The Ellis Brigham Women's Ski of The Year is the result of extensive testing and knowledge of what has been on the market in past years and now. In addition to our core test-team, we involve as many staff and stores as possible.
But what is it that makes a special ski? The ones that really stand out, go beyond the areas where they are anticipated to excel; they perform in terrain and conditions past what they were designed for or possibly appeal to more than just their target audience. Skis like these are the award winners.
The Black Pearl 88 is the latest version of the best performing all mountain ski of the last few seasons. Its ability to tackle any terrain and all conditions has cemented it as a firm favourite of many a skier.
This is one of the smoothest skis you’ll ever use, on and off-piste. Take it down a groomed run and there are no nasty surprises. The traditional sandwich-construction and camber underfoot ensure good grip and decent energy, with turns flowing easily.
But it’s when you get it into crud and variable snow where you really notice how good this ski is. The Carbon Flipcore W.S.D. makes it unflappable at all but the very highest speeds, adding a smoothness and easy handling
“Phenomenal! Looks great and performed so well with anything that ended up in front of it. Poppy, lively, responsive and grippy.”
“The best all mountain ski; copes well on all terrain and conditions and remains very responsive. Amazing!”
“Fun and easy to handle on piste with just the right amount of flex to make it super-friendly off-piste. It’s the perfect all mountain ski. Loved it!”
“Amazing on any terrain and at any speed. Really easy to handle but still has performance.”
- Radius: 13m (159)
- Waist: 88mm (159)
- Rocker: Tip/Tail
W.S.D. (Women’s Specific Design)
The 88mm waist hits the sweet-spot, providing just enough flotation in soft snow while remaining agile and nimble on-piste. The 13m radius (159cm ski) makes it a breeze to turn, with effortless initiation and release. This new version is even easier than previous models thanks to its new tip and tail shape.
Carbon Flipcore W.S.D
WSD reduces the weight without sacrificing performance by using carbon in various layers and light Poplar and Beech woods for the core. The uni-directional carbon layer is integrated into the sandwich build, keeping the ski firm as well as reducing overall weight. Carbon is also used to reinforce the fibreglass emphasising the weight saving and boost strength. This construction gives the ski a calm surfy ride all over the mountain.
The Flipcore is a result of perfectly matching the camber of the wooden core to the camber that is built into the ski as it is formed in the press at the factory.
Rocker at the tip and tail with camber in the middle. This reduces the pressure on the edges at the tip and tail, making turning smoother, improving flotation and handling off-piste. The camber guarantees excellent grip on firmer snow.
Pros and Cons
The Black Pearl 88 is supremely versatile and appeals to skiers with varying abilities. On firm snow, it feels responsive and full of energy. In soft snow, it flows in and out of turns all the time floating easily, and in choppy conditions, it is balanced and comfortable with hassle-free handling.
It does have an upper limit. Skiers looking for a power focused ski or who want to ski at the fastest speeds would be better looking at stiffer models. Skiers wanting to spend more time off-piste should move up the Black Pearl range and go for its bigger sister, the Black Pearl 98.
Materials and Assembly
Key materials in the ski include:
- The use of the Poplar and Beech wood for the core. This gives the ski it’s signature poppiness and liveliness, but also ensure that the ski remains light and not tiring to use.
- Carbon takes this further, adding torsional rigidity without making the ski stiff, so grip remains good on firmer snow and the rocker/camber/rocker profile is maximised for control in variable snow.
- The assembly is a traditional (and still the best way to make a performance ski) sandwich construction. It's where the various elements are built up in layers (like a sandwich) and then put in a press where huge forces push down ensuring the layers are bonded properly to each other. During the time in the press the profile of the ski is created, with the camber and the rocker ‘built’ into the ski. As a part of this process Blizzard use a method of pre-prepared wood cores that mirror the profile of the press, this is what creates the special feel of any Blizzard Flipcore ski. Giving them smooth handling on rough snow, easy steering and also impressive grip on firm conditions, all in one ski.
- Sandwich construction skis also make use of sidewalls. These are strips of hard plastic that run the length of the ski - literally making the ‘side wall’. The key benefit to this is improved energy transmission and better grip along the ski's length.
Performance and Feel
The Black Pearl 88 is very much a smooth skiing ski that has energy and response within easy grasp. It’s not a power model, yet is certainly lively on firm snow and quick to react in tighter spaces, surprisingly so considering it’s 88mm underfoot. But it’s the handling and unflappable balance is what makes it stand out from other skis.
The skis feel instantly comfortable, and that’s the key to this model; it makes the skier feel in control and settled, whatever the terrain or conditions. This is thanks to the perfect mix of shape, profile and construction technique, married to light but high performing materials.
Who is it Designed For?
This is one of the key points about the Black Pearl 88. It suits a wide range of abilities, and within this range, different skiers will use it in various types of terrain.
At one end of the scale, there are the skiers who spend the majority of their time on piste, but who know pistes get chopped up, and who want a smooth, stable ride whatever the state of the runs.
At the other end, you have skiers who want to spend most of their time off-piste, always looking for challenges but who want to ski smoothly and don’t want to go for a super-wide model.
The ski's biggest appeal is to all mountain skiers. Wanting an easy handling ski that will work everywhere, whether they’re new to exploring off-piste and need that easy handling or seasoned all condition skiers not wanting a stiff model.
So many skiers in the past can’t be wrong and our testing clearly showed that this latest version will ensure the reputation of the Black Pearl continues to grow.
Good skis appeal to certain users and do specific tasks well. Great skis, such as this one, appeal to a broad range of skiers and manage to impress all of them in a variety of terrain. Quite simply the Black Pearl 88 is the epitome of versatility. A jack of all trades that actually does master them all.