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Black Diamond Helio Carbon 115 Review

Specialized powder touring skis for those lucky enough to justify owning multiple skis and can get themselves regularly into powder snow conditions
black diamond helio carbon 115 backcountry skis review
Credit: Black Diamond
Price:  $1,000 List
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 1, 2022
54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 15
  • Weight - 25% 5.0
  • Firm Snow - 20% 2.0
  • Powder - 20% 9.0
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 6.0
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 5.0

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Helio 115 is a good choice for anyone pondering a powder-specialist touring ski. It balances weight and soft snow performance in a way that optimizes mileage in the deepest of conditions and destinations. It won't be any fun in tougher snow or even in average backcountry ski regions and destinations. In this niche of skis, the Helio is a short-turning, snappy powder sled built for deep days and is accommodating of skiers across the whole spectrum of powder skiing skills — just realize that they have a "speed limit".
REASONS TO BUY
Wide
Light
Snappy turns
REASONS TO AVOID
Speed limit
Poor performance in anything but powder snow
Editor's Note: We tested these skis throughout the entirety of the 2021-22 ski season in the Tetons. This particular season had great powder skiing early (December) and late (April) without much snow in between. We wrote up and published the review in November 2022.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Wide, light, snappy turnsStable, damp, versatile, floaty, balancedLight for the uphill, balanced downhill performance for all conditionsAll-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weightFast float, incredible weight (for the size), acceptable poor snow performance
Cons Speed limit, poor performance in anything but powder snowModerately heavy, not optimal firm snow performanceExpensive, generalized downhill performanceSoft and dampAbysmal, scary firm snow performance, specialized application
Bottom Line Specialized powder touring skis for those lucky enough to justify owning multiple skis and can get themselves regularly into powder snow conditionsThis is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balanceChoose this ski for all-year, all-purpose human-powered skiing in any region of the worldInexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditionsAmong the most specialized skis in our test, it's optimized for the deepest of days in the deepest of regions
Rating Categories Black Diamond Helio... Blizzard Zero G 105 Movement Alp Tracks... K2 Wayback 106 Voile HyperDrifter
Weight (25%)
5.0
5.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
Firm Snow (20%)
2.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
1
Powder (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
Crud and Poor Snow (20%)
6.0
8.5
7.0
7.0
6.0
Stability at Speed (15%)
5.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Black Diamond Helio... Blizzard Zero G 105 Movement Alp Tracks... K2 Wayback 106 Voile HyperDrifter
Weight Per Pair 7.0 lbs 6.7 lbs 5.6 lbs 6.9 lbs 7.0 lbs
Weight Per Ski 1590g, 1603g
average: 1597g
1515g, 1510g
average: 1513g
1270g, 1272g
average: 1271g
1518g, 1557g
average: 1537g
1545g, 1585g
average: 1565g
Weight Per Pair 3193g 3025g 2542g 3075g 3130g
Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2 0.71 0.72 0.62 0.71 0.64
Measured Length 177cm 178cm 176cm 179cm 177cm
Manufacturer Length 177cm 180cm 177cm 179cm 178cm
Available Lengths (cm) 177, 185 164, 172, 180, 188 170, 177, 185 172, 179, 186 171, 178, 186
Claimed Dimensions (mm) 143/115/125 133/105/118 132/100/120 136/106/124 155/121/138
Measured Dimensions (mm) 143/115/123 133/104/118 131/100/118 135/107/123 154/121/138
Construction Type Sandwich Sandwich Cap Sandwich Cap Hybrid Cap
Core Material Paulownia Paulownia Paulownia Paulownia Paulownia
Waist Width 115mm 105mm 100mm 107mm 121mm
Radius 24m 23m 19m 22m 19m
Rocker/Camber Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot Tip and tail rocker Tip rocker, camber underfoot Tip rocker, slight camber underfoot Tip rocker, camber underfoot

Our Analysis and Test Results

These are skis for soft snow. The Black Diamond Helio Carbon 115 is a specialized tool. Pick these as your second or third set of skis. Even then, be careful about when and where you take them out. You don't want to be caught on extensive or serious icy snow conditions with such powder snow specialists.

