Ski: 2017-2018 Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon, 185 cm
Available Lengths: 165, 175, 185 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 185.5 cm
Stated Weight per Ski (185 cm): 1550 grams
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski (185 cm): 1547 & 1551
Stated Dimensions (185 cm): 134-105-119 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (185 cm): 133.5-105-118 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius (185 cm): 22 m
Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 55 mm / 11 mm
Traditional Camber underfoot: ~3 mm
Core: Balsa/Flax + Prepreg Carbon Fiber Laminate
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -8.75 cm from center, 84.0 cm from tail
Boots / Bindings: Fischer TransAlp & Salomon QST Pro 130 / Dynafit Radical 2.0 ST
Days Tested: 20
Test Locations: Cameron Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park, Mt Evans, Guanella Pass, & Arapahoe Basin, CO; La Sals, UT.
Last year, Black Diamond introduced their new Helio series of skis, and positioned them as ultralight, high-performance skis for the weight-conscious backcountry skier. The Helio series is also one of the first lines from Black Diamond to be produced in the Blizzard factory in Austria.
The Helio 105 serves as the replacement to the Carbon Convert, a ski that many people loved, but that wasn’t known for its stability in variable conditions. Black Diamond states that the Helio 105 is “designed for dedicated backcountry skiers who demand both technical precision and soft-snow performance,” which definitely puts it into the backcountry one-ski-quiver category, so this review will focus on how well the Helio 105 functions as an everyday, all-conditions touring ski.
The Helio 105 is neither a noodle nor a complete 2×4, and I’d sum up its flex pattern like this:
Behind the Heel piece: 8
The flex pattern of the ski ramps up smoothly from the tips without a hinge point, has a solid platform under the boot, then softens slightly through the tail. I found the shovels to be soft enough to easily engage a turn and plane above most snow, but not so soft that they folded up when skiing through bumped-up conditions.
The tails of the Helio 105 finish quite stiff, and the support was appreciated in high-consequence terrain and during an impromptu booter session. I didn’t find them to be very punishing, but they definitely don’t encourage backseat skiing, which I’ll touch on later in the review.
Before reviewing the Helio 105, I had been using skis with more forward mount points, in the -4 to -6 cm range, and I skied them with a pretty centered stance. It took a couple days to adjust to the Helio 105’s more traditional mount (-8.75 cm), and I found that the ski definitely rewards a more forward stance.
For what it’s worth, I tried bumping the bindings forward to +2 cm, and doing so made the skis easier to jump turn, and I could operate from a more centered stance. But I felt that I lost some stability, and when I did push into the shovels on firm snow, the tails felt like they were washing out a bit. So I moved back a centimeter to +1, and there, the skis maintained their firm-snow performance but could be skied with a slightly more centered stance, and this became my favorite mount point.
However, if you are used to skis with traditional mount points and typically ski with a more forward stance, I think you’ll be perfectly happy with the recommended line.
The Helio 105, produced in Blizzard’s Austrian factory, seems well-built. After 20 days, the bases are still free of core-shots, even after an extremely sharky descent of the wind-scoured flanks of Long’s Peak, Colorado. The topsheet is white in the front and black in the back, which allowed for an interesting observation of snow accumulation on light vs. dark topsheets. Overall, I didn’t notice any extreme difference. In warmer conditions, snow still stuck to the white section of the ski, but to a slightly lesser extent compared to the black section.
The first thing I noticed about the Helio 105 was just how light it felt in hand. I had previously been touring on the Dynafit Chugach, which came in just shy of 2000 grams per ski, and I was pretty excited about the 400+ g weight savings. And no surprise, the Helio 105 felt pretty great on the skintrack. The only complaint I had while skinning on the Helio 105 was that I would prefer a tiny bit more tip splay to help the ski break trail in deep snow; the ski didn’t plane exceptionally well while breaking trail.
I’m 5’8”, ~155 lbs, and it took a bit of practice to dial in kick-turns on the 185 cm Helio 105, but not so much so that I’d be tempted to size down to the 175 cm version.
NEXT: Downhill Performance, Bottom Line