Ski: 2018-2019 Rossignol Black Ops 118, 186 cm
Available Lengths: 176, 186 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 184.2 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2438 & 2492 grams
Stated Dimensions: 145-118-140 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 145.7-117.6-140.4 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius: Rossignol ain’t sayin’
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 72 mm / 60 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: 5-6 mm
Core: not available
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -2.4 cm from center; 89.7 cm from tail
Boots / Bindings: Nordica Strider 120 & Dalbello Lupo SP I.D. / Marker Jester
Test Location: Crested Butte, CO
Days Skied: 12
A few seasons ago, Rossignol started putting out extremely vague and mysterious posts about a new freestyle pow ski. The result was the Black Ops — a 118mm-wide ski designed with the input of backcountry-freestyle icons Parker White and Chris Logan. Not familiar with them? If so, I’d highly recommend setting aside some time to watch their recent film:
For the 18/19 season, Rossignol announced a narrower addition to the Black Ops line — the Black Ops 98. They then renamed the original Black Ops the Black Ops 118, added a 176 cm option for the 118 (in part to give the extremely talented Tatum Monod a ski to shred on), and we’ve now been getting time on the 186 cm model. The Black Ops 118 is reportedly the same as it was upon its release (apart from graphics), and we will also be getting on the Black Ops 98 soon.
Given Rossignol’s secretive stance with respect to the Black Ops line, we wanted to offer a closer look at the ski’s specs and to see how it compares to some of the other pow skis on the market. And given how the market has changed since the ski was originally released two seasons ago, the Black Ops 118 now stands out even more than it did then.
What Rossignol says about the Black Ops 118:
“The full-send mode, tool-of-choice for blasting through anything in your path. The ski that stays solid when others call it quits. Stomp and smear. Float and bounce. Solid when needed. Playful all the time. Backcountry booter and big mountain approved by C.LOGAN and P.WHITE.”
The phrase here that sticks out for me is “Solid when needed. Playful all the time.” Based on the ski’s specs, that seems like a pretty believable description…
Shape / Rocker Profile
As Jonathan noted in his First Look of the 16/17 Black Ops, this ski has almost no tip or tail taper. And this is pretty unusual these days for a 118mm-wide ski that’s designed to be able to pivot and play around in powder.
The Black Ops 118’s rocker profile is more typical for a freestyle pow ski — fairly deep tip and tail rocker lines, high, nearly symmetrical tip and tail splay, and a very even, symmetrical look overall. If anything, the Black Ops 118’s camber is the main thing that stands out — with around 5-6 mm of camber underfoot, it’s got more camber than we typically see on most skis this wide.
Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Black Ops 118:
In Front of Toe Piece: 9-9.5
Behind the Heel Piece: 9.5-8
This is an interesting flex pattern. The last ~15 cm of the tips and tails (basically just where the tip and tail spacers are) are quite soft.
However, the flex then ramps up a lot, and does so pretty quickly. Apart from the very ends of the ski, the Black Ops 118 is quite stiff.
So you’ve got a very strong platform throughout the vast majority of the ski, and then soft extremities.
Take a quick glance at the list below. Of the currently available, ~110-125mm-wide skis we’ve reviewed, the Black Ops 118 is the second heaviest.
Of all the skis we’ve ever reviewed (including those not currently available), there aren’t many that are heavier than the Black Ops 118. We may have forgotten one or two, but the only heavier skis we can think of are the 184 cm Head Monster 108, the 192 cm Dynastar Pro Rider, the 194 cm 4FRNT Devastator, 190 cm Salomon Q-Lab, the 178 cm Fischer RC4 The Curv (w/ bindings plates), and the old 186 cm Blizzard Bodacious. It’s also worth noting that, apart from the Devastator, those are all very directional skis.
That said, I don’t want to over-emphasize the weight of the Black Ops 118. The ON3P Kartel 116 is also over 2400 grams, and it is a very, very good ski that we’ve still found to be quite playful.
