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2017-2018 Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon

Luke Koppa reviews the Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon for Blister Gear Review

Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon

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.

Intro

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.

Flex Pattern

The Helio 105 is neither a noodle nor a complete 2×4, and I’d sum up its flex pattern like this:

Tips: 6

Shovels: 7

Underfoot: 10

Behind the Heel piece: 8

Tails: 9

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.

Mount Point

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.

Construction

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.

Skinning

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.

Luke Koppa reviews the Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon for Blister Gear Review

Luke Koppa with the Black Diamond Helio 105 Carbon.

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

5 Comments

  1. Ryland H October 6, 2017 Reply

    I appreciate the article Brother. I have the BD Helios as well, but mine are 185 cm. I’m 5’9, 165 pounds, and hearing that another “short” guy became used to them gives me some motivation to keep the extra length. I was tempted on sizing down before the season has even kicked off but I think I’ll try ’em out.

    Any tips on mastering these bad boys?

    • Author
      Luke Koppa October 6, 2017 Reply

      Hi Ryland,

      Good question regarding the length. I don’t have any perfect tips for dealing with the 185, but I will definitely say the Helio 105 rewards a forward stance, and it sometimes felt like I had a lot of tip in front of me if I tried to ski with a more centered stance. However, like I mentioned in the review, I’m used to skis with more forward mounts, so if you’re coming from other skis with mount points further than 8cm back, and tend to drive your shovels, I don’t think this will be an issue.

      Honestly, the main area where I noticed the length most was during kick turns, and the best tip I can give you hear is simply to practice. 185 cm is about as long as I’d go for a touring ski, but it only took me a few tours to dial in kick turns with the 185 cm Helio 105, and its very low weight helps make things a little more manageable.

      Overall, I’d say the 185 Helio 105 does not feel all that long, and I would definitely stick with it if given the chance to size down. With such a light ski, and fairly soft shovels, I appreciate the extra length, especially in deep snow and at higher speeds.

      Hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions.

      Cheers,

      Luke

  2. Dan October 16, 2017 Reply

    How would you feel about this ski in heavier PNW snow conditions?

    • Author
      Luke Koppa October 16, 2017 Reply

      Hi Dan,

      I only had one day on the Helio 105 in fairly heavy snow, and while it did fine in areas where the snow was consistent, it definitely does not plow through consolidated snow (it is only 1550 g after all).

      If I were looking for a ski for the PNW, I’d probably check out the 4FRNT Raven or Volkl BMT 109, as their reverse camber design and slightly heavier weights would probably handle the heavier snow a bit better.

      All that said, I think if you maintain a more dynamic style of skiing with the Helio 105, it can certainly deal with the heavier snow, you just have to be wary of the fact that it is a very light ski.

      Let me know if you have any other questions,

      Cheers,

      Luke

      • dan October 16, 2017 Reply

        Great thanks for the info. I hadn’t considered the BMT 109 I’ll add that to the list.

        As always 4frnt and ON3P always seem to be on the list

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