We skied the Blizzard Zero G 95 more than almost any other ski in our test. It is just that versatile, and our test team, truth be told, prefers light skis. That it delivers these appealing attributes at a relatively affordable price point is a real bonus. The only ski that performs better overall, and that we reached for even more often is the Editors' Choice Kastle TX 98.
Blizzard Zero G 95 Review
Cons: Wobble in longer radius powder turns, slow down in tough snow
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Our Analysis and Test Results
These are good times in the ski world. This Best Buy winner is somewhat inexpensive, with high-end performance, with the backing and pedigree of a long-time ski manufacturer. The greatest testament to the quality of these skis is that our lead test editor (and IFMGA ski and mountain guide) chose these for two different ski mountaineering guiding trips to Canada in the winter of 2017-18. Travel ski guiding like this, with diverse clients and rowdy terrain, is demanding and one never knows what one is going to get. When Jed reported that he had reached for these skis, of all he had to choose from in this year's test roster, we were mightily impressed.
As compared to the bulk of touring skis, these are remarkable. The ski mountaineering and all-around performance are downright impressive. The smaller stature and super stiff construction lean away from powder performance, but in all other conditions, they almost excel. That they can do this at such a low weight and at a reasonably affordable price point is quite remarkable.
A pair of all around touring skis under six pounds is very rare. Skis that perform this well at that weight are virtually unheard of.
When we correct for surface area (a metric that doesn't really matter but helps paint a picture), the weight is a little less remarkable. In the end, in absolute terms, these skis will enable efficient climbing, whether they are on your back or your feet. When you consider downhill performance and price, this is an amazing product.
The only skis in our test that weigh less are very specialized. Both earn Top Pick awards, and both are really only recommended for narrow niches. The DPS Wailer 99 Tour1 is .2 pounds lighter for the pair, but is only suitable for excellent, powder snow conditions. The Atomic Backland UL 78 is more than a pound lighter than the Best Buy Blizzard, but has ski performance across the board that is way, way lower than that of the Blizzard. Of course, upgrade just a little bit in weight, and you get much better downhill performance. Our Editors' Choice Kastle TX 98 is hundreds of dollars more expensive, .3 pounds heavier, and skis much better than the Zero G.
Stability at Speed
We don't expect lightweight skis to be super stable at speed. As soon as we pick these up, we lower our expectations further, as super light skis like this are notoriously twitchy. Our testers who made that cliche "hand flex" test were even more skeptical. These are downright rigid in flex. When we compare that flex of all our tested skis, these are the stiffest. Light and stiff isn't necessarily a recipe for hard-charging stability. Nonetheless, these exceed our expectations at higher paces. We can't call them super stable, but they do better than we thought they would. In fast couloir apron exits in the Tetons and on the wide open glaciers of Alberta's Mount Hector, we could open it up as if we were on bigger rigs. We say this only about situations in which the surface was smooth and predictable.
The Kastle 98 was far more forgiving than the Blizzard, but the Zero G 95 held its own better than the Atomic UL 78 and the wobbly G3 Findr 102. Big gun and Top Pick Black Crows Corvus Freebird rocket with confidence that the Blizzard could only dream of. Close cousin Black Diamond Helio 105 is bigger, wider and just all around better at speed, as long as the snow is good.
The narrow profile (relatively speaking) and super stiff longitudinal flex combine with other attributes to make a tenacious ice grabber. On steep and firm descents in Wyoming and Canada, our test team found inspiring and reliable grip. Some light skis grab well, but chatter before settling in. Something about the construction of the Blizzard (and we're not going to pretend to attribute this to any one construction or geometry attribute; ski performance is definitely more than the sum of its parts, no matter how other reviews are worded) dampens that chatter to dig in with authoritative stability.
No matter what is trendy, narrow skis grab firm snow better, and firm snow is a big mountain ski reality. If you're going to ski ice, do so on narrow skis, all else equal. 95mm isn't the narrowest available, but it does seem to be a sweet spot for all-around performance. Now, narrowness isn't the only issue when it comes to firm snow. Skis need to be constructed well too. We found that the Blizzard, for instance, grabs firm snow way better than its cousin (Black Diamond and Blizzard are rumored to use the same ski factory in Austria) Black Diamond Route 95. Interesting. The hard snow performance of the Editors Choice Kastle TX 98 was very good, despite a much softer longitudinal flex profile.
Powder snow is enjoyable, no matter what modern skis you are on. Don't believe those that all you that you need big monsters for deep powder. That being said, bigger skis are a little easier and a little more fun than little ones. The Zero G 95 that we tested are shorter than we might have liked in deep powder. We were mostly confined to shorter radius powder turns. We predict that, were we to size up with the Zero G, the longer ones would track a little better, but nothing like a fatter ski.
You won't buy these skis for pure powder touring. You will buy these skis for all-around backcountry skiing. And, the fact is, all-around backcountry skiing even in the best climates and seasons, is a lot of non-powder skiing. When you are blessed with powder, they won't let you down. If you have the good fortune of a higher than average proportion of perfect powder (Rogers Pass? Tetons?), steer clear of the Zero G 95 and lean towards something bigger like the Volkl VTA 98 or the Black Diamond Helio 105.
On sloppy exits, breakable sunset couloir aprons, and suffer-fest ski traverses we had ample opportunity to ride tough snow on the Zero G 95. No one enjoys this. (well, some of our test team is a little sick…) However, everyone has to endure this in the backcountry. We look for even tracking skis that pop up out of the toughness for an edge change. Bigger, heavier skis can power through some things, but these lighter touring skis need to take a more nuanced approach; again, first impressions can mislead. One might expect that stiff and light skis would push through things, but get deflected in the process. That's sort of the case with the Zero G 95, but not as bad as you might fear. Careful, centered skiing gets one into at least slightly bad snow conditions without requiring survival techniques. When the snow is really past your comfort zone, even the best of skiers will have to resort to wedge and christie turns.
For the weight, we were impressed with the tough-snow performance of the Zero G 95. The lighter skis get pushed around far more; the Top Pick DPS Wailer 99 Tour 1, in direct comparisons, requires the skier to resort to survival turns well before the Blizzard does. Same can be said of the Atomic Backland UL 78. At the other end, the Editors' Choice Kastle TX 98 skis slop and breakable with more reliable tracking than the Blizzard.
We can heartily recommend these skis for all-around ski performance. From the steeps of Alberta's Aemmer Couloir to the slogs of Teton westside peaks, our testers literally covered the full spectrum on the tested version of the Blizzard 95.
These are great, all around, lightweight touring skis for anyone on even the slightest budget. Older models of the same thing are available for significantly discounted prices, but they were also made differently. It is this latest version that we really stand by.
As a quiver of one for dedicated, human-powered skiers, the Blizzard Zero G is great. The uphill efficiency is almost unmatched by any all around ski. The downhill performance demands attention, but will truly serve in any conditions.
— Jediah Porter