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2014-2015 Black Diamond Zealot, 192cm

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Black Diamond Zealot, Blister Gear Review

14/15 Black Diamond Zealot

Ski: 2014-2015 Black Diamond Zealot, 192cm

Dimensions (mm): 136-110-125

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 193.0cm

Sidecut Radius: 29 meters

BLISTER’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2,373 grams & 2,343 grams

Boots / Bindings: Nordica Enforcer / Marker Jester (DIN at 10)

Mount Location: +1

Days Skied: 12

Test Locations: Alta Ski Area, Alta sidecountry

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 12/13 Zealot, which is unchanged for 13/14 and 14/15, except for the graphics.]

The 182cm Black Diamond Zealot is one of my favorite skis of the past few years.

Although it has a very traditional GS-ski shape with minimal sidecut and rocker, the ski is surprisingly quick, energetic, balanced, and light. That particular ski allowed me to think about everything other than what my skis were doing (i.e., it was predictable), and felt fantastic in the air.

But ever since I rode those 182s over a year ago, I had been dying to try the 192cm Zealot. Black Diamond claims that while the 182 Zealot has a very playful side, the 192 is a no-holds-barred, powerful, big-mountain gun built for speed.

As I wrote in my 182 Zealot review, big, straight, metal-laden “charging” skis typically aren’t exactly my ski of choice. More often than not, I like to feel like a snowflake rolling down the mountain, not a bowling ball. But, every once in a while I can get a wild hair for making my eyes water and exploding moguls at 50-plus mph, and for those occasions, I was excited to step up to the 192 Zealot.

Groomers

With the longest useable edge length of any ski I’ve been on in quite some time, a larger sidecut radius, and a traditional (non-centered) mounting position, the 192 Zealot has been absolutely confidence inspiring—and a blast—on every groomer run. In fact, there is a strong correlation between the max speeds achieved while carving the ski as hard as possible, and the size of the smile plastered to my face.

Edge hold has been phenomenal, and I have felt very confident in the ski at speed—even on the sketchiest sections of ice—while cycling through Alta’s steepest groomers such as Extrovert, Collins Face, and Sugar Bowl.

Beyond the amazing edge hold, the Zealot also feels incredibly smooth at speed. Black Diamond uses two Titinal layers along with thin strips of rubber just over the Zealot’s edges, both of which I believe contribute to this calm feel while carving a turn on very firm snow.

Shorter, skidded turns on groomers are easy to perform, but when trying to make them quickly in succession, the ski does feel pretty labor intensive. Compared to many of today’s skis, the 192 Zealot is a big ski that feels like a big ski in this situation. The traditional (~10cm back from true center) recommended mounting position definitely affects the ski’s pivoting abilities because of the unbalanced feel of having a mile of tip out in front of the binding.

The 182cm Zealot, besides obviously being 10cm shorter, offered more tail rocker (proportionally, as the 192 being 10cm longer adds 5cm of tip rocker but none to the tail) and provided a much less demanding ride, with only a little loss in high-speed stability on groomers.

I did enhance the quick-turning abilities of the 192 a little by moving the bindings slightly ahead of the recommended line, but going farther forward than +1 caused a loss in some of the favorable characteristics in other terrain and snow conditions.

Also, while having a pretty large amount of camber, the Zealot still needs a fair bit of energy applied to the ski during turns in order to get much energy back when releasing the ski to the next turn. So on lower-angle pitches, transitions were difficult, while on steeper pitches, I could load the ski up enough to receive a little help from turn to turn.

In short, this is a 192cm, metal laminated, traditionally mounted GS ski. If you’re looking for an easy-going cruiser, I’d at the very least consider the 182 Zealot. If you want to feel uncomfortably comfortable at mach speed while arcing out long-radius turns, the 192 Zealot will be right up your ally.

Crud

Shallow crud is no match for the Zealot, as the ski mows down less then 8” of chop with great ease.

As a deep crud crusher however, the forebody of the 192 Zealot isn’t quite as powerful as I would like for carving through deep piles at speed, even while on the recommended mount line. This is not to say that the ski can’t handle this approach to deep-chop conditions, but they didn’t nearly provide the stability and rock-solid feel of a ski like the 185cm Blizzard Cochise.

