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2nd Look: 2014-2015 Black Diamond Zealot

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: +1

Boots / Bindings: 2012 Dalbello Il Moro T Comp (28) / Marker Jester (DIN 10)

Test Location: Alta, Snowbird, Wasatch backcountry

Days Skied: 6

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Zealot, which is unchanged for 12/13, 13/14, and 14/15. You can also read my review of the 192 Zealot here.]

When I first looked at the new Black Diamond offerings for 2012, my attention was first drawn to the new Amperage, not the redesigned Zealot. Honestly, skis with very little side-cut and more metal than most modern day cars such as Dynastar’s XXL’s, Salomon’s El Dictator, or Rossi’s RC112 just don’t appeal to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to take a few laps every day and mach, but I feel like skis designed solely for this purpose (of going wicked fast and straight) are too one-dimensional for my taste. I like to play with a mountain, not feel like I’m trying to beat it up.

With that being said, you can understand when a company comes out talking up a ski’s “charging” abilities, my blood doesn’t exactly start racing. Well, like Jonathan said in his review of the Black Diamond Zealot, this ski is far from one-dimensional.

First things first, I have only been able to ride the 182 version up to this point, and I haven’t really had them in optimal conditions for ski testing. I first rode the Zealot on Alta’s closing weekend, then again on Snowbird’s closing day, and finally on a couple backcountry forays in mid July (um, those skis might need a stone grind). Conditions I ran into were obviously very spring-like: heavy and deep mashed potatoes, early morning chicken-heads, delicious 2” deep corn, and various sized sun cups.

In all of these conditions, I was nothing but impressed with the new Zealot.

I remember the first run I took on the skis. We traversed out the High T at Alta and dropped into Stone Crusher. I stayed skier’s left and made a combination of sweeping GS turns in and out of the huge snow rollovers, then transitioned to quick slalom turns through the small trees all the way to the bottom.

I had been skiing on a more “fun” shaped, softer ski earlier in the day, and skiing felt more like work than play in the heavy snow conditions. But now on the Zealot, I had a huge smile on my face. This ski was fun, lively, stable…and quick! I would even call it playful.

From that first run forward, my opinion of the ski never really changed. The Zealots shredded zipper line moguls, felt stable opening up and laying trenches on open faces filled with heavy crud, and were just an all around good time to ride. So instead of being redundant and repeating most of what Jonathan wrote in his review of the Zealot, I’ll just try to add to it.

Jason Hutchins, Suicide Couloir, Wasatch backcountry.

I’m sure there are some people reading these reviews whose hearts are sinking a bit, because they want that super burly “just point it” ski. To them I say, don’t lose hope yet. Remember, both Jonathan and I have only ridden the 182 version of the ski. At 160 lbs., I am quite a bit lighter than Jonathan, and this ski was plenty stable for me at any speed in the conditions I was able to ski them in. I’m sure that if it was mid-season and I was skiing in 3+ feet of cut-up pow, I’d be asking for the 192s. But for the conditions I had them in, I was never asking for more.

If you want to “charge,” these will take you there. If you are a big dude, get the 192 Zealots—it’s what you should be on anyway for big-mountain lines at high speed.

 

20 Comments

  1. Blister Member
    George September 25, 2011 Reply

    “The Sickle has become my new personal favorite, and the reference ski I’ll use to compare all other skis in the tip and tail rockered, +/- 110mm category.” – Jason Hutchins

    Does the Zealot top the Sickle and become your new reference ski in this category???

  2. Author
    Jason September 26, 2011 Reply

    At this time I can’t say that. Like I said in my review I have only been able to get a few days on the Zealot and they were all in the late spring. I was fortunate enough to ride the Sickle in just about every snow condition possible and I can honestly say I could use it every single day and be happy. I do have a good feeling in the similarities and differences in the skis so if you are interested in them and you tell me the type of skiing you like to do, where you are skiing, your size and any other relevant info, I can give you my recommendation as to what I feel would work best for you.

