Ski: 2020-2021 Black Crows Orb, 179.1 cm
Available Lengths: 169.2, 174.3, 179.1, 184.6 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 178.0 cm
Stated Weight per Ski: 1775 grams
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1790 & 1828 grams
Stated Dimensions: 124-88-110 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 124.0-87.6-108.6 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius (all lengths: 21 meters
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 51 mm / 20 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~4 mm
Core: Poplar + Titanal (2 H-shaped layers) + Fiberglass Laminate
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -9.3 cm from center; 79.7 cm from tail
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 19/20 Orb, which was not changed for 20/21.]
Narrower “all-mountain” skis tend to vary a lot. Some are basically just wider piste-oriented carvers that you wouldn’t really want to take off iste, while a select few truly perform well all over the mountain. The 16/17–18/19 Black Crows Orb fell into that latter category — it was a narrower ski that carved pretty well, but outshined many similarly narrow skis when it came to off-piste snow and terrain.
For 19/20, Black Crows is overhauling the Orb, and the new ski looks pretty different than the ski it replaces. So let’s get into what’s new with the updated Orb, and how its design compares to the competition.
What Black Crows says about the Orb
“More than a modernisation this new version of the orb has been completely rethought so as to obtain a more general use and more accessible ski. To do this, the ski has lost 3mm on the width of the waist, its radius has been slightly increased and the graduation of the front rocker and its early rise at the back have been accentuated. An energetic ski with a bounce which likes to go fast, these improvements allow the ski to strengthen its hold due to the increase of the length of the edge; on the powder side, the new progression of the flex makes the handling easier in the deep. To maintain the clean basis of the orb, a double titanal plate in an H shape has been perfected. It focuses the energy of the titanal and allows the ski to be aerial while still being on the ground. A piste, and edge of the piste, beast.
Alright, so the main updates to the Orb come in the form of its dimensions, rocker profile, flex pattern, and construction.
The new Orb is supposed to be narrower, softer, has a longer sidecut radius, has more rocker, and has an all-new construction.
We’ll get into the details of those updates below, but for now, let’s focus on what Black Crows is emphasizing with the new Orb — it’s supposed to offer better edge hold, be more accessible, and all the while maintain a nice balance of energy and control / damping.
Just looking at the new Orb, it’s new dual H-shaped titanal plates are very noticeable. This construction is similar in concept to the K2 Mindbender series, except that the Orb’s titanal plate is symmetrical, rather than tapering as you move to the back of the ski like the titanal does on the Mindbender skis. Black Crows says that these H-shaped titanal plates are supposed to give the Orb much of stability of a standard edge-to-edge titanal plate, but without making the ski super torsionally stiff and demanding.
Shape / Rocker Profile
The most noticeable difference between the old and new Orb is in the two skis’ shapes. The old Orb had a very tapered tip for its width, and we thought that was one of the defining characteristics of the ski. Not many ~90mm-wide skis had as much tip taper as the old Orb, which led to some upsides, and some downsides. The old Orb didn’t carve as well as many other ~90 mm skis, but it did perform really well off piste (which couldn’t be said about many less tapered, <90mm-wide skis).
The new Orb has a more traditional shape, with pretty minimal tip and tail taper. Overall, the new Orb’s shape looks pretty similar to the Blizzard Brahma, Folsom Spar 88, and Nordica Enforcer 88 — three skis we really like.
The new Orb’s rocker profile is also pretty traditional, with very minimal tip and tail rocker. While Black Crows says they accentuated the Orb’s tip and tail rocker, if anything, our pair looks like it has slightly shallower rocker lines than the previous Orb. The new Orb’s rocker lines are very subtle, and it has pretty low tail splay.
Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Orb:
In Front of Toe Piece: 8-9
Behind the Heel Piece: 9-8
Overall, the new Orb has a nice, moderate flex pattern. It starts fairly soft but quickly ramps up, is very strong around the middle, and finishes with a strong but not extraordinarily stiff tail.
Compared to the previous Orb, the new ski is a bit softer at the extremities. It’s not a huge difference, but the new Orb is a touch softer at the tips and tails vs. the old Orb. We hadn’t hand-flexed the old Orb in a while, and while comparing the two skis, we were surprised by how stiff the old Orb’s tail actually is, given how easy and accessible it felt. But the new Orb is a touch softer, which should make it even easier.
Compared to the Enforcer 88 and Brahma 88, the Orb is a bit softer throughout, but the difference between the three skis isn’t that big. We’re excited about this.
Like the old Orb, the new Orb is pretty light for its size (and given that it has two layers of titanal). The new Orb is one of the lightest <90mm-wide frontside-oriented skis we’ve reviewed, so we’re very curious to see how it handles the firm and rough conditions in which we typically use a ski in this class.
For reference, here are a number 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.
1790 & 1828 Black Crows Orb, 179.1 cm (19/20)
1790 & 1831 Salomon XDR 88 Ti, 186 cm (17/18–18/19)
1839 & 1842 Black Crows Orb, 178.3 cm (17/18–18/19)
1864 & 1882 Armada Invictus 89 Ti, 187 cm (18/19–19/20)
1869 & 1894 Atomic Vantage 90 Ti, 184 cm (18/19–19/20)
1920 & 1940 Volkl Kendo, 177 cm (15/16–18/19)
1931 & 1932 DPS Foundation Cassiar 94, 185 cm (18/19–19/20)
1943 & 1968 Liberty V92, 186 cm (18/19)
1959 & 1985 Renoun Z-Line 90, 180 cm (17/18–18/19)
1997 & 2001 Blizzard Brahma, 180 cm (17/18–19/20)
2008 & 2015 Folsom Spar 88, 182 cm (18/19)
2049 & 2065 Volkl Mantra M5, 177 cm (18/19–19/20)
2062 & 2063 Rossignol Experience 94 Ti, 187 cm (18/19–19/20)
2077 & 2092 K2 Ikonic 84 Ti, 177 cm – weight includes binding plates (17/18–19/20)
2114 & 2133 Nordica Enforcer 93, 185 cm (17/18–19/20)
2115 & 2149 J Skis Masterblaster, 181 cm (16/17–18/19)
2171 & 2176 Head Monster 88 Ti, 184 cm (18/19–19/20)
Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About
(1) The old Orb wasn’t the best carver compared to its competitors, so will the new Orb’s less tapered shape make it more competitive in this regard?
(2) On the flipside, will the new Orb’s less tapered shape hamper its off-piste performance (where the old Orb excelled)?
(3) The new Orb is quite light, so how stable and composed will it feel in firm and rough snow?
(4) The new Orb’s flex pattern isn’t super burly, so just how accessible will it be, and will advanced / expert skiers still like it?
Bottom Line (For Now)
The new Black Crows Orb now looks a bit more like its competition, so will it still stand out like the previous version did? We’ll be getting the new ski on snow soon, and will report back with updates.