We test a LOT of ski gear, some of it we love, some of it we don’t. If we love it, we rave about it. If we don’t like it, we don’t write about it. But there’s also gear we love that we know isn’t perfect. That’s what we cover here in our “What’s Great (And What’s Less Great)” series. Join Active Pass to learn why even the best-made gear gets under our skin.
Let me just say one thing right out of the gate: The Blizzard Black Pearl 88 is a great women’s-specific ski. It has won SKI Test Gold countless times since its introduction in 2013, and to this day still flies off the shop shelves. In fact, I challenge you to try to keep count of how many purple/blue tails you spot in resort lift lines.
What’s Great About the Blizzard Black Pearl 88
There’s good reason for all the hype. When it made its SKI Test debut in 2013, our testers were stoked—’Finally, a badass ski for women who rip!’ they exclaimed. It was one of the first skis engineered specifically for women that didn’t dumb down the construction to make it “lighter” or “softer” or “more manageable.”
Instead, the Black Pearl 88 proved itself to be an extremely sturdy and dependable ride, an ideal tool to tackle anything the frontside of the resort throws at you.
It’s gone through several redesigns over the years—the most recent one in 2020 introduced Blizzard’s TrueBlend wood core technology in an effort to perfect the ski’s flex and make it more versatile in varying snow conditions.
But throughout all its makeovers, one thing remains the same: The Black Pearl 88 is a frontside ski with backbone; it rails on groomers and offers ladies one heck of a smooth ride.
Nothing rattles the Black Pearl 88. Intermediate ladies love it for its quiet dependability on trail and the confidence it inspires when conditions are less than ideal. Meanwhile, advanced and expert women love it for its trustworthiness on edge and its ability to carve.
Get the full picture: 2021 Blizzard Black Pearl 88 Full Review
What’s Not So Great
So, here’s what bugs me: The Black Pearl 88 is stiff. Like, really stiff. When we test skis for SKI’s Gear Guide, we rate skis on a scale from “nimble” to “burly.” Both adjectives refer to how the ski flexes, or how much force it takes to make the ski do what we want it to. Nimble means that a ski is pliable and therefore maneuverable; burly implies that the ski is stiffer and requires more force to engage.
Every year, I end up rating the Black Pearl 88 as one of the burlier skis in the women’s Frontside category. Even after Blizzard incorporated its TrueBlend technology into this ski, which reduced the density of the ski’s core in the tips and tails, I still find this ski to be pretty damn stiff.
A stiff ski is not a bad thing by any means. In a lot of conditions and cases, you want a stiff ski underfoot. Stiffness provides stability at speed and a reliable performance on hard-snow—things most skiers need in a frontside ski.
But a stiff ski can be hard to wield, especially for women with slighter frames or more intermediate skills. Stiff skis can make skiing anything other than medium-radius turns on groomed snow a chore.
I’m 5 feet 5 inches, weigh 137 pounds, and consider myself an expert skier. I find that it takes some work to get the Black Pearl 88 to behave the way I want it to in moguls, and I really have to be on top of it when skiing in tight trees on the side of the run.
Don’t get me wrong: I have a blast carving up groomers on the Black Pearl 88. This ski is engineered to rip down the fall line on edge and at speed. I won’t hesitate to recommend this ski to hard-charging ladies looking for a one-ski quiver to use out East, or to ladies who need an early-season corduroy destroyer out West.
But to most ladies I see on the Black Pearl 88 at the resort, I say this: If you just want a ski to skid around on, there are easier, more forgiving skis out there. The Black Pearl 88 was designed to charge, and you won’t realize its full potential until you put the pedal to metal.