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2014-2015 Black Diamond Zealot, 182cm

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Black Diamond Zealot, Blister Gear Review

14/15 Black Diamond Zealot

Ski: 2014-2015 Black Diamond Zealot, 182cm

Dimensions (mm): 135-110-123

Turn Radius: 27 meters

Weight Per Ski: 2,300 grams / 5.10 lbs.

Mount Location: Factory Recommended

Boots / Bindings: Lange RX 130 / Marker Jester (DIN 10)

Test Location: Alta, A-Basin

Days Skied: 7

(Editor’s note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Zealot, which is unchanged for 12/13, 13/14, and 14/15. This review is also of the 182cm Zealot, not the 192cm Zealot, which has, according to Black Diamond, a tail that is “less rockered than the 182cm version.” Thanks to George, our reader in the UK who noted that we ought to underscore this difference between the 182 & 192. Good lookin’ out George, and good luck with the ACL rehab! )

The 12/13, 182cm Black Diamond Zealot has grown on me over the course of my time on it.

I’d never skied previous iterations of the Black Diamond Zealot, I just knew of its history as a pretty stiff comp ski.

What I find most surprising about the Zealot is that, while the ski itself has undergone quite an overhaul, nobody seems to have told the marketing department.

BD’s website says of the Zealot, “Part big-mountain gun, part semi-rockered play ski, the redesigned Black Diamond Zealot [is an] ultra-damp ski [and] is built using our new 3D Metal Sandwich construction-a sidewall-style layup with machined Titanal sheets for ultimate stability at speed.

Another website takes it a step further:

“You’ll appreciate the Zealot’s unmatched stability and enhanced durability as you embark on your mission to slay those big, intimidating lines…[it’s] rockered tip, [width] underfoot, and a semi-rockered tail deliver a supremely versatile freeride ski that gets up on edge just as well as it charges.”

Okay, let’s recap: “Part big-mountain gun”… “ultimate stability at speed”…“unmatched stability as you embark on your mission to slay those big, intimidating lines”…”supremely versatile freeride ski”…“gets up on edge just as well as it charges.”

Of all these statements, I would only be truly inclined to keep one (though I might drop the adverb and just say): the Black Diamond Zealot is a “versatile freeride ski.”

In my experience, versatility is the real story with the Zealot, not its mindblowing stability or its charging prowess; that’s the story of the old Zealot.

I think it makes more sense to center the conversation about the 11/12 Black Diamond Zealot around its attractiveness as a potential one ski quiver, rather than it’s uber stability and supreme chargitude. (Yes, chargitude. You may now officially use it next time you play Scrabble.)

And after a handful of days on the Zealot, and a little recalibration of my expectations, I came to like the Zealot quite a bit.

But this ski doesn’t charge crazy hard. In fact, and this isn’t normally the type of thing you’d want to hear about a ski designed to “slay those big, intimidating lines,” I really liked the Zealot as a bumps ski.

May 1st  at A-Basin, skiing beautiful slush bumps down the Gulch and through Exhibition was a blast, an easy blast. The Zealot has a forgiving tail and turns quick.

I really like the tail of the Zealot. It’s forgiving but stable, and it was much less prone to wheelie out than the rockered pintail of the Black Diamond Amperage. Actually, there was no wheelie effect on the Zealot at all.

On May 22nd at A-Basin, we did a series of laps that started by bombing down under the Montezuma chair, then continued into Log Roll for some steep trees and bumps. The Zealots were impressive. Lots of skis could handle either that top section or that bottom section, but it would be a much shorter list of skis that could handle both sections as well as the Zealot. (The Nordica Girish (139-110-129mm) and the MOMENT Belafonte (135-106-124mm) would have been more stable than the Zealot at the top, but less fun and more demanding on Log Roll.)

On another day, I skied back to back laps down the same line on Lower East Wall, first on the Amperage, then on the Zealot. As I mention in the Amperage review, when making fast, larger radius turns, I had to stay upright and centered, bases flat. I was getting bucked around a bit, and the tails didn’t feel very supportive. The Zealot’s tails were much more supportive, and the only issue I had was that the significant camber underfoot made it so that the skis didn’t always want to release out of a turn. Admittedly, the snow was pretty wet and heavy, which didn’t make things any easier, and that was really the only situation or conditions in which I experienced this “stuck” effect and felt that the ski was overly-cambered.

14 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    George September 14, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Another great review. Just when I think about buying this ski, up pops your review, great timing. I was a little surprised about your findings compared to other reports. My own research found the following which might explain that the 182cm Zealot is more versatile and user friendly/playful than the 192cm one:

    http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/uploads/black-diamond/files/F11_BD_Mounting_Specs.pdf

    Read the forward mounting Zealot section on page 2 (pdf so can’t copy and paste the text).