When taking a more laid-back approach at slightly lower speeds and trying to smear medium- to long-radius turns, the result was a mixed bag of sensations. While the ski chomped over most piles smoothly and with little deflection, maintaining those lengthy smears required quite a bit of steering effort. The ski’s shape didn’t really complement this type of soft-snow, smeared turn. With its rather traditional tail shape (with the sidecut running nearly all the way to the tail) and minimal tail rocker, it prefers a less skidded approach and asks you to stick turns exactly where you want them, or carve.

Off-Piste Hardpack

Gnarly off-piste hardpack has turned out to be my greatest pleasant surprise with the 192 Zealot, especially in big, tight, hard moguls. The ski is surprisingly agile and provides a reasonably easy ride considering the ski’s size. I’ve found the ski does best in these conditions with speed kept well under control with quick and aggressive short turns. It doesn’t take much of a distraction for the Zealot to become a handful here, and it likes to be driven with an aggressive, forward stance. I’ve noticed if things do start to get a little loose, the best solution is to shut down speed with a quick, powerful braking maneuver rather than trying to bleed speed with a longer-radius turn.

In more openly spaced bumps and rolls, while still in hardpack, the Zealot feels comfortable lengthening out turns to a medium smear, but the ski doesn’t aid much in pulling through those turns (due to sidecut) or in adding energy to transitions (rebound).

When I really wanted to open things up on slightly smoother off-piste pitches, the Zealot started to break down, not feeling as strong through the forebody as I would have expected. This kept the ride feeling fairly bumpy, and kept me from putting complete trust in the ski. The early taper of the tips also seemed to reduce the Zealot’s performance here, adding a bit of unpredictability as the tips encountered random snow obstacles. Put simply, the ski just didn’t feel like it was on lockdown when put to the high-speed, off-piste test, as a ski like the Blizzard Cochise.

Air

I haven’t hit any sizable airs with the 192 Zealot, but straight airing the Zealot off 15-foot drops or so has felt very comfortable. Again, the long nose does make the ski feel a little heavy up front compared to many of the less directional skis I typically ride.

Black Diamond Zealot 192, Blister Gear Review

Jason Hutchins on the 192 Black Diamond Zealot, Alta Ski Area.

A lot of trust can be placed in the ski when putting down the landing gear. For someone my size, the strong tails and long front end provide a very stable landing pad, while the overall size of the ski and rocker profile make punching landings (followed by flipping out the front) a thing of the past.

Tricking the 192 is a bit of a chore—no surprise there. With the length of the ski and unbalanced swing weight, spinning requires a decent set of skills and some strength.

The 182 felt much more at home in this department, which again shouldn’t be a shocker, and definitely earns the “part semi-rockered play ski” in Black Diamond’s description of the Zealot.

 

2 Comments

  1. KC December 3, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for all the great reviews.

    I’m 5’11” 220 lbs Alta/Bird born and raised, (temporarily) living back east. Looking for a new ski with good edge hold for “managing” unavoidable east coast ice, but also be fun for anything in the Wasatch and Tetons. I have a pair of 188 Megawatt’s I love, so not concerned with deep snow performance. I enjoy attacking crud and groomers at speed but I’d rather be seeking stashes in the trees under gad2 and supreme. No park, no tricks. This will also be a touring ski, mounted with FT12.

    Skis that are on my radar (in order) include 192 Zealot, 190 Ritual, 185 Cochise. I’m a little concerned about the length of the Zealot. I haven’t skied anything that long since my 4×4 Big’s circa 2000. Except for skis 125+ underfoot, I’ve been primarily on traditional non-rockered skis between 185-188. With the additional rocker, can I expect the 192 Zealots to ski similarly in terms of length?

  2. Pika April 17, 2014 Reply

    Ok Jason,

    I like what I’m hearing in this review. But how does it stack up to the Moment Belafonte 192 as an everyday big mountain, crud busting, resort ski? Which would you rather have for most days skiing aggressive steep terrain, dropping cliffs, run-outs, trees when necessary and short side country boot packs– if you already had a powder board for days with a foot or more.

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