Blizzard’s fortunes began to turn around several years ago when the Tecnica Group acquired the brand and factory in Mittersill, Austria, and pumped a few million euros into an overhaul. It’s often the case in the world of industry that he who builds the last factory wins, as it will have the most modern machinery and latest technical capacities. Tecnica management backed up their bet with the movement of some top design talent from Völkl to Blizzard, and the stage was set for a rejuvenated Blizzard to show what it could do and it probably would have done just fine even if they had never signed Arne Backstrom to ski on their brand...
...but the world-class big mountain skier did more than just represent the company, he helped transform it. It was Backstrom who first conceived the idea of rockering a ski by simply flipping the core over, so the tip and tail naturally curved up instead of down. The recently anointed Blizzard engineers figured out how to execute the idea and presto, the Flip Core was born.
The short history lesson matters because this flipping-the-core business makes a ski with a remarkably large behavioral envelope. In category after category, the Flip Core skis deliver elite performance with all the rough edges removed. Most skis with a limitless top end don’t suffer fools gladly—in our jargon, most great Power skis don’t exhibit many Finesse properties—but Flip Core skis aren’t finicky. Many models with pronounced front rockers don’t ever feel connected in the forebody, but the rocker on a Flip Core ski blends with the midsection when flexed, so the edge feels engaged tip-to-tail. This intoxicating blend of behaviors has seduced countless ski testers, thrusting models like the Bonafide, Cochise, Samba and Brahma into the first rank in their respective genres.
If the ski market as a whole were healthier, it’s hard to say just how big Blizzard’s turnaround would be. As things stand, the brand’s rise has overlapped with a ski sales recession driven by a few seasons of lousy weather and a nervous economy. If the ski market rebounds to anything like its previous glory, Blizzard is poised to reap a bounty.
As we open the 2016 season, Blizzard is firing on all cylinders. They have a star product in every category, the ideal situation every brand hopes to forge for itself. The company is making some of the finest skis in the world, period.
Ruminating upon Blizzard’s current, across-the-board success, we can’t help but admire how far the brand has come since your dauntless Editor toiled at the Mittersill facility in late ‘90’s, designing Scott’s first line of skis. Quality control at the time was, shall we say, iffy. Thanks to the Tecnica Group’s considerable investment, today the Blizzard factory puts out a product that is above reproach.
For 2016, Blizzard has tweaked some of the their most popular men’s Flip Core models and changed the cast of their Frontside men’s and women’s models.
The attention in the US market will be on the updates to the Bonafide, Cochise and Bodacious, all of which receive a dosage of carbon at the tip and tail. We’re relieved to report that their essential properties are unchanged; they’re just a smidge lighter and more maneuverable.
Blizzard has been trying to re-organize their Frontside, system skis for a few seasons now and appear to have settled on a version of their solid IQ binding system and a naming convention that might stick around for a season or two. Blizzard continues to make great skis in this important genre, even if in our market they don’t have the sex appeal of the Bonafide and its freeride bros.
The only Blizzards our panel of testers doesn’t much care for are models our test methodology is biased against: the soft flexing, twin-tipped Regulator and Peacemaker. One could argue that our relative disfavor is a strong indication that they do exactly as they’re intended to do, which is sashay sideways on a whim. They should have no trouble appealing to the youth market that is their target.
If you’re an all-mountain skier and you haven’t tried a Blizzard in several seasons, stop whatever you’re doing and make plans to do so at your next opportunity.
In-depth reviews of 17 models—with key performance ratings ( ? ) and genre model comparisons ( ? ) —are in our member section
Radius: 13m @ 165cm
Weight: 2100g @ 165cm
Somehow, Blizzard figured out how to put sneakers on a freight train. The SRC rolls out of the station like it was hauling lumber, but once this implacable platform is in motion it develops the reactions of a mongoose. “Crazy fun quick!” exulted Eric Smith from Footloose, compressing into three little words what the SRC Racing is all about.
