Once out onto big open terrain, the Zero G continues to be predictable and reliable whether pushed hard into higher-edge angles, or feathered into long skids. If you’ve read our reviews of the Blizzard Cochise you know that we love the way that ski can ride an edge in variable conditions, but can also be broken free into controlled skids or drifts to brush speed or redirect.
The 14/15 Cochise did this better than any ski in this waist width (note: I’m still debating a bit with Jonathan whether the 15/16 does this equally as well) and the Zero G feels very close while skiing these chalkier, smoother slopes.
185cm Zero G 108 vs. 185cm Blizzard Cochise
During our time at Porters, I swapped back and forth between the Zero G 108 and the 15/16 Cochise. (Thanks to Ally Kerr at Gnomes Sports, they were mounted with Salomon Warden’s so that I could use the Salomon Mtn Labs on both skis for a more fair comparison.)
In smooth, chalky, or windblown snow, it was difficult to determine a clear difference between the Zero G and the Cochise. If I really laid the skis over and hit some small chop or bumps, the Cochise would track better than the Zero G. But the difference was subtle—much less than I expected given how much lighter the Zero G is than the Cochise. I even spent a few runs with a Zero G on one foot and a Cochise on the other and came to the same conclusion. Very impressive, considering that the Zero G 108 is around 600 grams lighter per ski than the Cochise.
As I mentioned above when describing jump turns, the tips feel a little more vague to me when engaging a turn. This is not an issue at all with skidded turns, but when I try to bend the ski into the top of turn, early in the initiation, it doesn’t hook up like other skis I’ve been testing this trip that feature a more gradual taper and rocker profile. Again, this is a minor issue and it’s easy to adjust to, but it’s something I consistently noticed.
A couple days ago, there was a storm that left us with 10-20cm of fresh snow on top of a firm wind-packed base. I’ll talk more about powder performance below, but I want to touch on how the skis did through chop that ranged from tracked-up soft snow, to sections of firm, boot-top deep chop.
Overall, the Zero G was more stable and predictable in these conditions than any lightweight, touring-oriented ski I’ve used, even when paired with a tech binding (more on that later) and a touring boot (Salomon MTN Lab—review to come).
These are the conditions where the extra dampness and heft of the Cochise were most apparent, since they quieted the ride and allowed for a bit more speed. Still, the Zero G was impressive. I was so impressed with the ride of the Zero G that I was surprised when the Cochise was significantly better. No other lightweight carbon touring ski I’ve used does as well in these conditions. (According to Jonathan, the G3 Zenoxide is as good and maybe better, but it is also at least 100 grams per ski heavier than the Zero G 108.)
On one of the bigger lines off of Mt Wall (outside of the Mt Cheeseman club field) I encountered a full array of conditions, from soft, windblown pow, to hard windboard, to breakable crust. Just as with the other kinds of variable snow mentioned above, I have consistently found the Cochise to be one of the better skis on the market in these conditions so I was hoping to find similar stability in the Zero G.
Combined with the Salomon Mtn Lab boot and the Marker Kingpin 13 binding, the Zero G 108 proved to be fairly unflappable in these conditions, and I even gained some confidence to open them up in breakable crust. In general, I could make whatever turn size I needed, and could shut the skis down quickly whenever needed.
Overall, the Blizzard Zero G 108 is the most powerful and predictable 100-110 waisted touring ski I’ve used in these conditions.
I’ve never felt that the Cochise was a great groomer ski, but that never really bothered me, since the shape and rocker profile that make the Cochise (and the Zero G 108) so easy to shut down or break free in soft or variable conditions also seem to make for a ski that lacks rebound on groomers. And, as I wrote above, the shape and rockered tips make the ski a little harder to bend into the top of the turn to set the edge.
That said, it’s certainly possible to rail turns down a groomer on Zero G 108, but there are skis in the waist width class that do it better.
I spend a lot of time each winter heli guiding and ski touring for deep powder, and I would not choose a 108mm waisted ski for any kind of powder day. I have now skied several versions of the Cochise in both the 185cm and 193cm lengths, and have never felt that powder was the strong suit of this ski.
On the first day after our most recent storm I was able to spend an afternoon at Porters Ski Area making laps on 1500+ foot runs of 10-20cm of fresh snow atop a base that ranged from soft wind buff to refrozen crud.
While it was a rare few turns each run that could be made without feeling the base, the Zero G did okay at allowing me to float, carve, and drift my best turns of trip.
I did not have the chance to ski the 15/16 Cochise in these conditions, so it’s possible that the new, more tapered tip shared by the 15/6 Cochise and the Zero G 108 has yielded a little more float and drift, but I’m not willing to assume that without more time skiing deeper snow on these.
The three design traits that seem to allow for more floatation in this waist width are (1) softening the flex pattern, (2) increasing the rocker, and (3) decreasing the weight of the ski. Since the Zero G is not significantly softer in its flex and does not have increased rocker or splay, I suspect it will be similar to—and possibly a bit better than the Cochise (thanks to #3) in pow. Stay tuned for an update on powder performance when I’m back in Alaska this fall and winter.
