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2016-2017 Blizzard Zero G 95

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Blizzard Zero G 95 for Blister Gear Review

Blizzard Zero G 95

Ski: 2016-2017 Blizzard Zero G 95, 185 cm

Available Lengths (cm): 164, 171, 178, 185

Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 183.2 cm

Stated Dimensions (185 cm): 128-95-111.5 mm

Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 127.5-93.5-111

Stated Weight per Ski (185 cm): 1350 grams (+/-50 grams)

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1353 & 1376 grams

Stated Sidecut Radius (185 cm): 22 meters

Core Construction: Paulownia + Carbon Fiber Sheet + Fiberglass Laminate

Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered): 51 mm / 11 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: 4-5 mm

Recommended Line: -10.6 cm from center; 81.0 cm from tail

Mount Location: Recommended Line

Boots / Bindings: Salomon MTN Explore / Marker Kingpin 13

Test Location: Mt Hood, Oregon

Days Skied: 2

The Blizzard Zero G 95 comes in at a very impressive sub-1400 grams per ski in a 185 cm length. We posted our Flash Review of the Zero G 95 with our initial impressions a few weeks ago, and it’s time now to round out those impressions.

Flex Pattern

The ski is pretty stout. It’s a directional, lightweight ski with a backbone. I’d sum up it’s flex pattern like this:

Tips: 7 out of 10

Underfoot: 10

Tails: 8 or 9

And given it’s set back mount point, it’s fair to call this ski pretty traditional — except for that whole part about coming in at 1350 grams in a 185 cm length.

Also, the construction of this ski looks and feels impressive. We’ve skied far heavier skis (i.e., 600+ grams heavier) that don’t feel this well put together.

So, so far so good.

On the Snow

Unsurprisingly, these go uphill nicely. At ~1350 grams per ski, I found it less about how noticeably light the ski feels feels compared to the other touring skis I’m often on (Volkl BMT 109, Line Sick Day Tourist 102, G3 FINDr 102), it’s probably just that I feel a bit fresher, longer.

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Blizzard Zero G 95 for Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Blizzard Zero G 95, Mount Hood, OR.

So think of it as far more of a cumulative thing than an “every step” kind of thing.

(Having said that … those of you walking uphill on a 2000+ gram ski and a frame-style binding will almost certainly notice an ‘every step’ kind of difference.)

— Day 1 —

We dropped in pretty late in the day, and the snow was extremely slushy. This was the very definition of “isothermal snow,” – i.e., bottomless slush, and it feels a bit like skiing in sand. When the snow gets like this, width and minimal traditional camber underfoot and maximal tip rocker and tail rocker typically make a ski easier to release, and the Zero G 95 isn’t really any of those things. And the Zero G 95 didn’t kill it in this stuff.

But some important context: reviewer Cy Whitling was with me, and he was skiing on the Kitten Factory All Mountain (~2000 g per ski) + G3 ION 12 + Fischer Trans Alp boot … and even though the All-Mountain is a 105mm-wide ski with more tail rocker, he wasn’t having a much easier time than me. This snow was tricky, and in such conditions, I would have preferred to be skiing the Zero G 95 on firm / variable conditions. I think I would have had an easier time.

Then again, I doubt that many of you will regularly be skiing in snow that is that grabby and unsupportive.

And then … we got back down to Hood’s groomers, and that was equally interesting.

These were 4pm groomers, and Timberline was already closed. So the slopes were empty, and the snow had been pushed around all day long. But there was a much more supportive & firm base under that layer of slush. And I was very impressed by how solid the Zero G 95 felt on edge. I was able to lay these skis over, and they felt very laterally stiff and solid. I was nuking down the groomers, and began to scare myself a bit by the speed – not because the ski was falling apart, but because I hadn’t skied here before and I wasn’t sure if I was about to go carving hard through some massive ice chunks or what have you.

— Day 2 —

I was bonking pretty hard on the skin up Mt. Hood. Two pretty bad blisters had formed & opened up while climbing Hood the day before, and that wasn’t helping anything. Also, the snow hadn’t solidified the night before, so we were still skinning up isothermal snow (again, think deep sand that gives way as you try to skate up it.)

Jonathan Ellsworth reviews the Blizzard Zero G 95 for Blister Gear Review

Jonathan Ellsworth on the Blizzard Zero G 95, Mt. Hood, Oregon.

But mostly, this just felt like one of those days where you don’t have it, so I’m certainly glad that I wasn’t dragging a heavier setup uphill.

We’d hoped to summit Hood today, but by the time we got to Crater Rock, everything above it had socked in hard. So we hung out for a bit, took in the great views down below, and headed down.

The turns down just skier’s right of Crater Rock were very good, and combination of the Zero G 95 + Kingpin binding + MTN Explore boot very much felt like the right tool for the job.

With a ski this light, it’s a good thing when the snow provides the suspension, and this snow did. I was able to rip medium to large turn shapes easily, and the Zero G 95 felt very composed.

Granted, this is soft snow and easy-going terrain. But if these are the sort of conditions and terrain you tend to ski in — and if you tend to have relatively long approaches — well, I can at least say that I would very happily be reaching for this Zero G 95 + Kingpin combo.