Feeling quiet while sitting in an activated catapult is no mean feat, but the SRC pulls it off with such equipoise that it makes its pilot feel as confident as it clearly is. A big, badass plate imparts impenetrable security from any vibration or tendency to wobble, whether one’s stance is relatively upright or laid over like Ligety.
With the intractable solidity of a sumo wrestler married to the airy agility of a ballerina, the SRC is one solid slalom.
Radius: 14.5m @ 172cm
Weight: 1750g @ 172cm
As Americans have gravitated to fatter and fatter skis, we’ve lost the art of making short, snappy turns. Even the skiers who ski well technically don’t make many short turns, in part because wide skis make moving quickly edge to edge either a chore or impossible.
If only we could get everyone to saddle up the Blizzard RC Ti we’d see more short-radius tracks on early-morning groomers. Some slalom skis make short turns feel like work, but the RC Ti is all about play. “A really exciting ski that returns a lot of power when you push it… very snappy,” assessed Lou from The Sport Loft.
Zip off the edge is another trait that fatter skis eschew, letting the shape of the tail do the work of turn completion. The RC Ti won’t tolerate such a lazy attitude, preferring to pop out of the turn so you enter the next one early and on a committed edge.
Despite harboring this storehouse of energy, the RC Ti earned close to our highest marks for slow-speed turns. The reason it works so well in the lower speed range is that you don’t have to drop your hips to the snow to make it whip around; it responds promptly even if it isn’t raked up to 60°, earning our second-highest aggregate grade for Finesse properties.
Radius: 13.5m @ 174cm
Weight: 2480g @ 174cm
The rumor we started that Blizzard created the G-Power FS so that ordinary citizen-skiers could take their shot at breaking the sound barrier is probably apocryphal, but it contains a kernel of truth. The G-Power is also rumored to be rockered tip and tail, yet it feels so welded to the earth it would take a crowbar to break the edge loose.
Statisticians will observe that the G-Power earned its highest marks for holding a continuous carve at high speed. If this is your bliss, the G-Power could be your ski, for it loves nothing more than making elongated, unbroken arcs on a corduroy carpet.
Blizzard makes a line of ultra-light alpine touring skis named Zero G, which one might confuse with the G-Power were it not for the fact that Zero G represents a small family of skis and G-Power is the name of single model that by itself weighs about as much as the entire backcountry clan put together.
The G-Power incorporates patches of carbon at tip and tail to reinforce snow contact in these areas, a task at which it most ably succeeds. The carbon story always has a lightweight angle, and no doubt the carbon inserts in the G-Power do effectively reduce swing weight, but the G-Power also has every other material in it known to the ski maker’s art, so the overall impression is anything but light.
But once this ski is set in motion, all the fretting over weight is forgotten. All you notice is what you don’t notice: no shock, no vibration, no loss of edge grip and best of all, no effort. The premium one pays for the G-Power goes into dampening elements that quiet the ride and empower the ski to track unperturbed over and through everything from mid-winter boilerplate to late spring porridge.
Radius: 16m @ 174cm
Weight: 2020g @ 174cm
Blizzard has been making fine Frontside skis for several years, but as they’ve changed either the construction or the name each of the last few seasons, American skiers may not associate models like the Power X8 with progenitors like the Magnum 8.0 Ti that shared the X8’s ability to take its on-trail skills off-road.
The X8 is called the Power X8 because, somewhat unnervingly, Austrians love to use the word “power” in the names of their skis and bindings. It might have been more accurate, if less Austrian, to call them the Mellow X8. It’s a strong ski, no doubt, but it’s neither overly damp nor so energetic it takes control of events. Instead, it lets the pilot set the pace and the X8 adapts accordingly.
This willingness to take direction extends to the X8’s attitude towards terrain. “It skied well in variable-to-hard off-piste chop,” wrote the bemused Matt from Footloose, one among several testers to express both surprise at the X8’s all-around competence and its comportment in crappy snow.
If a gander at the price tag causes your blood pressure to suddenly soar, it might restore equilibrium to know the cost includes a suitable binding. One of the reasons the X8 is so solid yet so supple is the IQ binding system that is solid as cement side to side yet manages to move longitudinally in harmony with the ski’s flex.
