Black Diamond, with their Route 95, is entering the fray with a heavy touring ski. This is an interesting niche, especially when one considers that even alpine ski manufacturers are pumping out touring skis that weigh pounds less. The manufacturer emphasizes durability of the Route 95; while our test period indicated zero durability issues, we didn't have any issues with lighter skis over the months we tested. Generally, we recommend most users choose skis lighter than the Route 95. Cousin (Blizzard and BD skis are, apparently, made in the same factory) Best Buy Blizzard Zero G 95 is much lighter and skis just as well, if not better, in most conditions. The Helio 105 from Black Diamond weighs about the same as the Route 95, but adds girth. The Helio certainly does better in soft snow while the Route 95 does better on the hard stuff and in poor snow.
Black Diamond Route 95 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Widely available in US, predictable powder turns
Cons: Heavy, soft tails wash out in tougher conditions
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Black Diamond Route 95
|Price||$629.95 at REI|
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|$948.95 at Backcountry|
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|$698.95 at Backcountry||$470.91 at Amazon|
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|$699.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Widely available in US, predictable powder turns||Light, well-balanced downhill performance||All around ski performance, hit what we consider to be the weight ‘sweet spot’||Light and versatile||Light, all around downhill performance|
|Cons||Heavy, soft tails wash out in tougher conditions||Expensive, ski “short”||Grabby firm snow performance, expensive||Limited poor snow performance||Wobble in longer radius powder turns, slow down in tough snow|
|Bottom Line||The Route 95 is a beefy, longitudinally soft powder touring sled.||Excellent, all around backcountry skis for human powered adventures in nearly all conditions.||Excellent backcountry skis for the majority of applications.||All around choice for beginner to advanced backcountry skiers on a budget.||Light, big mountain skis for human powered skiing in all conditions; you won’t ski like a movie star, but you will ski it all efficiently and easy on your wallet.|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Route 95||Kastle TX98||Volkl VTA 98||Fischer Hannibal||Blizzard Zero G 95|
|Stability At Speed (15%)|
|Firm Snow (20%)|
|Crud And Poor Snow (20%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond...||Kastle TX98||Volkl VTA 98||Fischer Hannibal||Blizzard Zero G 95|
|Weight Per Pair (lbs.)||7.3 lbs||6.2 lbs||6.4 lbs||6.2 lbs||5.9 lbs|
|Available Lengths||163, 173, 183||168, 178, 188||156, 163, 170, 177, 184||162, 169, 176, 183||164, 171, 178, 185|
|Weight Per Ski grams||1660g, 1669g, average: 1665g||1394g, 1400g, average: 1397g||1454g, 1449g, average: 1452g||1421g, 1388g, average: 1405g||1340g, 1347g, average: 1344g|
|Weight Per Pair grams||3329||2794||2903||2809||2687|
|Weight per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2||0.81||0.71||0.69||0.69||0.7|
|Construction Type||Sandwich||Sandwich Cap Hybrid||Sandwich Cap Hybrid||Sandwich Cap Hybrid||Sandwich|
|Core Material||Poplar, pre-preg fiberglass laminates||Karuba Wood||Beech, poplar & paulownia||Paulownia wood with carbon stringers||Paulownia wood, Carbon Drive Technology|
|Rocker/Camber||Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot||Low camber||Tip rocker||Tip rocker||Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Black Diamond's description of the Route 95 mentions "durability" a number of times. Touring skis aren't usually marketed this way. Our interpretation of this is that it is a way of explaining the weight. These are heavy skis to be considered touring specialists and for the weight, we wish they skied downhill better. We had no durability issues with our test pair, but other users report online that the top sheet chips more readily than others. For the weight, other skis go downhill much better, and we have assessed other products that ski as well at a much, much lower weight. The best news about the Route 95 is that it is inexpensive to begin with and can be found even more deeply discounted and widely available.
The high weight and mediocre downhill performance (in comparison… remember that we purchase and test only proven, excellent products. Our final testing and comparison includes only the cream of the crop) mean that the overall ranking of the Route 95 suffers. When you consider value, though, these will catch your eye and should hold your attention, maybe holding that attention through a final purchase.
A pair of skis pushing 7.5 pounds for the pair is also pushing toward the mass of light all-mountain resort skis. These are heavy touring skis. Most users will find the mass fatiguing at the end of medium to long days, as compared to using lighter kit. When we correct for width in our "surface area to weight" calculation, the Route 95 stands out even more. It is nearly as beefy as the true outlier Top Pick big gun Black Crows Corvus Freebird. The other Top Pick ultralight Atomic Backland UL 78 is less than 2/3 the mass of the Route 95.
Stability at Speed
These things hold up at speed. The soft longitudinal flex rides up and over and straight through inconsistencies while torsional rigidity holds things on track. In that cliche "hand flex test", these are among the softest skis we tested. One would expect deflection and wobbling at speed from this alone. However, the mass and torsional stiffness hold things on track.
While the Route 95 wasn't the best ice rider, it did well enough to call it an "all around" ski. It grabs ice way better than the G3 Findr or the Top Pick DPS Wailer 99 Tour1, but is less tenacious than the Editors' Choice Kastle TX98 or the Best Buy Blizzard Zero G 95. On firm snow, you will notice that the tail feels soft. It takes some adjustment, but our test team didn't find it overwhelmingly distracting.
With a centered, balanced stance, accomplished skiers will have their Route 95 skis making short and long powder turns with grins all around. The versatility in turn radius and easy float of the Route 95 can be attributed to that soft longitudinal flex. On a spectacular powder day on Wyoming's Taylor Mountain, our lead test editor adjusted instantly to the centered style required of the Route 95. When testing skis in the backcountry, it is a real drag to have to burn up a good run adjusting to a new product. That this amazing 3000-foot powder run was enjoyable from turn one is testament to the predictable and versatile fresh snow performance of the Route 95.
Our experience, in tough snow, with the Route 95 is yet another cautionary tale about relying on any one or two construction attributes in assessing skis. It is ubiquitous in ski reviews to connect one or two construction attributes (currently, camber/rocker geometry is trendy) to a given performance experience; this is hogwash. There are so many exceptions to every "rule" that the rules are moot. When you look at the catalog copy, specs, and hand tests on the Route 95, you'd expect a crud master. These are heavy and rockered. These things are, generally, associated with good poor snow performance. However, the breakable crust and slop performance of the Route 95 is nothing special. Your average skier will resort to survival techniques in average breakable crust. Notably, our testers found that the Route 95 seemed to "have no backseat". The tail just feels real soft. Get off balance, to the rear, and the tails wash right out on you. The good news is that they don't grab, but the bad news is that they don't grab. Balancing this out, though is that mass. The weight of the Route 95 pushes them through tough stuff in a rather unsophisticated, but functional, fashion.
If you really don't care about weight and can get a good deal on these, they are worth your consideration. Other products, though, will ski uphill and downhill better.
Initial "MSRP" of the Route 95 is nothing special, but you can often find them deeply discounted. When discounted, the all-around performance is good enough. Note, though, that these are heavy skis.
These are solid, if bland and heavy, backcountry skis.
— Jediah Porter