The new name, graphic, and integration of Carbon Flipcore W.S.D. technology makes for a stable, versatile, and quite aesthetically-pleasing new ski. We appreciated the security we felt taking the Blizzard Black Pearl 98s to higher speeds, and they can mob through all kinds of cruddy snow conditions. They have good edge grip, but they aren't the perfect carvers. We loved them in powder, but they didn't feel particularly excitable or elastic. They can move fluidly between highly edged turns and creamy smooth twist-on-top turns in trees and bumps. Overall, the Black Pearl is a well-rounded ski, competent in all conditions; the only thing it lacks is a little spring in its step.
Blizzard Black Pearl 98 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Versatile, stiffer, reliable
Cons: Not particularly exciting
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Pearls are a ski for the ages, crushing in nearly every one of our metrics except for Playfulness.
Stability at Speed
The Black Pearls outclass most of the competition when urged to faster tempos. While the Volkl Auras, the stiffest ski in the bunch, still surpass them in high-speed fortitude — the Black Pearls are no dud. The Pearls have enough rigidity and dampness to conserve their strength through both winged carve turns as well as holding-on-for-dear-life fun-as-heck crud turns. Their Carbon Flipcore technology allows them to hold an edge on firm snow easily; even glacial ice leftover from early season didn't start them to chattering. Feeling the liberty to go as fast as we wanted on these puppies was one of their strong suits, unlike when we were on the K2 FulLuvits or the Atomic Vantage WMN 95 C, which made us feel nervous beyond a certain capacity.
While they can certainly hold an edge, carving is not the forte of the Black Pearls. There simply isn't the zippy rebound of the Head Great Joys or the Rossignol Soul 7 HD W to launch you onto your next set of edges. Although they have one of the tighter turn radii in the group, at 16.5m, they don't feel like they love to swing it so snug as that. However, in general, they feel fairly quick edge-to-edge despite their width underfoot and are easy enough to turn. They just don't feel like a "carving ski," if you're looking to lay down deep tracks on groomers. You'll appreciate their abilities to butter and smear and move fluidly through tight spaces more than their carving faculties. They fit in a more similar vein to the K2s and the Icelantic Oracle 88s in this regard.
The Black Pearls finished fairly strong in this category, where their width underfoot keeps them afloat and able to spin circles around the Volkl 90eights and the Atomics, which both tend to sink more in the deep. However, without the incredible rockered tips which the Rossignols bear, it's impossible for them to truly compete. We did feel that the experience of skiing powder on these skis was more of a "traditional" experience, but relative to those skis with massively rockered front ends. They have enough width that we didn't dive completely beneath the surface, and yet we were still able to be "in" the powder rather than "on" it. We enjoyed!
This is a crud-munching ski. They are stiff, and that solidity is reflected in their capacity to muscle their way through uncompromising snow. If choppy conditions are your game, the Volkl Auras have an even more impressive "track" record, so to speak. For those women who love to cut up the cut-up stuff, the Black Pearls are a far superior option to the Atomics.
Unfortunately, this is where the Black Pearls slide down the scale. They are quite a versatile ski, but "lively" does not describe them. They are a bit boring when it comes to rebound and springy-ness, just like the Auras and the 90eights. They're quick enough to turn, but there's never a feeling of being propelled into your next turn by the skis. You have to give them direction; they won't take over on their own. If you love the sensation of pressure build-up and spring-back, the Rossis and the Elan Ripstick 94 Ws take the cake.
The Black Pearls are no strangers to skidding and skimming, and therefore they perform fairly well in the moguls. Some testers suggested they ski a little longer, given their lack of extensive rocker, and therefore feel slightly clumsier in tight bump terrain, though not nearly as awkward as the 90eights. If you imagine yourself a Hannah Kearney as you bang your way through zipper-lines, consider the Elans as a flexible ski which skis a little shorter and likes to twist quickly.
The Black Pearl would make an excellent choice for a strong female skier who wants something reliable in all terrain and at all speeds but doesn't mind the lack of liveliness. They are somewhat akin to a straight-A student who doesn't have a nightlife — very nice and probably makes for a solid friend, but not the kind with whom you're going to have an epic night in Vegas. For that crazy companion who will stay up till sunrise bouncing off the walls with you, look into the Elan Ripsticks. Just the name alone inspires enjoyment. The dependable Black Pearl is certainly a more trustworthy cohort on the mountain than the Volkl 90eights, which are like the kid who's about to drop out and is always trying to convince you to sneak off and smoke pot between classes — a bad influence.
For such a rugged ski, $600 is a steal. This is one of the best value-for-money purchases you could make from our selection of test skis, another being the Elans Ripsticks. The Black Pearls were forced to run the gauntlet in our rocky early season testing, and came out surprisingly unscathed, causing us to believe they are quite durable as well as versatile. The full sidewall construction adds resilience as well as torsional rigidity. The top sheet is also notable; the beautiful feather design shimmers and sparkles in the sunlight even when there are no fresh flakes to supplement the kaleidoscope.
If you are a strong upper-intermediate to expert skier who is looking for something reliable in a variety of situations, the Black Pearl is an excellent choice. This is the Ford of all-mountain skis. If a Maserati or a Porche is more up your alley, have a gander at the Elans or the Rossis. If you'd prefer to drive the Mack truck of skis, the Volkl Auras are worth your time.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Black Pearls in seasons past have been only available in the 88mm width, but with the enormous popularity of that ski, Blizzard's marketing department must have decided to capitalize on the name. Now there is a Black Pearl 78, 88, and the 98 which we tested; they each have a similar construction but slightly different shape and turning radii, so we can't comment on the ones we didn't test. The old Blizzard Samba is the closest comparison to this new Black Pearl. Bear in mind that our shorter testers did feel that the 173cm length was a bit too much ski, and would have preferred to size down.
— Renee McCormack