Ski: 2020-2021 Blizzard Black Pearl 88, 165 cm
Available Lengths: 147, 153, 159, 165, 171, 177 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 163.7 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1638 & 1622 grams
Stated Dimensions (165 cm): 128-88-110 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 127.7-86.5-109.2 mm
Stated Sidecut Radii (for respective lengths): 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 m
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 66.5 mm / 11 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~3 mm
Core: poplar/beech + carbon sheet + fiberglass & carbon laminate
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -10.95 cm / 70.9 cm from tail
As we noted in our announcement this past January, Blizzard is overhauling for the 20/21 season their men’s & women’s “All-Mountain Freeride” skis, which includes one of the best-selling skis in the world, the Black Pearl 88. Given this ski’s popularity, this came as a bit of a surprise, but Blizzard is making some pretty bold claims about the performance benefits of the “TrueBlend” wood cores in the new Black Pearl 88 and several of their other new 20/21 skis.
We already posted our First Look and Flash Review of the updated Blizzard Brahma 88, but the Black Pearl 88 is far from just a Brahma with a different top sheet. So here we’re going to go into the design of the new Black Pearl 88, how it compares to the rest of the market, and then Blister Members can check out my initial on-snow impression in my Flash Review of the Black Pearl 88.
Construction & “TrueBlend Flipcore”
This is the biggest update for the 20/21 Blizzard Black Pearl 88 and Black Pearl 97, with both skis featuring what Blizzard calls their “TrueBlend Flipcore.”
Essentially, the wood cores of these skis are much more complex in terms of how the wood “stringers” (i.e., the individual strips of wood that make up the wood core when laminated together) are put together / assembled. Most skis’ wood cores feature several wood stringers that run pretty much from tip to tail. The TrueBlend skis’ wood cores not only feature many more stringers (each one is much thinner than normal), but they’re also laid out in a sort of grid format, with not all individual stringers running from tip to tail.
So, why make this more complicated, more expensive wood core? Blizzard says that it’s what lets them truly fine-tune the flex pattern of the ski, more so than they could with a traditional wood core. The end goal is to make the skis stiffer exactly where they want them to be (primarily around the middle / binding area), while making them softer where you don’t need as stiff of a flex (primarily at the ends of the skis). For the TrueBlend skis, they do this by (1) the complex grid structure of the stringers and (2) using a mix of lighter, softer poplar stringers and heavier, stiffer beech stringers.
Now, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of skis on the market today already feature a stiffer flex around the middle of the ski and a softer flex near the tips and tails. But Blizzard’s TrueBlend construction is supposed to let them be even more precise in terms of dialing in the exact flex patterns of the skis.
Aside from the new wood core, the Black Pearl 88’s overall construction is fairly similar to the previous, 19/20 version. It still uses Blizzard’s “Carbon Flipcore WSD” construction, which basically consists of a unidirectional carbon-fiber sheet on top and then two layers of a fiberglass sheet with carbon stringers, with one above the wood core and the other below it. Blizzard says that this construction approach (which is unique to their women-specific skis) allows them to create strong, high-performance skis that are much lighter than many metal-laminate options. And based on our time skiing the old Black Pearls, we’d say they did a good job of that with those previous skis.
Shape / Rocker Profile
Blizzard says that they made some tweaks to the shape and rocker profile of the 20/21 Black Pearl 88, though the changes are extremely subtle when looking at the skis.
The Black Pearl 88 still has a pretty traditional shape with wide tips and tails that don’t taper very much at all. I.e., the widest points of the tips and tails are quite close to the actual ends of the ski, in contrast to more tapered skis like the new Renoun Earhart 88 and Coalition Snow SOS (reviews of both coming in the future).
The Black Pearl 88’s rocker profile is similarly traditional, with very shallow rocker lines at both the tip and tail. It does have a slightly deeper tail rocker line than some narrower, piste-oriented skis like the K2 Disruption MTi Alliance, but skis like the Liberty Genesis 90 have much deeper rocker lines. Unfortunately, we had to send the Black Pearl 88 back to Blizzard before we were able to take rocker profile pictures, but its rocker profile is extremely similar to the Brahma 88, so we’ve included our rocker images of that ski at the bottom of this post.
All that said, one of the main reasons we liked the previous Black Pearl 88 was its versatility — despite its non-tapered shape and shallow rocker lines, it still offered an excellent blend of on- and off-piste performance. Given the similarities between the new and old ski in terms of shape and rocker profile, that made us optimistic about the new ski.
Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the Black Pearl 88:
In Front of Toe Piece: 9-9.5
Behind the Heel Piece: 9.5-8.5
At least while we hand-flex it, the 20/21 Black Pearl 88’s flex pattern feels fairly similar to the previous, 19/20 version. Both skis are stiff around the middle and notably softer at the tips and tails. If anything, the 20/21 Black Pearl 88 feels a bit softer in the tips, shovels, and tail sections.
Overall, the Black Pearl 88’s flex pattern doesn’t feel super out of the ordinary. It’s not as extremely stiff as the Head Kore 93 W or Volkl Secret 102, but it’s also a bit stronger than the Renoun Earhart 88. The Black Pearl 88’s flex pattern is pretty similar overall compared to the 20/21 Nordica Santa Ana 93 and Liberty Genesis 90.
Just like the previous version, the 20/21 Black Pearl 88 is a fairly lightweight ski, though there are lighter options currently on the market. At an average measured weight of 1630 grams per ski for the 165 cm length, the new Black Pearl 88 is notably heavier than the Earhart 88, Genesis 90, and now-discontinued DPS Alchemist Uschi 87. But the Black Pearl 88 is also notably lighter than the new Nordica Santa Ana 93 and new Salomon Stance W 94.
For reference, here are a number of our measured weights (per ski in grams) for some notable skis. Keep in mind the length differences to try and keep things apples-to-apples.
1364 & 1392 Renoun Earhart 88, 170 cm (20/21)
1446 & 1459 DPS Alchemist Uschi 87 C2, 165 cm (18/19–19/20)
1507 & 1523 Liberty Genesis 90, 165 cm (18/19–20/21)
1533 & 1537 Armada Trace 98, 172 cm (17/18-19/20)
1535 & 1555 DPS Alchemist Uschi 94 C2, 171 cm (18/19–19/20)
1556 & 1575 Liberty Genesis 96, 165 cm (18/19–20/21)
1596 & 1608 Head Kore 93 W, 171 cm (19/20–20/21)
1622 & 1638 Blizzard Black Pearl 88, 165 cm (20/21)
1626 & 1631 K2 Fulluvit 95Ti, 170 cm (18/19–19/20)
1626 & 1645 Line Pandora 104, 165 cm (18/19–20/21)
1635 & 1646 Blizzard Black Pearl 98, 166 cm (17/18–19/20)
1651 & 1669 Moment Sierra, 172 cm (17/18–19/20)
1687 & 1695 Elan Ripstick 102 W, 170 cm (20/21)
1709 & 1710 Blizzard Sheeva 10, 172 cm (17/18–20/21)
1748 & 1763 Nordica Santa Ana 93, 169 cm (17/18–19/20)
1750 & 1769 Armada Victa 97 Ti, 171 cm (17/18–19/20)
1762 & 1801 K2 Mindbender 98Ti Alliance, 168 cm (19/20–20/21)
1812 & 1817 Salomon Stance W 94, 174 cm (20/21)
1828 & 1844 K2 Anthem 82, 167 cm (18/19–20/21)
1881 & 1895 Salomon QST Lumen 99, 174 cm (19/20–20/21)
1903 & 1917 Nordica Santa Ana 93, 172 cm (20/21)
Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About
(1) The previous construction of the Black Pearl 88 was a part of what made it one of the best-selling skis in the world, and our reviewers were personally big fans. So will the new design provide the same level of all-mountain performance? Or, could it be even better?
(2) How does the Black Pearl 88 compare to other skis in the same general category, like the Liberty Genesis 90, Renoun Earhart 88, Head Kore 93 W, and Nordica Santa Ana 88 & 93?
(3) We were impressed by the previous Black Pearl 88’s versatility, both in terms of conditions and the types of skiers who could appreciate it, so will we be able to say similar things about the new version?
Bottom Line (For Now)
The 20/21 Blizzard Black Pearl 88 carries over a similar shape and rocker profile but with a unique, interesting construction. Blister Members can check out my initial impressions in our Flash Review linked below, then stay tuned for updates, including info on the Black Pearl 88 and many other new women’s skis in our upcoming 20/21 Winter Buyer’s Guide.
Blister Members can now check out our Flash Review of the Black Pearl 88 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.
[Editor’s Note: the rocker pics shown are for the Blizzard Brahma 88, which has an extremely similar rocker profile to the Black Pearl 88. Unfortunately, we had to send the Black Pearl 88 back to Blizzard before we were able to take our rocker profile pictures, but we will add them if / when we are again able to get our hands on the ski.]