Performance Comparison


black diamond helio carbon 115 backcountry skis review - this is what you get the helio carbon 115 ski for. deep, steep, fast...
This is what you get the Helio Carbon 115 ski for. Deep, steep, fast perfection. This Taylor Mountain run was 5 stars, enhanced by the optimized pow performance of this ski.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


Skis this big will inevitably weigh more than smaller skis, all else equal. The Black Diamond Helio 115 in size 177cm and on our calibrated scale, weigh 1597 grams per ski. That's 3193 grams, or 7 lbs for the pair. For all-around skis, we consider that to be on the heavy side. For skis that will only go out on the deepest of excursions, it is an acceptable "weight point". Realize too that bigger skis require bigger, heavier skins and that the larger topsheet surface area, especially in soft snow conditions, will collect more snow mass while you walk. They aren't super light but the weight is acceptable to desirable for this application.

black diamond helio carbon 115 backcountry skis review - the helio carbon's weight is about perfect for the application. any...
The Helio Carbon's weight is about perfect for the application. Any lighter and they'd have to get narrower or much flimsier. Heavier and you would gain marginal downhill performance and considerably more uphill resistance.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Firm Snow


Don't choose these for any serious or extended firm snow skiing. Our few inbounds runs and polished luge-run exit tracks gave us all we needed to see. We assert on good authority that these are no good in firm snow. That's okay. It is not what they are made for.

black diamond helio carbon 115 backcountry skis review - 115 millimeters "underfoot" is definitely on the wide side for...
115 millimeters "underfoot" is definitely on the wide side for touring skis. Sure, you might ride skis this big inbounds on firm snow. But those skis are much heavier, with way more material and engineering to withstand the forces involved.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Powder


You get skis this big exactly for powder snow. They do awesome. We logged around 50,000 vertical feet of powder snow in our first test season on the Black Diamond Helio 115. Everyone, every day out, found them to be centered, predictable, floaty, and well-tuned to a wide variety of soft snow conditions. They are on the snappy end of the "snappy to damp" continuum.

black diamond helio carbon 115 backcountry skis review - select your gear, tactics, and destinations together to optimize...
Select your gear, tactics, and destinations together to optimize your experience. In the relatively small terrain south of the Teton Pass road, quick transitions yield multiple laps, and wide skis enhance the gentle slopes.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Crud/Poor Snow


Again, you don't expect skis this specialized to endure a great deal of tough snow conditions. When you are ready for such specialized backcountry skis you are (hopefully) also ready to anticipate the conditions and choose the right tool for the day out. Similarly, you shouldn't choose these skis for expeditions or distant travel (unless that travel is to northern Japan in February). All that said, you will regularly encounter at least short sections of breakable crust or sloppy mashed potatoes in the backcountry. It is inevitable; it is part of what we love about the backcountry, that adventuresome uncertainty. When your day or ski run on the Black Diamond Helio 115 turns to crappy snow, they will get you through just fine. A more well-rounded, all-purpose backcountry ski in the same weight range will do better, but the 115 does better than skinnier specialized skis, to be sure.

black diamond helio carbon 115 backcountry skis review - as evidenced by the dry and sunny pavement visible here, we did...
As evidenced by the dry and sunny pavement visible here, we did indeed test these in tough snow conditions. Not the ideal tool, but we commit to testing thoroughly.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Stability at Speed


The Helio 115 likes slower, more turny skiing. It'll hang on at higher speeds, but this is a ski primarily for the short radius, deep and popping turns more than the high-speed rails. If the snow conditions and circumstances allow for higher-speed powder skiing, just realize that the Helio 115 will have a speed limit beneath your own. Realize too that, no matter your ski or ski skill, the consequences of wiping out at 40 mph in the wilderness are great.

black diamond helio carbon 115 backcountry skis review - our first test season on the helio carbon didn't involve as much...
Our first test season on the Helio Carbon didn't involve as much powder skiing as we wanted (who ever gets as much of that as they want?), but we got all we needed to make our assessment.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Should You Buy the Black Diamond Helio 115?


If you want or need a soft-snow ski to complement your all-around backcountry skis, check out the Black Diamond Helio 115. If you are thinking "My backcountry zone/habit is mainly powder skiing. I want one ski that will do it all and be great in powder snow" don't be tempted by a big ski like the Helio. Our test team is mainly based in Wyoming's Tetons. Few ski destinations have the reliable powder snow that the Tetons do. Even here, with plentiful powder snow, no intentional, experienced backcountry skiers are using anything this big for their primary, day-to-day, "quiver of one" skis.

black diamond helio carbon 115 backcountry skis review - helio skis and helio bindings, both from black diamond. this setup...
Helio skis and Helio bindings, both from Black Diamond. This setup is uncommon (tiny bindings, big skis) but it is actually very effective.
Credit: Jediah Porter

What Other Backcountry Skis Should You Consider?


Every major ski company now sells a wide-body, lightweight powder ski. The Black Diamond Helio 115 is a widely available, proven entry in this subcategory. Slightly better, in our experience, is the Voile HyperDrifter. The HyperDrifter is slightly wider for a few grams less mass. It's also a little more forgiving at higher speeds while still maintaining snappy and centered performance in tighter radius turns. If you've gotten this far and realize that you don't actually need a light, wide, powder-specialized backcountry ski, check out one of our award-winning all-around skis like the Movement Alp Tracks 100 or Blizzard Zero G 105.

Jediah Porter
 
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