Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon Ski ReviewJune 19, 2018
- Lightweight / high performance
- Responsive & stable in powder
- Built for long ski touring days
- Not the most lively or fun to ski
- Variable snow conditions can be challenging
- Tip chatter on hardpack
Black Diamond’s Carbon Aspect, Convert, and Megawatt skis have made way for the new Helio line of skis. The Helio 105s are akin to Black Diamond’s Link series of skis, except they’re categorized as a mountaineering ski instead of true backcountry. The Helio line-up has a softer flex than those in the Link series, and come in 88, 95, 105 and 116 widths. As with all new Black Diamond skis, the Helios are made by Blizzard in Austria (as the Black Diamond factory in Asia is no longer in operation).
Early rise in the Helio’s tips and tails provides respectable flotation and increases trail-breaking efficiency. A traditional rocker/camber/rocker design gives the Helios some pop and personality, while maintaining substantially more rocker in the tip of the ski than in the tail. Black Diamond also did away with the metal tail clip found on their other skis, and went with an ABS tail protector notch to secure skins and save on weight. Being a pre-preg carbon fibreglass constructed ski with a balsa flax core, the Helio 105s are ultra-light, yet fat—an ideal powder ski.
At 105 underfoot, transitioning the Helios from edge to edge can be a bit slow. And while they don’t possess the pop and fun of a purpose designed resort ski, they do float and surf like nothing else when skiing deep snow. They will carve just fine on groomers, but they really don’t rail a turn (and they aren’t designed to). With only a subtle camber underfoot and fat dimensions these are no race skis, and in breakable crust and chop they tend to deflect easily due to said lightness. The pre-preg carbon fibreglass and reinforced ABS sidewall construction is surprisingly damp for such a lightweight ski. They’re a pure joy to play with in the backcountry; especially on those deep, deep days.
The Helio 105s aren’t the snappiest of skis on hardpack or groomers. And given how pronounced their early rise tip is, some chatter is to be expect. But again, this is not their preferred habitat.
The Helio 105s get their designation by being 105mm wide underfoot, so you get a whole lotta ski for their diminutive 6-pound weight. The line-up also includes 88, 95, and 116mm widths. The narrow widths would be too skinny for a true backcountry skier (unless of course you’re a rando racer) and the 116 would be too much to handle for the odd lap inbounds. The 105 is the best option for maximum stability in all conditions but still prefers softer snow to the boilerplate conditions often found at the resort.
Most skis under six pounds require you stay on top of them to maintain control in variable conditions, as they simply don’t have the mass to plow through chunder and hardpack. The Black Diamond Helio 105 Skis do a better job at maintaining their composure than most skis in their weight class, but when push comes to shove and things really get ugly with the snow, you’ll know it.
The Helio 105 is not meant to be an all-round ski. Black Diamond classifies it as a mountaineering ski—so they’re ideal for long days of climbing with lofty objectives in mind. Designed for the backcountry and not really the resort, the 105s are happier playing beyond the ropes in light, fluffy, bottomless pow, rather than lapping groomers at the resort. While they can ski hard pack in a pinch, there are better skis for these kinds of conditions.
As with any lightweight ski (we’re talking six pounds and under here) you typically give up some edge-hold and stability on firm snow, only to be rewarded with efficient climbing on the skin track. The Helio 105s are no exception to this rule, and it’s most obvious when skiing crusty, challenging terrain. Where the Helio 105 Skis really thrive is in soft powdery conditions, where they are floaty and smearable.
While 105mm underfoot is not fat by any means, it is enough width to provide good float on deep powder days. When this is combined with the Helio’s substantial early rise, it makes even the deepest pow days effortless as the tips always float you to the top. On hard pack runs this same early rise does create some tip chatter, but nothing prohibitive.
Skis were tested while ski touring at Whitewater Ski Resort in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia. All skis are tested in bounds on groomers, and out of bounds in powder and variable snow conditions.
Brad Steele is the co-creator of BackcountrySkiingCanada.com, a one-stop-shop for skiers and riders seeking timely, on-the-money information. BackcountrySkiingCanada.com is where you’ll find route descriptions, product reviews, guides, videos, comps and other like minded people who are as amped on ski touring as you are.