Radius: 18m @ 177cm
Weight: 1800g @ 177cm
It’s in the nature of successful ski brand families to extend the clan as far as reason will allow. In today’s market, that means either adding or subtracting 10mm of waist width to the icon that first caught traction. If that flies, repeat.
Sometimes this means the extension of a Big Mountain concept will end up in a category populated primarily with carving clones. So it is with Blizzard’s Latigo, the great-grandson of the category-killing Cochise, a skinny kid surrounded by a field of souped-up, hard snow dragsters.
The Latigo holds its own because it doesn’t forget that the first article of business is to be a gas to ski. Don’t look too closely at the off-piste performance score; the Latigo deserves better but in this category it didn’t get enough exposure to off-trail conditions to press its edge in this arena. The Latigo exudes fun, flair and flash whether it’s pointed off-piste or on, and its supple flex certainly navigates bumps better than most of the rails in this genre. Like any young brothers, the Latigo and the Brahma are bound to brawl over the affections of the Frontside skier.
Radius: 16m @ 163cm
Weight: 1460g @ 163cm
For most men, a Frontside ski represents a destination, whereas for many women a Frontside ski is part of the journey, a stepping stone that will help her attain the skills experts take for granted.
The new Blizzard Cheyenne is a bit of both, enough ski for the on-piste advanced skier yet possessed of a charitable nature that allows lower skill skiers to progress without feeling intimidated. “Easy to ski for intermediates,” confirmed Shirley from Footloose, ”yet awesome for advanced [skiers] on groomers.”
The secret to the Cheyenne’s dual personality lies in its baseline, a reverse camber affair created by flipping the wood core upside down. Hence its marketing moniker, Flip Core. The long front rocker melts into the rest of the baseline as soon as the Cheyenne is tipped and pressured, enabling it to earn brilliant scores for carving accuracy despite having one of the more aggressive rockers in the category.
It also earned high marks for short-radius turns despite having a turn radius of 17m in a 170cm, which means the tip tucks into the turn quickly enough to persuade the rider she’s on an ultra-quick stick. What makes the Cheyenne feel so zippy isn’t so much its shape as its weight. While Blizzard makes no effort to emphasize the point, the Cheyenne is one of the lightest skis in the genre.
Radius: 19m @ 180cm
Weight: 2040g @ 180cm
The Brahma isn’t a flashy ski. It doesn’t have any special cutouts or add-ons adorning its surface, nor is it particularly shapely. If you putter along with your feet beneath your hips you may never discover what a powerhouse purrs under its demure exterior.
But once you give it the gas and tip it, the Brahma responds like a thoroughbred in the stretch. “It took whatever I gave it,” said a tester with a race pedigree who knows how to drive a ski hard. While short turns aren’t its first choice, given enough edge angle it will cut a tight corner. “You can dance the night away on these skis. Very lively yet stable,” confirmed another of our testers.
The Brahma is among those All-Mountain East skis that are descended from a much fatter father figure, in its case the 108mm Cochise. It retains the off-piste inclinations of its bloodlines, with the relatively svelte sidecut and rockered tip of an off-trail ski. That it handles so well on groomers is a testament to the effectiveness of Blizzard’s unique Flip Core construction.
As the name implies, this design turns the core upside down so it’s naturally molded into a rockered shape. When tipped and pressured, the rockered tip and (slightly) rockered tail blend seamlessly with the rest of the ski to create complete edge contact from end to end. This is how a ski with a rockered tip can earn top scores for being early to the edge. This trait also allows the ski to travel unperturbed through any snow condition in its path, making the Brahma one of the brightest all-terrain stars in the category and a perennial top contender for best one-ski quiver.
Radius: 17m @ 166cm
Weight: 1650g @ 166cm
The Black Pearl is the centerpiece of Blizzard’s all-mountain women’s collection, with a Goldilocks’ waist width that’s not too fat for carving or too skinny for flotation. It’s just right.