  3. Waldo Perez September 29, 2011 Reply

    Hello I am from Chile and I have Rossignol S3 2012 and I feel that it needs flotation. I am thinking to change to a larger ski and after seeing the revisions of the sickle, it has interested me, but not if one adapts to my type of ski, I need support for the election. I measure 6,1 (1,87 ms) and 186 weight lbs (85kg) I ski everywhere, I ski at average speeds I do not like to race, I prefer to play in the snow, small jumps I am not of freestyle. I ski 70 off piste and 30 on groomers. Thanks for the support.
    Pardon my English Sldos

  4. Hi Waldo, tu ingles es mejor que mi espanol! I’ve put a lot of days on the s3 and a few days on the Sickle. If you have the opportunity to trade your s3s for the Sickle, DO IT. For 70% off piste / 30% groomers, you’ll be glad you did.

  5. Waldo Perez October 4, 2011 Reply

    I have the option to change my Rossignol S3. I sent,them to a ski factory and damaged the bases when they applied wax to them, apparently too much temperature of waxed. They responded to me as it corresponds and the next year they give back the ski to me, possibly if I cancel the difference and the sickle follows in production by Rossignol I see the possibility of acquiring the sickle. It is not spoken more. I go by the sickle for the next season. Thanks for its commentary

  6. Eric October 20, 2011 Reply

    I’ve been following your website since last winter and really appreciate the details of your reviews.

    I used to have a pair of the old Rossi Steeze and loved them but sold them to buy armada JJ’s which have become my daily driver(i ski at kirkwood and sierra backcountry). I really love them most days. but found the tips diving on the uber deep days we saw last year. Bought some Hellbents to solve that problem. The other place I’m not that fond of the JJs is in hard, chopped up crud. In those conditions they seem to deflect alot like when straightlining out of a chute into week old chopped up hard snow. So I’ve been thinking of going to a ski with metal for days when it’s hard pack and hasn’t snowed in some time. Just like George, I’ve been considering the Sickle and the Zealot based on your reviews of these two skis. Other skis I was considering were the belefonte, cochise, and katana. I’m looking for a ski that can handle the hard crusty sierra cement but still cater to my style of skiing. mostly playful.

    Me: 30’s 5’8″ 145 lbs. I used to like the park but now hardly ever go there. I ski moderate to fast in general, always looking for features to play off or jump off, chutes, steeps, trees, etc.
    current skis: pow 189 hellbents, all-round 185 armada jjs, groomer 178 rossi scratch BC(old S5) all mounted with dukes a little more centered than recommended.

    So what do you think sensei? what would you recommend?

  7. Author
    Jason October 21, 2011 Reply

    Here’s my 2 cents. From the skis you mentioned I have skied the Sickle and Zealot, and though I have not ridden the Belefonte I have been on both the 182 and 192 Garbones which are beefed up versions of the Belefonte shape. The Cochise looks like it is going to be a great ski and I can’t wait to get on it, but I can’t really say much more about it. With your size I know that any of the skis you have listed are going to be better in hard snow over what you currently have. Here is what I can offer you in comparing the 3 skis I know. The Sickle will be the most playful while still being able to punch though debris and handle some speed, it does not deflect in chop but it does have the shortest sidecut of the 3 so straight-lining on a flat base won’t be it’s strongest attribute. The Zealot is light and snappy enough to be super playful, but still burly enough (especially for your size) to point it in some rough stuff. It is much more of a directional ski both in its sidecut profile and rocker profile, if you rarely ski backwards this is my number 1 pic for you. I would recommend reading the Belefonte’ reviews on our site to get better opinions of that ski. As I’ve said, I have only skied the Garbone, but I just didn’t like how the sidecut and rocker worked together on that ski. It just felt a bit off to me. Maybe the softer flexing Belefonte works better, like I said it would make more sense to read the other reviews on that one.

    Hope this helps Eric, like I said, I don’t think you will be going totally wrong with any of the skis you have mentioned. My pics of the ones I’ve beeon on for you would be
    1:Zealot
    2:Sickle

    • Eric October 21, 2011 Reply

      Thanks for your input Jason. I did read the review on the Belafonte and they sounded like a good option. I was thinking of throwing dynafits on the Zealots and using it as my BC ski. Based on your impression I may end up using it just as much inbounds. Thanks again.

  8. Benski July 11, 2012 Reply

    I think BD mis-states the actual weight of these skis. I weighed them in at around 4.9 lbs/ski.

