New for 2007-2008 is the uber-fat and stout Black Diamond Zealot. This ski is big, burly and stiff and is built like a tank to float through deep pow and power through thick, heavy crud. This year’s ski lineup from Black Diamond is stellar. Gone are the days that Black Diamond was just a euro-style touring or telemark ski manufacturer. Their lineup and pricepoints are enough to stir the pot and generate serious buzz in the industry.
The Zealot was the flagship model until the newly-introduced Black Diamond Megawatt came on the scene last month. Still, the Zealot is an awesome example of how Black Diamond is pushing their ski designs further and further to accommodate not only backcountry skiers who enjoy pushing their limits, but aggressive skiers of all disciplines (tele, alpine or backcountry touring).
About the BD Zealot
Built to power through the burliest terrain, but still be agile enough to turn in the trees and on hardpack, the BD Zealot can be a do-it-all ski in spite of it’s portly 136 / 110 / 126 mm sidecut (182cm as tested). Weight comes in at 9.25 lbs. per pair. No-compromise cap construction has unique split ribs from tip to tail built to give the Zealot a precise and stable demeanor. Those ribs are the result of a 3D CNC wood core. The construction of the Zealots is bomber and the skis are built to withstand years of abuse inbounds, in the backcountry or in the unforgiving Alaskan steeps that we can only dream of skiing.
These skis will return unchanged for 2008/2009.
BD Zealot Review
I had the chance to ski on the Zealots both inbounds at Sundance Resort and in the backcountry on Box Elder Peak. The most recent Utah ski conditions have been hit and miss. We enjoyed an epic January through early February, then things came back to reality with warmer temps and longer periods between storms. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the Zealots out on an insanely-deep Utah day, but I was able to get a feel for how the skis perform on groomers, crud, corn and creamy, boot-deep pow.
For the inbounds day, I dialed in the Fritschi Freeride bindings (my touring binding of choice) with my Head World Cup boots, so I could really power them on-piste. On the groomers, the Zealot’s scream for speed. If you are like me and enjoy laying down railroad tracks from top-to-bottom, be prepared for a super wide and long natural arc–so much so that I was going a little faster than the Sundance Patrol would have liked. Unless you’re at speed, these skis won’t even talk to you. Now, if you pressure them just right, you can actually pop nice medium-arc turns on groomers-which is what I did.
The sidecut isn’t as deep as say, the Scott Mission, so, to be quite honest, they aren’t going to be anyone’s favorite ski on the groomers. They can handle groomers with the best of the fat skis, but they aren’t super fun on that kind of terrain.
While the Zealots aren’t tops on the groomer list, once you take them into the kind of terrain and conditions they were built for, whoa baby! These skis are some of the smoothest and most powerful skis I’ve skied in cut-up, nasty crud and creamy, week-old powder.
Dropping into some hateful avie debris-scattered terrain and cut up, sunbaked crud, the Zealots simply powered through it without flinching. I felt like I was riding a battleship through a storm as I sliced through and floated over the type of stuff that would typically throw one ski one way and the other ski another way. They simply stayed on course and tracked with precision. I skied where nobody else dared at Sundance because I knew the skis would carve turns in the wet, manky stuff.
After cutting the Black Diamond GlideLite skins wall-to-wall, I was primed to test out how well these babies would tour. Adjusting the bindings for the lugged sole of my Garmont Endorphin boots was a snap and entry/exit was a breeze. Just a quick toe-height adjustment and I was golden.
To round out the test, I went on a 3000 vertical ft. backcountry tour on Box Elder Peak. This peak is in my backyard playground and provides some great terrain for this type of ski. Since it’s not a real popular backcountry skiing area, we were guaranteed to find untracked pow even though it hadn’t snowed in over a week.
With the extra width of the Zealots, the skins hooked up like brand new Velcro and climbed efficiently. I really didn’t notice the extra bit of weight of these skis as compared to some of the other skis in my quiver. And, the skins stayed attached on the turned-up tail just fine.
Once at the top, we were looking at 1000 vertical feet of wind-protected and shaded creamy pow. My initial turns were surprisingly-good and it continued all the way to the bottom. The Zealots simply powered through the thick, but creamy pow better than any ski I’ve skied to date. I felt like a superhero as I arced around trees and effortlessly carved through the vertical–grinning from ear to ear.
- Stiff and wide to power through all conditions
- Surfy in pow
- Capable enough for a one-quiver ski if you really push ’em
- Excellent pricepoint: $639
- Not turny enough to be grin-inducing on groomers
- Don’t play nice at slow speeds
- A little heavy
The Bottom Line: Black Diamond Zealot Skis
I really dig these skis for backcountry touring. They are fatter and heavier than other touring-specific fat skis, but they are stable and smooth in unpredictable conditions–a great trait in a backcountry ski. They aren’t my first choice for carving up groomers, but they are some of the finest powder surfing and crud-busting skis on the shelf. The Zealots are a great choice for big mountains both in and out of bounds.