As we got closer to the top of the Palmer Chair , the snow turned into the dreaded spring glue, that very sticky, grabby stuff where a heavy, wide ski with a lot of tip and tail rocker tends to work best (at least, in my experience).

So again, nothing about the design of the Zero G 95 sets it up to excel in such conditions, but let’s recap what we’ve found so far:

This 185 cm ski comes in at ~1350 grams.

(1) In decent — not perfect, but in even “decent” softer snow — this ski performed very well.

(2) In spring slush with a fairly firm layer below it (the previous day’s groomer), I could arc and carve this ski with a lot of speed and power.

(3) In grabby, hot, spring snow, this ski didn’t feel any better than any other lighter touring ski I’ve been on.

NEXT: Three Questions

11 Comments

  1. Aaron May 22, 2016 Reply

    Seems I’m the only one excited for this upcoming review. Thanks nevertheless for always being on top of great new products. Eager to hear how these might stack up against other superlight mid-90’s waist touring options like the Salomon MTN 95, Scott Superguide 95, Dynastar Mythic…

  2. Brent May 24, 2016 Reply

    Very helpful review, thanks. I’m still getting the hang of my pair as well. I went with the 178cm size (I’m 6’0”, 175lbs) to maximize the uphill utility since I assumed the downhill would be uhh, lightweight. I wanted it to be an uphill monster and at least predictable on the down, and I think it meets that. Turns out they do pretty darn well on firm stuff, no major lack of stability noticed at moderate speed, just maybe a little more prone to tip dive while testing at, coincidentally, Mt. Hood in some variable wintry stuff in April. I’m curious how much the 185s would add to the downhill experience for me. Anyway, I was hoping these would compare more to the dearly departed Kabookie than the Bonafide, but they have their own character and are not quite as confident on the downhill, no surprise of course with the large weight difference. I wish they had not discontinued the Kabookie, absolutely classic ski. Now that’s a 50/50 ski. Killed the resort, light enough for most touring days, an all conditions masterpiece. Zero G 95 summary thoughts: low weight to width ratio, stout flex and feel, medium ski performance, very high ski performance to weight ratio. Its a good quiver ski.

    • Author

      Thanks for the feedback, Brent. Sounds like we largely agree. And yes, interesting re: the 178 vs. the 185. For what it’s worth — the Bonafide that I love is the 180 cm. (I haven’t yet skied the 187.) But I think a big reason why I’m happy with the 180 Bonafide (when I tend to opt for skis in the 185 – 190 range), is because it *isn’t* a light ski. For me (and as a rough generalization) I can get away with a shorter ski when it’s a heavier ski. So on the flip: the lighter the ski, the less interested I am in giving up length. And there’s no question that I’m trying to preserve as much downhill performance as possible, so on a ski this light, I’m not trying to cut both weight AND length. Who knows, my position on this may change over time — perhaps when my touring consistently involved longer, faster approaches. But that is simply to say that I’d then be placing more of a premium on going uphill than going downhill…

      • zjh May 25, 2016 Reply

        There is one significant reason for going shorter on a ski like this: swing weight and wind area when they’re A-framed on your pack while you’re climbing.

        Also: it makes no sense to use ski that light with such a heavy binding. Something like the Superlight 2.0, Hagan ZR, ATK Raider, etc makes the most sense, but even switching to a Speed Turn would save you over 850 g on the setup (that’s like 1.8 POUNDS).

        • Author

          (1) I’m not sure that dropping from a 185 to a 178 (the lengths we’re discussing here) would count as a “significant reason” / create a significant difference, but I see your point.

          (2) ZJH: “it makes no sense to use ski that light with such a heavy binding.”

          From my comment above yours: “there’s no question that I’m trying to preserve as much downhill performance as possible, so on a ski this light, I’m not trying to cut both weight AND length. Who knows, my position on this may change over time — perhaps when my touring consistently involved longer, faster approaches. But that is simply to say that I’d then be placing more of a premium on going uphill than going downhill…”

          I think I’ve laid out pretty clearly what I’m going for in this setup. We’re going to be talking more about this soon, but for all sorts of reasons, just because you’re on a light ski doesn’t mean that it “makes no sense” to pair with a heavier binding. Granted, I’m not recommending a frame-style binding for the Zero G 95, but there are a number of questions and factors to consider before saying that something doesn’t make sense. Some degree of mixing and matching (boots, bindings, skis, skins, etc.) isn’t something that makes no sense, it’s something that, what? 90+ % (?) of skiers are doing every day, and for good reasons.

          In this case, the Zero G 95 is light. But I’m also interested in maximizing downhill performance, even at the expense of some weight. And I’m not yet ready or willing to assume that all (or any?) of the bindings you’ve named go downhill as well as — or even nearly as well as – a Kingpin. You (and others) might care to keep the total weight of your setup down to XXXX grams. Cool. But I’m willing to go a bit heavier for a tech binding that still goes uphill well, and is possibly the best *downhill* tech binding out there. That makes sense; no part of me thinks that a Superlight 2.0 on a Zero G 95 will go downhill as well as / indistinguishably from a Kingpin.