“So much fun… in everything,” purred Nancy from Footloose. “It felt completely stable at high speed and also managed the few bumps I could find.” Kim Collins from California Ski Company concurred, “Responsive and sturdy yet easy to turn and forgiving. Good for all skier types and conditions,” Kim concluded.
The Black Pearl has become a perennial best seller since it first appeared when Blizzard unveiled their Flip Core collection several seasons ago. The Pearl has earned coast-to-coast popularity because it delivers the most sought-after quality in a women’s ski: it makes her better.
And not just on the groomers where she was already competent, but in all those more interesting places that previously put a chink in confidence’s armor. Trees are less intimidating when she knows she can’t possibly bury a tip and moguls lose their menace when her skis slip sinuously through the troughs.
Bigger or more aggressive women might gravitate to a model with metal in it, but for the majority of women who aren’t ultra-aggressive yet still want to progress to the point where they’re comfortable in all kinds of terrain, the Black Pearl continues to shine.
Radius: 21m @ 180cm
Weight: 2200g @ 180cm
We admit to experiencing a tremor of trepidation when we heard Blizzard was planning to modify the design of the Bonafide, one of the greatest skis of all time and not, in our august estimation, a candidate for “improvement.”
What a relief to discover they only tweaked what has become the benchmark ski in this genre. Blizzard slipped a slight slab of carbon into the tip and tail sections, lowering swing weight and enabling the Bonafide to feel “quick for a fat ski,” as Greg from Viking noted. Testers from around the country confirmed that the new incarnation does indeed feel more nimble than Bonafide 1.0.
Other than this modest if appreciable enhancement, the Bonafide remains intact, which is good news for anyone who wants to try the best all-terrain ski extant that doesn’t cost over $1,000. Our only cautionary remark – and it applies equally to all our top Power picks in this genre – is that the Bonafide is best appreciated by a skilled skier who is already on top of his all-mountain game.
We think we’ve figured out why the Bonafide is so intoxicating to just about every expert: the Flip Core rocker allows for an ideal transition from a flat ski to a high edge angle. Because of its shape, baseline and flex, the forebody smoothly rolls up to as high an edge as you can muster. Other fat skis’ rockered forebodies either don’t connect with the rest of the ski or transition abruptly from flat to edged.
Having studied this ski for several seasons, the only thing we haven’t figured out about the Bonafide is what it won’t do. It’s the epitome of the one-ski quiver.
Radius: 19m @ 166cm
Weight: 1750g @ 166cm
The Samba has been dancing around this category for several seasons now, giving us a clear picture of just who belongs on this seductive beauty. You’ve seen her at big mountains like Mammoth and Squaw, dropping her hip within a few cm’s of the slope on every turn, killing it.
If you just poke your way down the hill, you’ll never discover why the most talented lasses love it. It’s super-high scores for ease of operation should be taken with a grain of salt the size of Gibraltar. Each score of “10” logged – and there were many – should have carried with it as proviso, “If you know how to ski at level 8 or above…”
If you’ve absorbed all your “dancing” lessons, you’ll love rolling the Samba out on the floor. Its carving capabilities exceed expectations, and the way it plunders the off-piste is an epiphany. “Awesome ski,” said Shirley of Footloose, “fun, lively and skied groomers as well as any carver. Off-piste you could do no wrong.”
Footloose, BTW, sits near the base of Mammoth Mountain, home to some of the best skiing and skiers in North America. Their employees aren’t there because their doctor recommended the dry mountain air; they ski. And they ski as if their lives depended on it.
Which is one reason we depend on them. If the women of Footloose say the Samba is the real deal, you can take it to the bank.
Radius: 27m @ 185cm
Weight: 2330g @ 185cm
For the second season running, Blizzard has given the Cochise the full spa treatment: first slim the core and fluff up the camber, then add more taper to the tip and tail and take off a bit more weight by adding a swath of carbon front and rear.
They all add up to more of a change of style than personality, as the Cochise remains a strong skier’s ski; if you don’t ski with your feet out from under your hips, you might be in over your head on a Cochise. Its 27m turn radius doesn’t turn itself.