There is a recent trend in the ski industry to make gear lighter to appeal to a market that is increasing touring oriented. I have experienced more than one catastrophic failure of lightweight carbon construction skis, some of which were in very inopportune situations. So I am sensitive to this issue.
Collectively, our crew has put in nine days so far of skiing around New Zealand. That’s not much of a durability assessment, but the edges and bases have endured more than a few rock hits without issue. More importantly, the two most recent carbon ski failures I experienced were related to the ski breaking at the tech toe piece mount. If Blizzard has really built these skis with a mounting plate that is dramatically stronger than other carbon construction skis as they claim, this is a great development.
Bindings / Boots
The Zero G 108 is a purpose-built touring ski, so we have been skiing it with a touring boot and binding. Reviews on both the Salomon Mtn Lab and the Marker Kingpin 13 are forthcoming. For now, suffice it to say that both are near the pinnacle of performance for AT equipment, and certainly play a part in our favorable impressions of the Zero G 108 as an excellent all-around ski, regardless of it’s light weight.
I am typically skeptical of any marketing claims that promise lightweight skis, boots, or bindings perform like regular alpine equipment. In this case, however, Blizzard has managed to incorporate most of the performance of an outstanding ~110mm ski (the Cochise) at a very competitive weight.
We’ll update this review when we have more time in soft snow and deep powder (see below), but I am already able to say that the Blizzard Zero G 108 is the most powerful and predictable lightweight touring ski I have used.
I wrote my initial review of the Blizzard Zero G 108 after skiing it over two weeks in New Zealand this past summer. Since then, I’ve had it out for another 5 days at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, and in the surrounding backcountry in the Kenai / Chugach mountain range. My goal was to get the Zero G 108 out into more powder (to be fair, my goal is always to ski more powder), and I’ve had a chance to do that in addition to a few days of deep maritime chop, and chalky, steep inbounds terrain.
Alyeska has been getting pounded for the past three weeks with storm after storm, and has over six feet of new snow on the upper mountain. I don’t typically ski my touring gear inbounds, but the combination of these skis with Marker Kingpins and the Salomon MTN Lab has inspired confidence.
Similar to my experience in New Zealand on the Zero G 108, the ski continues to impress, and to demonstrate a level of stability unexpected in a sub-1800 gram ski. I don’t have a pair of 185 cm Blizzard Cochise here to compare directly, but the Zero G 108 tracks well in deep chop regardless of whether running bases flat or tipped up on edge. And similar to the Cochise, they continue to exhibit the same ability to break free easily and be thrown sideways when needed.
Steep, Chalky Snow
The north face of Alyeska is among my favorite inbounds areas in the world, and I sorely missed it last year when our lackluster winter didn’t allow it to open. So far this season, we’ve had a handful of great days at Alyeska, including some super fun top to bottom runs on the North Face. During one of these days I was already planning to head out touring that afternoon so I grabbed the Zero G’s and headed up for some tram runs.
I rolled into my favorite line on the “Knuckles” section, and hopped, skidded, and railed my way down around 2000 feet of steep, featured terrain through tracked-up, chalky snow. While I missed the damp, smooth flex of my regular alpine boots (the 15/16 Lange XT 130 LV), overall I was more than happy with the setup, and I don’t think I skied it any slower than I would have on my normal alpine gear. As I’ve written before, the Zero G 108 skis very similarly to the 15/16 Cochise, one of the best skis I know for dealing with these kinds of conditions.
After skiing a few tram laps on the north face, I headed to my car, tossed my skis in the back, and didn’t even take my boots off for the drive up to the pass for a few laps of touring and powder skiing with friends. We’d had some some high winds recently, so had to negotiate a turn or two of wind crust before slipping into some creamy boot-top to shin-deep powder in some relatively mellow terrain with a few fun rollovers and drifts.
Similar to the Cochise, the Zero G 108 is a not a big, floaty pow ski that can be pushed hard into the shovels. Doing so will tend to drive the tips under the snow. That said, when skied with a neutral stance, the Zero G was surprisingly fun and could be pushed into drifted turns with a little effort.
The Blizzard Zero G 108 is light enough for daily ski touring, but robust enough for full days of skiing inbounds, even in steep, challenging, tracked-up terrain. Moreover, when combined with a boot like the Salomon MTN Lab and a binding like the Marker Kingpin 13 there really isn’t a situation or destination, inbounds or out where (for me, at least) this set-up would feel terribly out of place.
This is probably the most impressive aspect of the Zero G 108, and I think it represents a nice step forward in ski touring equipment. In the future, I hope (and expect) that there will be more skis like the Zero G 108, boots like the Salomon MTN Lab (perhaps the new Zero G boot?) and bindings like the Kingpin.
In the meantime, this is a hard combination to beat for those looking for a setup that is reasonably light and efficient even for big days of touring, while still being reliable, stiff and powerful enough for off-piste, inbounds skiing—especially in softer snow environments.
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