THE NEXT LEVEL
It’s an age-old cliché to say that all good things must come to an end. But in the psyche of Level 1...
Words: Matt Coté
Blizzard Skis knows how to rock.
It might not be the first thing you’d think about the Austrian brand whose previously piste-y image has dogged them through various phases of re-invention—but I’m telling you, these folks know how to party, and so do their skis.
You know how we know? They proved it.
In late January, Blizzard invited some of the top thinkers and tinkerers in the industry to come bare witness to their new freeride collection at Alta, Utah. And of course, we at Forecast were front and centre, representing Canada in denim tuxedos by night, and mixing mettle with Blizzard’s best athletes and innovators by day.
The last decade’s seen Blizzard grab the freeride world by the scruff of its hairy neck and force it into submission. Case in point: the reigning Freeride World Tour World Champion, Blizzard athlete Loic Collomb Patton. But Blizzard’s skis have also wooed over all sorts of powerhouses. Amongst them for this festival of shred was Warren Miller alumnus Marcus Caston, fresh MSP Films recruit Connery Lundin, and world-class edge-setter Claire Brown (who helped shape the new women’s line), to name a few.
The days played out as an elongated jam session on Alta’s chalky slopes, matching turns with designers and marketers. Of special note, all the Bizzard big wigs could give the pro athletes a run for their money, which lends insight into why they make skis the way they do. Under glorious bluebird skies, an overflowing inventory of freeride planks got passed around amongst testers like a ski-town speed-dating event. The takeaway, dear friends, is that these are skis for skiers. That might seem redundant, so let me be clearer: these are skis for skiers! They’re for people who drive their edges and have strong technical backgrounds, crave speed, power, and in some cases, combined with a measure of playfulness. The company’s not shy to admit this; on the contrary, they’re proud. As global product manager Michele Botteon noted, “These skis are designed to return every bit of energy you put into them.”
Within the fold of that mandate is Blizzard’s women-to-women initiative. The company brought the strongest ladies they could find to South America, and together came up with a lineup of skis according their exact desires. They followed this approach down to the graphics, whose pearly appeal can’t be denied, whatever chromosome you carry. Jack Sparrow would be proud, as the Black Pearl remains one the company’s top performing and most popular skis.
By the time the whole “test” was over, somewhere between 50 and 60 of us were shaking our asses to the sweet electric piano licks of Johnny Neel, who used to play keys with the frickin’ Allman Brothers—all on Blizzard’s tab. So if making rocket-ship skis and hosting legendary jam-band rock stars in the heart of Mormon country doesn’t give you an idea where this company’s coming from these days, well, you might just have to try their skis for yourself. No one else is using carbon and metal in quite the same combinations, giving freeriders the credit these folks are.
Read below for a rundown of what they’re offering next year. My personal favourite? The Rustler 11 in a 180cm. And for die-hard fans of the original Cochise… guess what? They made it stiff again! They’ve also brought back Arne Backstrom’s signature ski, the Bodacious. But, please, read on…
Sizes: 171, 178, 185, 192
Radius: 23, 25, 27, 29
Dimensions: 136/108/122 @ 185
This is the one that’ll get you to the moon and back. A classic charging ski with big mountain bite that’ll also tear through crud and bumps. Some might like it a little better with the mount moved forward a tad.
Sizes: 166, 173, 180, 187
Radius: 15, 16.5, 18, 20
Dimensions: 135/98/119 @ 180
For chalky hard pack conditions, by far the best performing ski in the lineup. Skis similarly to the Cochise, but is more forgiving and the smaller waist makes it rail effortlessly in-bounds. Might be a bit under gunned in powder with this one, though.
Sizes: 164, 172, 180, 188, 192
Radius: 16, 17.5, 19, 21, 23
Dimensions: 142/114/132 @ 188
This is the playful maverick of the bunch. The middle of the ski is built with three sheets of metal, but tapers at the tip and tail. This gives the middle portion of the ski incredible hold, whilst allowing a surfier feeling out of the tip and tail. For a big ski, it performs incredibly well on hard pack. And the modern mounting point feels, well, exactly on point.
Sizes: 164, 172, 180, 188
Radius: 14.5, 16, 17.5, 19
Dimensions: 133/102/122.5 @ 180
Same idea as above, but narrower and a little softer. Easier to throw around and a good daily driver for progressive skiers who might shift between skiing the alpine and the park. It doesn’t quite have the same jam at high speeds the Rustler 11 does.
*Note: Blizzard assumes that if you’re on a longer length, you’re a bigger, stronger person. So the longer sizes of skis increase in stiffness, and sometimes waist width, too. In other words, they build their flex to scale.
Big thanks to the good people at Blizzard for bringing us down to Alta, and to everyone at the test for a rocking good time.