    Thanks a lot for all your reviews, great site, although spending far too much time on it, as recuperating from an ACL reconstruction.

    May I put in a request that you review the Movement Trust as soon as possible! :)

    Regards

    George

  2. Author

    Hey George, thanks for all the kind words, and special thanks for the suggestion that we ought to emphasize the difference between the 182 and 192. As you can see above, I’ve highlighted that and given credit where credit is due.

    To return the favor, I’ve contacted our managing editor about arranging for a test of the MOVEMENT Trust. We’ll get on it as soon as we can, but you better promise not to slack on the knee rehab. Get strong soon, George, and thanks again.

  3. Blister Member
    George September 17, 2011 Reply

    Thanks Jonathan. Really looking forward to the review of the 192cm Zealot and the Movement Trust.

    Thanks again.

    George

  4. Blister Member
    George September 17, 2011 Reply

    Looks like this guy was skiing in Las Lenas at the same time as you. Guess you might have seen him, or more likely heard him!!!

    http://lineskis.com/videos/#leo-t-shreds-las-lenas

  5. Adam September 26, 2011 Reply

    Great review Jonathan. Can you describe the differences between Nordica Girish and the Zealot? Do you prefer one over the other? I’ll be living at Alta/Bird this season and would like to have a two ski quiver for in the resorts… have Bent Chetlers and would like to add a good versatile all mountain ski for an intermediate/advance skier .
    Thanks,
    Adam

  6. Author

    Thanks, Adam.

    So, the 185 Girish vs. the 182 Zealot….I could actually see pairing either up with the Bent Chetlers, but a couple things: first, how much do you weigh? If you weigh much less than 160, I would be inclined to go Zealot. If you intend to ski bumps, I would go Zealot. The more you lean toward the intermediate side of “intermediate / advanced,” I would advise Zealot. (Keep in mind, however, that Jason Hutchins loves the Zealot, and the guy can shred – but he also only weighs 160 lbs….)

    But as you’ve read, I absolutely love the Girish: great crud ski (definitely better than the 182 Zealot), and extremely stable at speed. I want and need to get more time on the Girish, but I would probably give the nod to the Zealot in terms of versatility and the Zealot would likely be more forgiving than the Girish. You could go either. Personally, if I had to chose between the two for Alta/Bird, I’d take my chances with the Girish. BUT (1) without knowing your weight and (2) given what you say you’re looking for (“a good versatile all mountain ski for an intermediate/advanced skier”), the Zealot sounds like the pretty safe to very safe bet. Hope that helps, be sure to let us know what you decide to do and what you think of the ski.

  7. Adam September 26, 2011 Reply

    I’m 163lbs…no gear. I’m never sure how to classify myself….moved to Utah last year skied over 100 days last year skied everything in bounds at Alta/Bird maybe with the exception to a few of those cliff dropping shoots over by Supreme… I enjoy skiing fast but know when to appreciate good turns… I like dropping and want to learn to drop more confidently this year…. I’d say 1-12 feet drops are my my happy zone. I found a deal on 2010-2011 Girish ski but I’m not sure how different they are I herd they changed very little but then saw something online that said the rocker profile is different…which would make it big difference. I was all set on one of these two but now also considering the 2012 Blizzard Cochise into the mix as it seems to be getting rave reviews… Does anyone at Blister have an opinion on the Cochise?

  8. Author

    Yeah, Adam, several of us around here have an opinion of the Cochise: we really, really want to ski it. Bad. We’ve seen some of the rave reviews, too, but people rave about everything on the interwebz….

    And just to clear up the confusion, I received confirmation from Nordica that the only difference between the 10/11 and the 11/12 Girish is cosmetic – which is a good thing. Hopefully, they’ll just leave that ski alone.

  9. Sam February 28, 2012 Reply

    You mentioned size being an issue for the zealot. I’m 6’6″ and 265. Intermediate with advanced aspirations who is looking for a versatile ski that will help me with nose dive on powder. Was set on the zealot until I read weight concerns.

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts you may share.

    • Author

      Hi Sam – zero chance that you ought to be on the 182 Zealot, especially if you don’t want tip dive. I’m not sure exactly how versatile you need this ski to be (would this be your only ski?), but the 188cm 11/12 Megawatt is the ski the jumps to mind (see my review). I also think the 192 Zealot might be an option, but we are still waiting to ski it.