  3. Blister Member
    Michael May 25, 2016 Reply

    I’ve skied the 178 Blizzard Zero G 95s this spring in a number of conditions and I’ve found them to be excellent touring skis, especially for spring season.

    I’m 5’10” about 175-180 lbs. Mostly using these skis with Dynafit TLT6P boots, mounted with tech bindings. I’ve used them once with the beefier Scarpa Maestrale RS. I ski in the Sierra in CA. I’ve had these skis in really good corn, sloppy corn, not quite softened corn, steep chalk, horrible frozen sh*t snow with lots of refrozen tracks, manky snow with lots of refrozen debris, smooth dust on crust, and even deep pow. They’ve been in pretty steep terrain up to 45 degrees or so.

    I think these skis rock. For the weight, they perform remarkably well. That’s the thing with these skis. I wouldn’t ever compare them to a ski like the Bonafide (besides the waist widths and manufacturer). For the record the Bonafide is my primary inbounds ski. They won’t deal with poor snow nearly as well. But for the weight, they are tremendously capable.

    Going up is obviously a breeze. The light weight is awesome. Breaking trail in really deep pow can be a bit of a challenge with the low tip rise (they want to submarine more than a ski with a lot of tip rise), but that’s my only complaint on the up.

    Going down they are a lot of fun. They’re stable at speed, reasonably damp for the weight, and are just a blast in corn. Easy to turn but not hooky. Above average in breakable crust for this waist width. Jump turns in steep terrain are SO easy with the light weight, and the edge grip is outstanding. An awesome steep skiing tool.

    In really deep pow they performed OK (this was pretty heavy, deep, and slightly wind effected Sierra pow in flat light, so not exactly hero snow). Obviously a fatter ski with more rocker would float better and be less work. They were average here. But I’m sure they’ll ski boot top blower fine – what ski doesn’t? And in the worst snow conditions (fairly steep refrozen tracked out snow that hadn’t softened one bit) they got bucked around, but I wouldn’t expect a ski of this weight to just plow through this snow and smooth it out. It’s always a compromise with the weight. But again, the performance you get at this weight is hard to beat.

    I wouldn’t consider them a resort ski at all. If you want a 50/50 ski I’d personally look at a heavier ski. Also, if you primarily tour in mid-winter for soft snow, I’d look at a fatter more rockered ski. But for spring touring & ski mountaineering, these are a top choice IMO. I think many dedicated backcountry skiers will have a mid winter touring ski and a spring ski. This fits the spring quiver slot very nicely.

    Durability has been fine. Just a few light base scratches. They seem stout & well made. Topsheets have been holding up nicely.

    I’ve skied the Volkl BMT 94 quite a bit as well. I’d say the Volkl is just a hair better on the down in all categories (more damp & stable, also a bit better float) while the Zero G is better on the up (lighter and the camber makes skinning easier IMO). Obviously the Zero G is much cheaper, about half the price, which makes it a tremendous value. I’ve also had a few days on the Dynastar Mythics. Not enough to really say for certain, but it’s also a very good ski. Mythic skis pow better than the Zero G with that big tip rocker. Zero G seems to have a slight edge in steep terrain & edge grip, but it’s too early to say for certain. All 3 are great skis and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Haven’t skied the Salomon MTN explore 95 but it sounds like it’s also a great choice in this category.

  4. Ujkadule May 27, 2016 Reply

    Thank you for a very informative review.The crazy question that I asked regarding Bonafide was because in the review of big brother Zero G 108 there was always line drawing with the Cochise(which again is a big brother of Bonafide).I was very curious if the smaller cousins are comparable in the same way as the bigger ones…after your review it seems that they are not at all.Thanks again for clearing that up.

    • Author

      That makes sense, Ujkadule – and it is a point worth doubling back on: Blizzard didn’t attempt to go crazy light on the Zero G 108, but instead decided to make a *relatively* beefy touring ski. On the Zero G 95, however, they did decide make a much lighter ski, so the discrepancy between the Zero G 108 & the Cochise is less pronounced than the Zero G 95 and the Bonafide. So yeah, not such a crazy question after all…

  5. TKyle May 27, 2016 Reply

    Strongly considering the ZeroG 95 and the new Kastle TX 98 as a long day/spring touring ski for next season. Kastle is a little heavier but I’m guessing might ski a little better in fimer conditions. Anyone been able to compare the these two?

  6. Patrick November 16, 2016 Reply

    Very interesting read.. I have also purchased and read your 2016/17 buyers guide as I I’m looking for a 50/50 resort/touring telemark NTN one ski set-up. Best compromise between lightness and downhill performance in all conditions.

    Right now I’m considering but hesitating between either the Zero G 95 or MTN Explore 95 but you don’t really talk if your article could also apply to telemark… So first since May have you skied and compare back to back those two like you wanted to do, do you have an update on that?

    I would install a pair of Meidjo 2.0 and ride NTN. I’m not tall and not heavy but I can charge and go fast. I’m 165cm, the Zero G is 164cm and Salomon is 169cm. I think you have a telemark expert in your team don’t you? So what are you thoughts as to witch one would be better for the set-up I want?

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