Whenever a brand launches a model series that succeeds commercially beyond any and all expectations, the natural tendency is to stretch the collection in as many directions as it can possibly go. The danger is that you’ll cannibalize your own line more than you’ll cut into your competition’s share of rack space, but if all your current products are too popular to euthanize, squeezing another model into the family is usually too great a temptation to resist.

This phenomenon helps explain why Blizzard added a Brahma 82 and Black Pearl 82 to these fabled brands-within-a-brand, even though by going this narrow the new skis move into head-to-head competition with Frontside skis that look like they were made on another planet. After all, the freeride design of the new Brahma and Pearl isn’t an integrated system and wasn’t originally made to excel on hard snow.

Another reason Blizzard took this tack is it wasn’t likely to cannibalize its own kinder, as the Quattro series, into whose domain the new 82’s trespassed, weren’t getting much traction. Maybe a little of the Black Pearl’s magic would inspire Blizzard retailers to give the New School kids a chance to succeed where the Old School paradigm had faltered.

Our test confirmed that the Brahma 82 in particular is utterly unlike anything else in the genre, which in no way should disqualify if for consideration. It’s a very rare beast, a definitively Finesse ski in an ocean of Power-mad carvers. If you want a ski that feels like a race ski on Novocain, follow the crowd; if you want a soft, slinky sort of carver that follows terrain fluidly, even in hacked-up mogul fields, you’ll discover the Brahma 82 is much better at this than the stiff rails that predominate in the unisex Frontside field.