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.

Blizzard probably would have done just fine if they 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, Flipcore 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 Flipcore 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 the Flipcore skis aren’t finicky.  Many models with pronounced front rocker don’t ever feel connected in the forebody, but the rocker on a Flipcore 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, Black Pearl and Brahma into the first rank in their respective genres.

Flipcore’s most impressive validation came from an unexpected source. A few seasons ago, Blizzard decided to treat its women’s line more seriously, moving away from mimicking men’s construction and developing women-specific lay-ups. Blizzard fostered women’s focus groups to gather feedback and clarify its design objectives. While it continued to use unisex tooling, it switched to Woman Specific Design and the once unthinkable happened: a women’s ski sold more units than any other model in the American market.

The emergence of the Black Pearl as a sales star, when put in historical context, is a case study in brand resurrection that defies probability. Before the Tecnica Group acquisition, Blizzard was flat on its back in the U.S. market and invisible on the women’s front. Women’s skis did not matter, period. The brand was deaf to market input, among other liabilities. Racing was very important, carving the key to the consumer market and freeride was for loonies like the French and Americans.

The ascension of a woman’s freeride ski that leads an insular Austrian brand to prominence and profitability is a less likely scenario than the story of Joan of Arc.  Right behind the Black Pearl 88 in popularity is a pair of perpetual star products, the men’s Bonafide and Brahma. The more recently introduced Rustler/Sheeva series of freeride models has earned its own small army of adherents, securing Blizzard’s reputation as the current king of the All-Mountain models. 

It’s tough to bat 1.000 across all genres, and Blizzard is working to strengthen its presence in the carving categories that are important in the central European market Blizzard calls home. Its Firebird series of race skis enhance a traditional, woodcore/dual Ti laminate sandwich with vertical carbon laminates that boost acceleration through the bottom of the turn. Both the Non-FIS Race Firebird WRC and SRC are fantastic, no-nonsense race skis that are a gas to ski even if they never clip a start wand. The Firebird HRC (126/75/107) applies the same race-caliber construction to a Frontside version for those who want a little more versatility in a high-velocity package. 

For the past few seasons, Blizzard has faced the enviable task of improving on excellence, specifically how to keep its franchise Flipcore collection firing on all cylinders. Two years ago, it extended the brand-within-a-brand franchise down to the 82mm-waisted Brahma 82, pushing its off-trail design down into the Frontside genre.  It also created yet another Black Pearl, also an 82, squeezed in between the dowager Black Pearl 88 and the recently retired Black Pearl 78.   For 20/21, the brand had to find some way other than model proliferation to keep growing its core business.       

In order to change as little as possible, Blizzard changed nearly everything.  In other words, Blizzard didn’t want to lose the high-end performance that had fueled its phenomenal growth, but he who fails to innovate perishes.  So Blizzard tweaked a lot of its basic elements, changing length, baseline and sidecut in every size. The trigger for all these tweaks was the debut of TrueBlend, a precise reconfiguration of dense beech stringers among a stack of softer poplar laminates.  The result was a rounder, more even flex that maintains snow contact in unruly terrain.

Two years ago, TrueBlend was applied to the Bonafide 87, Brahma 88, Black Pearl 87 and Black Pearl 88, which means model selection for these new beauties is more important than ever.  In the Bonafide 97, for example, the 189cm isn’t just a bigger 183cm: each is its own ski.  The net effect of scaling performance along with length is it opens up the ability range for a given model.   A less skilled man can now handle a size-appropriate Bonafide, just as a more high-powered lass can push the Black Pearl 97 in a 177cm.

Last year, Blizzard upped its carving category game considerably with the arrival of a full line of Thunderbirds, all unabashedly made to make ruts in corduroy.  Headlined by the R15 WB in the Frontside genre and the R13 in Technical category, the new Thunderbirds are to carving skis what the Bonafide and its kin have been to the off-trail world: among the best, ever. The Thunderbird R15 WB and Phoenix R14 Pro for women seem to have an almost molecular bond with hard snow, driving eagerly into the top of the turn and exploding off the edge at the finish. They are not made to pamper the occasional skier but to exhilarate an expert. In a single stroke, Blizzard re-set the bar in this category.

The 2023 Season

For the 2023 season, Blizzard took another modest step towards making the magic inherent in its Flipcore All-Mountain models accessible to lighter, less aggro or less talented skiers by the simple expedient of making their TrueBlend cores ever-so-slightly thinner, so they’ll respond to a lighter touch. The model most affected by this slenderizing is the Bonafide 97; the cores on the Brahma 88 and Brahma 82 also got a haircut, but the change in flex resistance is less noticeable on the narrower skis.  Taken as a trio, we didn’t perceive the trimmer core profile to be sufficiently transformational to merit calling the 2023 versions of these models “new.” 

Undeniably new are two new series of ex-resort models joining the well-established Zero G Touring collection. The 3-model Hustle series are higher octane models meant for those who get up at dawn to race uphill, while the 2-model Zero G LT skis weigh only 1960g a pair, well over the weight of a single Brahma 88. I’d tell you more, but I don’t want to risk creating the impression that I know anything about the Alpine Touring category.  I’m a big fan of uphill transportation.