So the main point here is just that the Black Ops 118 is not some featherweight jib ski that’ll probably only perform well in perfect snow. And that’s good news for many of us since, we assume that you too probably end up skiing a lot of not-perfect snow even on a pow day.
For reference, here are a whole bunch of our measured weights (per ski, in grams) for a number of notable skis. As always, note the length differences to keep things apples to apples.
1710 & 1744 Atomic Bent Chetler 120, 184 cm (18/19)
1910 & 1941 Scott Scrapper 115, 189 cm (17/18–18/19)
2013 & 2099 Moment Wildcat / Blister Pro, 184 cm (18/19)
2034 & 2052 Blizzard Rustler 11, 188 cm (17/18–18/19)
2083 & 2097 Line Magnum Opus, 188 cm (15/16–18/19)
2102 & 2137 Line Sick Day 114, 190 cm (17/18–18/19)
2126 & 2173 Rossignol Super 7 RD, 190 cm (17/18–18/19)
2130 & 2130 Moment Wildcat / Blister Pro, 190 cm (18/19)
2133 & 2133 Salomon QST 118, 192 cm (17/18–18/19)
2161 & 2163 Faction Dictator 4.0, 186 cm (17/18–18/19)
2183 & 2190 Black Crows Anima, 188.4 cm (17/18–18/19)
2196 & 2199 Icelantic Nomad 115, 191 cm (17/18–18/19)
2220 & 2252 Faction Prodigy 4.0, 186 cm (17/18–18/19)
2212 & 2215 Armada ARV 116 JJ, 185 cm (17/18–18/19)
2222 & 2278 Prior CBC, 184 cm (17/18–18/19)
2228 & 2231 Blizzard Spur, 192 cm (17/18–18/19)
2230 & 2250 Black Diamond Boundary Pro 115, 185 cm (17/18–18/19)
2246 & 2265 Fischer Ranger 115 FR, 188 cm (17/18–18/19)
2267 & 2270 Whitedot Ragnarok 118, 190 cm (16/17–18/19)
2296 & 2309 Liberty Origin Pro, 192 cm (17/18–18/19)
2297 & 2317 K2 Catamaran, 184 cm (17/18–18/19)
2341 & 2357 Dynastar PR-OTO Factory, 189 cm (18/19)
2343 & 2360 J Skis Friend, 189 cm (18/19)
2346 & 2351 Nordica Enforcer Pro, 191 cm (17/18–18/19)
2370 & 2387 Volkl Confession, 193 cm (17/18–18/19)
2382 & 2395 ON3P Billy Goat, 184 cm (17/18–18/19)
2408 & 2421 ON3P Kartel 116, 186 cm (17/18–18/19)
2418 & 2433 ON3P Wrenegade 114, 189 cm (18/19)
2429 & 2437 Kingswood SMB, 188 cm (16/17–18/19)
2438 & 2492 Rossignol Black Ops 118, 186 cm (16/17–18/19)
2490 & 2529 K2 Catamaran, 191 cm (17/18–18/19)
Some Questions / Things We’re Curious about
(1) Does the Black Ops 118 feel more like a stable (variable conditions) charger, or more like a surfy, playful (pow) ski? Or does it somehow manage to feel like both?
(2) How well does the ski accomodate a more forward or a more set back mount point?
(3) Related to #2: how well will more directional skiers get along with the Black Ops 118?
Bottom Line (For Now)
The Rossignol Black Ops 118 is a big, heavy, and pretty strong ski that’s also got a very centered mount and nearly symmetrical rocker profile and shape.
Blister Members can now check out our Flash Review of the Black Ops 118 for our initial impressions. Become a Blister member now to check out this and all of our Flash Reviews, plus get exclusive deals and discounts on skis, and personalized gear recommendations from us.
Sam Shaheen and I have now both spent time on the Black Ops 118, in conditions ranging from straight hardpack to more than two feet of snow at Crested Butte this past week.
And after all that, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Black Ops 118 is my all-time favorite resort powder ski, and one of my favorite skis in general.
