin frame underfoot that does not allow for 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. Therefore, in lighter consistency snow, or lesser amounts, it can be coerced to twist and turn from within the layers. Just don't expect them to always stay on top if things get deeper or heavier.

It handles a small amount of light powder easily, but tends to drown...
It handles a small amount of light powder easily, but tends to drown in deeper snow.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Crud Performance


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.

Crud-blasting is in this ski's blood.
Crud-blasting is in this ski's blood.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Terrain Playfulness


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 really pushed it on the groomers, in a high-speed carved turn we could feel more rebound than on Black Pearls of old. However, this was the only environment where we felt its playful side showed itself.


It is a reliable and sturdy ski, but isn't particularly sprightly and doesn't love to fly. The flat tail feels sketchier to ski backwards with or land switch onto.

While this gorgeous photo might tell another story, this ski didn't...
While this gorgeous photo might tell another story, this ski didn't have the propensity for flight that some of the other skis in the group did.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Bumps


While its desire to carve rather than skid and pivot makes them a poor choice for anyone just learning to ski bumps, the quickness of the Black Pearl from edge to edge makes it a solid tool for an advanced bump skier.


An able mogul-master can make this ski work for them in the bumps...
An able mogul-master can make this ski work for them in the bumps, but it's not for novices.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Value


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. 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 only thing lacking with this ski is versatility; if you're searching for a mostly on-piste ski that's good for carving, the value is there. But if you're looking for a one-ski quiver to take you on powder and tree skiing adventures too, you'll want to find something more skilled in all our metrics in order to fill that role.

Quality edge construction sets this ski apart.
Quality edge construction sets this ski apart.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Conclusion


The Blizzard Black Pearl 88 performs highly in our front-side oriented metrics of carving and stability at speed, and actually handles well in off-piste crud, but falls a little short in other areas. We really enjoyed its edge-to-edge quickness and carving prowess, enough to award it our Top Pick for Carving. If you spend the majority of your time making a high-speed carved turn on groomed terrain, you might love this ski.

If your main game is laying deep trenches in hard-carved turns, this...
If your main game is laying deep trenches in hard-carved turns, this ski could be for you.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Renee McCormack

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