The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Blizzard Black Pearl 98 Review

A dependable ski, adept in all conditions, as long as you don't mind their lack of excitement.
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Price:  $600 List | $599.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Versatile, stiffer, reliable
Cons:  Not particularly exciting
Manufacturer:   Blizzard
By Renee McCormack ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 24, 2018
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 16
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 9
  • Carving - 20% 6
  • Crud - 20% 9
  • Powder - 20% 8
  • Playfulness - 15% 6
  • Bumps - 5% 8

Our Verdict

The new name, graphic, and integration of Carbon Flipcore W.S.D. technology make 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.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Versatile, stiffer, reliableIncredibly versatile, easy to ski, fun and quick, only 92mm makes it nimbleGreat float in powder, playful, decent stabilityUnparalleled stability at speed, crud-buster, lends you strengthA blast to ski, easy to turn, relatively stable, fantastic in powder
Cons Not particularly excitingNot the perfect powder partnerMore expensive, slightly lumbering in bumpsVery pricey, prefers faster straighter linesNot perfect carvers, some deflection in crud
Bottom Line A dependable ski, adept in all conditions, as long as you don't mind their lack of excitement.One of the most versatile skis on the market, this new Volkl is a Goldilocks ski - strong enough to battle in the crud, but soft enough for lighter mellower skiers to bend it.A great choice for a West Coast woman who loves getting out in the soft snow.If you like to go fast and want a one-ski quiver, this ski is absolutely worth the extra funds.Ripping skis for ripping chicks, or those on their way to becoming one, so fun and flexible.
Rating Categories Blizzard Black Pearl 98 Volkl Secret 92 Rossignol Soul 7 HD W Kastle FX95 HP Elan Ripstick 94 W
Stability At Speed (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
Carving (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
Crud (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
Powder (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
Playfulness (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
10
Bumps (5%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Specs Blizzard Black... Volkl Secret 92 Rossignol Soul 7... Kastle FX95 HP Elan Ripstick 94 W
Intended Purpose All mountain reliable All mountain All mountain powder All mountain stability All mountain play
Ability Level Advanced All Levels All levels All levels All levels
Available Lengths 152, 159, 166, 173 149, 156, 163, 170 156, 164, 172, 180 173, 181, 189 156, 163, 170, 177
Shape 135-98-119 130-92-113 136-106-126 126-95-115 135-95-110
Waist Width 98 92 106 95 95
Radius 16.5 17.9 18 18 16.2
Rocker Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail, cambered inside edge
Weight Per Pair (Pounds) 7.625 8.16 7.7 9.62 6.725
Construction Type Sandwich compound sidewall Full sidewall Sandwich Sandwich SST sidewall
Core Material Poplar and beech wood Beech & Poplar, multi layer Paulownia wood silver fir, beech, Titanal, fiberglass Tubelite wood
Tested Length 173 170 172 173 170

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 and Carving.

Performance Comparison


The Black Pearl 98s are a dependable ski that you can take anywhere on the mountain.
The Black Pearl 98s are a dependable ski that you can take anywhere on the mountain.

Stability at Speed


The Black Pearls outclass most of the competition when urged to faster tempos. While the stiffer skis 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 the early season didn't start them to chattering.

We loved the Pearls for their stability and edge hold capabilities.
We loved the Pearls for their stability and edge hold capabilities.

Carving


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 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.

The Black Pearls will carve when you ask them to  but they don't feel like they ever really want to  and certainly don't give you much rebound from one arc to the next.
The Black Pearls will carve when you ask them to, but they don't feel like they ever really want to, and certainly don't give you much rebound from one arc to the next.

Powder


The Black Pearls finished fairly strong in this category, where their width underfoot keeps them afloat. However, without the incredible rockered tips which the Rossignol Soul 7s 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!

The Pearls floated well and were a blast in the powder  getting us to show our pearly-whites!
The Pearls floated well and were a blast in the powder, getting us to show our pearly-whites!

Crud


This is a crud-munching ski. They are stiff, and that solidity is reflected in their capacity to muscle their way through uncompromising snow. For those women who love to cut up the cut-up stuff, the Black Pearls are a superior option.

The Pearls are stiff enough to blast through tracked-up chop.
The Pearls are stiff enough to blast through tracked-up chop.

Playfulness


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. 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 Rossignol Soul 7s and the Elan Ripstick 94 Ws take the cake.

We had to ding the Black Pearls in this category  mostly for their lack of rebound. When jumping off rocks  though  they made for secure and stable landing gear.
We had to ding the Black Pearls in this category, mostly for their lack of rebound. When jumping off rocks, though, they made for secure and stable landing gear.

Bumps


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. If you imagine yourself a Hannah Kearney as you bang your way through zipper-lines, consider the Elan Ripsticks as a flexible ski which skis a little shorter and likes to twist quickly.

The Black Pearl is a quality ski that offers stability and dependability all over the hill.
The Black Pearl is a quality ski that offers stability and dependability all over the hill.

Value


For such a rugged ski, its price makes it 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.

Conclusion


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 Ripsticks or the Soul 7s.

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