Quick Note on Mount Point
The Black Ops 118’s recommended mount point is around -2.4 cm from center. At that mount point, it definitely felt best when skied with a neutral, centered stance. I could pressure the front of the ski a bit, but it seemed like the ski wanted me to just stand in the middle and let it run.
I like skis with a balanced feel, but I also like having the option to drive a ski hard — particularly when the snow is variable, since driving the front of the ski often helps it track better at speed. So I ended up spending most of my time on the Black Ops 118 with the bindings at -4.4 cm from center. There, the Black Ops 118 offered the exact combo I was looking for. I could ski it centered and it felt balanced in the air, but I could also drive it pretty hard when skiing fast.
I think directional skiers who are always laying hard into the front of their skis may still prefer skis with more rearward mount points. But I think those who ski with a very neutral stance will get along well with the Black Ops 118 at the recommended line. And skiers who still want a balanced feel but who also want the option of driving the front of the ski will like the Black Ops 118 with the bindings moved back a bit.
This is what the Black Ops 118 was designed for, and it’s certainly a ton of fun in powder.
One of the things that stood out to Sam and me was how the Black Ops 118 felt solid on edge, but also very loose. Sam called it “sharp loose” on our recent GEAR:30 podcast, and I agree.
In all depths of fresh snow, the Black Ops 118 was very easy to throw sideways. I didn’t have any trouble piloting it through CB’s many tight chutes and trees, and I loved how solid and balanced it felt when making lots of small turns down steep terrain. I think the ski has a huge sweet spot, and it required a major mistake on my part to feel like I was too far forward or back on it.
While the Black Ops 118 does feel very loose, it’s important to keep in mind that it weighs almost 2500 grams per ski. So you can definitely slash it around, but it takes a good deal of physical input to do so. After about a half a day on the ski, I got used to the weight and did not think the Black Ops 118 felt sluggish, especially given its weight. But if you want to be able to make super quick turns — and particularly if you want to do that all day — you’d probably be better off on a lighter and / or more tapered ski. My legs definitely feel pretty tired after skiing hard all day on the Black Ops 118.
In terms of float, the Black Ops 118 was very good. As I noted above, the ski felt best when skied from a centered stance when mounted on the recommended line. But when it was mounted -4.4 cm from center, I could drive the front of the ski more and I never had the tips dive on me. That said, if you are accustomed to very directional pow skis with mount points of -10, – 11, etc., you might feel differently, and should expect to need to adjust to the more forward mount, or just stick with more directional pow skis.
All in all, the Black Ops 118 is a blast in powder. It’s far from the quickest ski, but its weight becomes much more of a benefit when that fresh snow starts to get tracked out.
The Black Ops 118 feels like a freaking monster truck in chop. I found myself skiing faster, going bigger, and otherwise just skiing more aggressively on the Black Ops 118 in chop than I have on any other ski. It’s big, rockered, and fairly soft tips absorbed impacts when I’d punch through to the firm base, but the ski is strong enough in the middle that I could just blow up all of the soft patches.
I think directional skiers who ski with a very aggressive, forward stance will prefer skis with stiffer tips and more rearward mount points. But with the bindings at -4.4 cm from center, I could drive the Black Ops 118 quite hard, and I never found its speed limit in chop. Of all the skis I’ve been on, I think the Black Ops 118 is the most stable in soft chop.
Since my resort powder days often only consist of a handful of truly untracked turns and much more of my time is spent skiing chop, I absolutely love the Black Ops 118 as a resort “pow” ski. It makes mobbing through chop almost as fun as skiing untracked snow, and not too many skis this wide pull that off.
Firm Chop / Crud
When the snow firms up, the Black Ops 118 maintains that monster-truck feel — it’s incredibly damp, and it does not get deflected easily.
That said, the Black Ops 118’s mass and size does make skiing fast through firm crud pretty tiring, and my ankles and knees definitely felt the impact of that after a long day of skiing fast on the Black Ops 118 on firm snow.