Still, the new Cochise is, as “Doctor” Gleason points out, “easier than its predecessor, and as smooth as cream cheese. You can ski with comfort in trees and tight spots.” The Cochise is an all-terrain ski in that it treats all conditions with equal contempt. “No terrain can stand in the way of the Cochise,” notes a Footloose foot soldier. “Steeps, bumps, groomers, crud, this ski lays waste to it all.”
Two years of changes have made the Cochise a more manageable, maneuverable ski that’s decidedly more willing to curl into a turn, but it’s still no pushover. “Big, powerful skiers will love this ski,” Pat from Bobo’s assures us, “with lots of horsepower and better turn initiation than the old version.”
Radius: 21m @ 172cm
Weight: 1780g @ 165cm
Blizzard has been serving up one home run product after another since their launch of the Flip Core construction for the 2011/12 season. Except in one department: over that span of time they’ve wrestled with the right formula for a woman’s Powder ski. They began by giving womankind every chance to go big by creating a woman’s Cochise called the Dakota, metal laminates, 108mm waist and all. The first generation Dakota was such a fall-line bomber that it bombed at the box office, failing to match the market momentum enjoyed by the similarly built boys in the Blizzard band, such as the Bonafide.
Two years ago, the Dakota dropped the metal laminates but kept the same shape. The ski was softer, but with a 27m radius (177cm), still reluctant to stray far from the fall line. Now with the Sheeva they’ve finally found what they’ve sought for 3 seasons, a strong ski that doesn’t require abnormal strength to steer. A confidence-building carver, the Sheeva can just as easily throw it into a four-wheel drift when so summoned.
Yvette from Bobo’s, a strong young racer, was lucky to try the Sheeva on an all-too-rare powder day during (another) low snow year. “Really good for the powder and garbage in the trees,” she crowed, giving it perfect scores for off-piste performance and low-speed turning, two qualities that come in particularly handy in tight glades. Yvette gave the Sheeva the tester’s ultimate accolade: “I’d consider buying these for myself.”
Radius: 22m @ 186cm
Weight: 2290g @ 186cm
The widest, and best, of Blizzard’s twin-tipped Freeride collection, the Gunsmoke is the powder board for the grown-up who grew up as a grom on twin tips and who can’t break the habit. Even if you weren’t raised on center-mounted skis with a mullet, you might still find the smeary, playful attitude of the Gunsmoke to be just what you’re looking for in a Powder ski.
A twin tip on PED’s, the Gunsmoke likes its turn shape fairly long. It can handle the speed this fall line attitude engenders, but should it become necessary to hit the brakes in a hurry, the Gunsmoke can swivel sideways to shed speed without sacrificing the skier. That the Gunsmoke is more than willing to ski backwards or sideways shouldn’t obscure the fact that it’s a directional ski with all the flotation and smear-ability anyone could want.
Radius: 27m @ 185cm
Weight: 2240g @ 185cm
The new Bodacious is totally different from last year’s, and yet it isn’t. The new tip and tail taper, the carbon weave reinforcements, the elimination of metal laminates, all contribute to a ski that’s lighter and easier to coax on edge.
But the new Bodacious has to uphold a reputation for blowing powder fields to rubble, and it doesn’t disappoint in this department. Because of its baseline and flex pattern, a 177cm Bodacious feels more connected to the turn than a 186cm Gunsmoke, particularly at the lower edge angles that most skiers apply in powder.
What little power the Bodacious may have lost in its metamorphosis it more than regained in manageability. All its surgical alterations trimmed the fat that once made it a freight train to steer, transforming the Bodacious into a Finesse ski one doesn’t have to manhandle to move out of the fall line.
A lot of Powder skis don’t steer off the edge as much as they bank off the base; when there isn’t much snow to sink the ski into, they stink. The Bodacious will hold even if the snow only allows the edge to penetrate, a rate treat after riding a boatload of super-wides that earn their Finesse bona fides by being floppy, a sin the Bodacious wouldn’t deign to commit.