Black Pearl 82

The Black Pearl 82 underwent the TrueBlend make-over last season, a fairly complex process given that the model’s sidecut remained a constant. What changed was how high-density beech and low-weight poplar are scattered across the core to create a perfectly balanced flex for every size. Once committed to this level of customization, Blizzard went ahead and synchronized the baseline, sidecut and flex for every length, which in the case of the Black Pearl 82 is …READ MORE

Black Pearl 88

Blizzard already had the best-selling ski in the U.S., men’s or women’s, when it made two changes to the Black Pearl 88 that made the best even better. The first major sweetener was TrueBlend, a meticulously arranged parquet of lightweight poplar and denser beech that is adapted for every length, and coordinated with modifications to the baseline and sidecut. The goal of TrueBlend is a perfectly balanced flex that feels smooth yet energetic. The second …READ MORE

Black Pearl 97

The Black Pearl 97 borrows its sidecut and baseline from the unisex Bonafide 97, and purloins its Woman Specific Design (W.S.D.) from the Black Pearl 88. Two seasons ago, both of its parents upgraded to the TrueBlend core, that perfectly matches flex to shape and size, so naturally the Black Pearl 97 followed suit. Included in the W.S.D. package of enhancements is a Titanal mounting plate that improves, well, everything about the Pearl 97. It’s …READ MORE

Bonafide 97

The Blizzard Bonafide has been at or near the top of our All-Mountain West rankings since it burst on the scene over a decade ago. While it’s undergone four or five tweaks since its debut, its enduring excellence is due primarily to what hasn’t changed: the original Flipcore construction that removes all stress from the rocker/camber transition. As soon as the ski is pressured, the transition zone disappears and the full length of the ski …READ MORE

Brahma 82

Last season we opined in this space that this descendant of an off-trail brood looks out of place among carvers with an on-trail pedigree. Skis with a patently off-piste baseline have no business infiltrating the ranks of Frontside models, by definition the domain of deep sidecuts and highly arched camber lines. How does a ski whose Flipcore baseline is practically already bowing manage to mingle with the second cousins of true race skis? It still …READ MORE

Brahma 88

The Brahma 88 has been a mainstay of Blizzard’s freeride Flipcore collection since its lauded launch many moons ago. It has retained its relevance over time with a series of subtle refinements, without ever straying from its roots. It many ways, it is a perfectly balanced ski, built on the time-tested foundation of wood, metal and carbon. Part of its enduring popularity is that it will dance to whatever tune you want to play. It …READ MORE

Cochise 106

The Cochise 106 knows how it should be skied, even if you don’t. It’s well aware that it won’t be able to carve a short turn at minimal speed, so it keeps close to the fall line until it can shift into third. Once it reaches cruising speed, it dons its dancing shoes and shows just how indifferent to heinous crud a ski can be. The Cochise 106 is one of the few Big Mountain …READ MORE

Firebird HRC

The Blizzard Firebird HRC isn’t really a race ski – its dimensions run afoul of FIS regulations – but don’t tell it that. Despite its 76mm waist, the HRC thinks it belongs right between the Firebird WRC and Firebird SRC, Blizzard’s non-FIS GS and SL models, respectively. Please don’t get defensive, but if you don’t care for the HRC’s comportment, you may not be good enough for it. It uses bi-directional carbon weave both horizontally …READ MORE

Rustler 10

The Blizzard Rustler 10 wants you to look good, so it makes everything about off-trail skiing easier. There’s a long, central band of Titanal on the top to stabilize the ski underfoot while allowing the tip and tail to twist. The idea is to keep the tapered tip from getting involved with every obstruction it meets; instead of trying to hook up at the top of turn like a hard-snow-oriented ski is meant to do, …READ MORE

Rustler 9

The fraternal relationship between Blizzard’s two All-Mountain East entries, the elder brother Brahma 88 and its upstart sibling, the Rustler 9, encapsulates the contrasting cast of characters that populate this crossroads category. While both skis belong to off-trail families, their personalities couldn’t be more different than, well, two brothers. The Brahma 88 is the Type A personality that exudes strength and resolve. For a ski with a double-rockered baseline, it handles like a technical ski …READ MORE

Sheeva 10

Buttery. That’s the best single word for the Sheeva 10 and her plumper big sister, the Sheeva 11 ($820, 140/112/130). Four varieties of lightweight wood and a smidgeon of milled foam are sandwiched between layers of glass embedded with carbon stringers. The major juju that gives the Sheeva 10 her spine, literally and figuratively, is a top plate of Titanal that’s tailored for each size. It’s either a skimpy version of a sidewall-to-sidewall sheet of …READ MORE

Sheeva 9

Both the Sheeva 9 and the Black Pearl 88 are descendants of a line of off-trail parents; the template for the Pearl was the Brahma, the little brother of the mighty Cochise and Bodacious; the model for the Sheeva 9 was the Rustler 9, a spin-off of the Rustler 10 and 11. To better understand the nuances that distinguish the Pearl 88 from the Sheeva 9, it helps to understand the families they come from. …READ MORE

Thunderbird R15 WB

In the fat ski genres where Americans buy the vast majority of their skis, Blizzard is riding a decade-long hot streak. If you only look at skis over 85mm at the waist, it seems like Blizzard hasn’t missed a beat since the launch of its Flipcore baseline. But if you take a step back and look at the world market, there’s a category or two of carvers, skis meant to execute perfect, technical turns on …READ MORE