I mentioned earlier the Black Ops 118’s “sharp loose” feel, and that combo proved to be a huge asset on days when the snow varied from soft to quite firm. The ski held an edge well for its size on the firm sections, and then I could easily slash every little stash of fresh snow that was left over. For a 118mm-wide, 2400+ gram ski, the Black Ops 118 is surprisingly versatile. Which takes us to…
I had way too much fun laying over hard carves on the Black Ops 118. This ski is stupid good on fairly soft groomers for how big it is. I would prefer a narrower ski for days where conditions are brutally firm, but if the groomers were soft at all, the Black Ops 118 held an edge, initiated turns easily, and I was pretty blown away by how hard I could carve it.
Of course, I don’t think many people are too worried about how hard they can rip groomers on their 118mm-wide pow ski. But since I know plenty of people that ski 115mm+ skis as their daily drivers, I think it’s worth noting that the Black Ops 118 is far from some niche ski that is only fun in perfect, untracked, deep snow.
Moguls, Trees, and Tight Terrain
The Black Ops 118 is a lot of work in tight spots, but I wouldn’t call it a punishing ski. I think you need to be physically strong to ski it, but you don’t need to have perfect technique.
As I noted above, the Black Ops 118 has a big sweet spot. That, combined with its forgiving tips and tails and loose feel make it pretty easy to ski in bumps, trees, etc. You just need to keep in mind that it’s a very heavy ski, and is not nearly as quick as many other skis in its class.
Despite its hefty weight, I still really liked the Black Ops 118 in tight terrain. It’s very easy to slide around, and I got used to the weight pretty quickly. It was only after I switched back to other skis like the Faction Prodigy 4.0 and K2 Mindbender 116C that I noticed the weight of the Black Ops 118.
The Black Ops 118 is a very playful ski that feels like it’s designed to spin, slash, and flip. But it’s also a very hefty ski, and that affects how playful it feels.
Spins and shifties on the Black Ops 118 required significantly more effort than other freestyle-oriented skis I’ve used. The Black Ops 118 feels very balanced in the air, but you really need to initiate tricks hard and early to get it around, rather than being able to decide to throw something mid-air like you can on lighter skis.
So if you’re looking for a ski that you can toss around with ease, this is probably not the best option. But if you’re not doing huge rotations, or you’re willing to put more thought and effort into takeoffs, the Black Ops 118 is a great option. And it should be even more appealing if the in-runs and runouts you hit tend to be choppy or rough. Because before and after it’s in the air, the Black Ops 118 feels extremely solid, even at high speeds. And when you’re coming back to earth, the Black Ops 118 provides a really big, supportive landing platform.
Who’s It For?
Hard-charging, playful skiers who find more traditional, directional skis to feel bland or boring, but who still want to be able to ski really fast through chop and variable snow.
Very aggressive directional skiers may want a ski with a stiffer tip and a more rearward mount point. And skiers who prioritize quickness and a low swing weight over high-speed stability should check out lighter skis (see the “Powder Skis – More Playful” section in our Winter Buyer’s Guide). But if you want a ski that is loose and balanced, but that’s also capable of mobbing through chop, we think that the Black Ops 118 is one of the best options on the market.
“Solid when needed. Playful all the time.” That’s how Rossignol describes the Black Ops 118, and I have to say, they pretty much hit it spot-on. The Black Ops 118 is a ski that feels very stable and composed at high speeds, yet it’s also easy to slash and feels balanced in the air. It’s far from the most nimble ski, and it does require a good deal of input to ski. But for those who are willing to put in the effort, the Black Ops 118 offers a phenomenal blend of playfulness and stability.
Deep Dive Comparisons
Become a Blister Member or Deep Dive subscriber to check out our Deep Dive of the Black Ops 118 to see how it stacks up against the Moment Blister Pro / Wildcat, K2 Catamaran, Icelantic Nomad 115, Blizzard Spur, and Prior CBC.