  9. Lars August 6, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for a good and interesting review. I’m thinking of buying the zealot 11/12. But my weight is only 128lbs (height: 5’8”) so I’m wondering if the skiis will be too big / demanding. My ski level is quite high, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert. I like playful skiing off piste but do rarely ski in very high speed. Usually ski 50% powder and 50% hardpacked. Until now I have been skiing the Rossi B3 ’07, but I’m now on the look for a pair of skis that will do better off piste. What do you think?

    • Author
      Jason September 15, 2012 Reply

      It sounds like the 182 Zealot would work for you, though they maybe a little work in difficult conditions or tight spots. I don’t want to steer you away from a great ski, BUT you should check out the Rossignol Sickle, and Praxxis MVP. Both of those models come in slightly shorter sizes (better for your size), and can handle anything you want to throw at them.

  10. Friedrich December 24, 2012 Reply

    hey! I am thinking about getting a pair of zealots but am not sure if i should go for the 192s or the 182s because I am pretty big ( 6’3”) but also pretty light ( 150 lbs). any tips? the black diamond weight recommendation tells me i should go for the 182s..

    thanks for the help!

    • Author
      Jason January 16, 2013 Reply

      Friedrich,
      Unless you are a very strong and aggressive skier and want to go straight and fast, at your weight I think you will be most satisfied with the 182.

  11. Supra February 10, 2013 Reply

    Jason,

    After reading your review I pulled the trigger and purchased the 182cm BD Zealot and couldn’t be happier. This is an incredibly versatile and playful ski. I paired mine with the Salomon Guardian AT binding. It makes for an impressive back/slack country setup that performs equally well in the resort.
    Thanks again.

    Can’t wait for your 192cm review.

    • Author
      Jason February 11, 2013 Reply

      Supra,
      Glad to hear you’re enjoying the Zealot. I definitely believe it’s one of the more underrated skis out there. I’ve finally got my hands on the 192’s, so you can look forward to an update in a couple weeks!

  12. Matt May 1, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for the great review! How do you think this ski would compare to, say, the G3 Manhattan 185’s? I’m skiing a mix of powder, sierra cement, and variable conditions around Tahoe, looking for a touring ski that can have some agility on steep, tight lines if necessary.

  13. Dave December 12, 2013 Reply

    Down to two skis, 3 choices (all 2013/2013 skis). The BD Zealot in 182 or 192 or Blizzard Bodacious in a 186cm. I am 6’0 185 with a backcountry set-up on G3 Saints and currently no other skis. Want to be able to run fast on the harder snow days and be able to chase the kids into the tighter trees/bumps. Would enjoy any perspectives.

    Thanks

  14. Blister Member
    Jack g March 16, 2014 Reply

    These are crazy cheap online right now (at several sites.) Tempted to pick up a pair just cuz.

  15. Holly August 19, 2014 Reply

    Thanks so much for all the work on these reviews! Definitely the most helpful site I’ve visited.

    I’m not sure where to go with this – I love everything I’ve read about the Zealot and would love to pick up a 2012/2013 pair on sale for this season. I’m 5’8″ 130 ish though and I’m not sure how I’d ski on a 182. I’m an advanced/expert skier, ski Alta/Snowbird, and currently ride an old (2008?) pair of K2 Apache Raiders around 170 cm. I’ve skied the whole mountain on these guys, but I’ve definitely had to work harder to ski the way I want to with them. Any thoughts on women riding Zealots and if this might be too much ski for me? Or any suggestions of similar skis that would give me the same kind of experience but could be better for my size?

    Thanks again!

  16. Blister Member
    Tim March 22, 2015 Reply

    Jason,
    I apologize for placing a Sickle question in the Zealot review, but I think it could be relevant. I loved your review of the 186 ’11/’12 Sickle and spent many months scouring the Internet trying to find a pair. They are gone. Impossible to find. So, I settled for a pair of 181 ’12/’13 Sickles. I absolutely love them! They are a true one-ski-quiver for me (a 5’10” 180lbs. intermediate/advanced skier skiing Midwest with yearly trips west). Even these are becoming rare, so my question is: are there any current skis that come close to the ’11/’12 Sickles in your opinion? I bought the Sickles blind, based on your review, so I value your thoughts on currently available skis. Thanks for your time,
    Tim

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