      I’d also encourage you to take a look at the our review of the ON3P 191 Caylor, a really fun ski that isn’t a total noodle.

      And if you don’t need this ski to excel at hardpack performance, the 196cm Praxis Protest would be a ton of fun for you. Just some thoughts. (I’ll have my review of the Protest up in a few days.)

  10. Mike O September 26, 2012 Reply

    Hey guys, thanks for an awesome review! I guess I have another “hey what ski do you think would be best for me skiing place X” question. Sorry if it is repetitive, but you guys seem to have a good knowledge base with these skis.

    This season I will be skiing CO at most likely Copper or Winter Park, with about 50% being inbounds at those resorts, and 50% being in the backcountry. My backcountry/touring will be limited to shorter tours and hikes along Berthoud & Loveland. I was looking to stay within the BD line, and am considering both the Zealot (182/192) and Amperage (185). A few seasons ago I had a pair of JJ’s in 185 and really enjoyed skiing them. Wondering if you guys had an opinion on which ski would be suited to the type of skiing I would be doing.

    Some specs about me: 6′ around 200 lbs (so the 182 zealot seems a tad small) and won’t be ripping huge big mountain lines (as much as I’d like to). Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks guys!

  11. Will C February 27, 2013 Reply

    Jonathan,

    Hey, I was wondering whether or not you have skied the Surface Live Life/Free? Seems to me like the Zealots and Live Life/Frees are pretty similar skis, but was wondering if you had any input. Thanks.

    Also, I thoroughly enjoyed your review, keep up the good work.

    Will

  12. Brett December 24, 2013 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    I greatly appreciate what you do with this site – the Blister team does a great job. Right now I am looking for my next ski. I am 5’10” 155 and spend most of my time at squaw valley. The MOMENT belafonte and BD Zealot are at the top of my list, and any feedback you have is appreciated.

    I love to ski bumps. I would say a slight majority of the day I am in the bumps, so nimble and somewhat forgiving is important to me. But I also love speed. When I am not in the bumps, I am trying to drop anything I can up to 12 feet, and I am trying hard to tear up the mountain by cutting through any snow condition thrown at me while going fast. In some cases I look for technical terrain as well. I also am in the 100-110 under foot category for sufficient floatation on deeper days.

    My concern is the trade off between stiffness and maneuverability. Do I go with the stiffer belafontes? How much maneuverability am I really giving up? At the same time, how much chargitude does the zealot really give up? You say that the belafontes has far more chargitude, but do the zealots still get the job done and then some? For what it’s worth, I’ve been skiing on 179 Line Prophet 90’s for the last 4-5 yrs. Thank you and have fun this season.

    Brett

  13. jpd February 2, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jonathan and Jason
    I finally ended up buying a pair of Zealot 182 2012 as a replacement to my broken Howitzer. I was going for the cochise but found an excellent deal on the Zealot (30% less than the Cochise at a good price).
    At first I shall say I find your reviews of both the howitzer and zealot as totally matching my views of both skis. I was just unsure on how the zealot were doing in winter snow as both your reviews were late in the season.
    On your reviews there is no direct comparison between the howitzers and the zealots, so I’ll add my 2 pence.
    I am almost the same height/weight of Jonathan, just a little lighter and a less good skier:-), of course. Guess I am an expert skier.
    Zealot and Howitzer have a very similar camber profile, but the tip of the Howitzer is a bit stiffer and the tail slightly larger. The howitzers are also a bit lighter, with no titanal. Comparing the mount position, the howitzer is 3 cm back with respect of the zealot. And by the way comparing them the 182 zealot is basically the same lenght of the 186 howitzer.
    I tried the zealot only in dense powder (40 cm), chop (from the tracked powder to the wasted powder), bumps, steep spaced trees, narrow trees.
    I found the Howitzer better in untracked or deeper powder and better at landings, only slighly better in chop. The Howitzer is also way way better looking, of course.
    The Zealot is quite stable at speed (maybe bit less than the howitzer, but cannot say fir sure), but extremely quick and more playful and in tight tŕees or in narrow steep spots you can make very quick changes at very little effort. From the little piste I did, the Howitzer felt also better at pure carving, but with a more rail-like feel than the zealot, which seems to be easier to change radius while carving.so basically, the Zealot is very manoevrable and for me is very fun as it changes way quicker than the Howitzer.
    It looks like I found the good replacement to my beloved Howitzers at least here in Prali, Italy as the Zealot are more adapted to this place (which I guess may resemble Taos a bit, but smaller).
    Anyway, your site has no competition in the quality reviews. Thumbs up, I keep recommending it!

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