The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Black Diamond Route 95 Review

The Route 95 is a beefy, longitudinally soft powder touring sled.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $650 List | $649.95 at Backcountry
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
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 23, 2019
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 15
  • Weight - 25% 5
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 8
  • Firm Snow - 20% 6
  • Powder - 20% 8
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 8

Our Verdict

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 the durability of the Route 95; while our test period indicated zero durability issues, we also didn't have many issues with lighter skis over the seasons we've 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. 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.

Product Replaced

Black Diamond replaced the Route 95 with the new Helio Recon 95 ski. Details and comparison photos below.

November 2019


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $649.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$948.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$698.95 at Backcountry$609.95 at Amazon$458.00 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
69
100
0
86
100
0
80
100
0
79
100
0
76
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Widely available in US, predictable powder turnsLight, well-balanced downhill performanceAll around ski performance, hit what we consider to be the weight ‘sweet spot’Solid all around downhill performance, compatible with excellent Dynafit SpeedSkinsLight and versatile
Cons Heavy, soft tails wash out in tougher conditionsExpensive, ski “short”Grabby firm snow performance, expensiveHeavier than averageLimited poor snow performance
Bottom Line The Route 95 is a beefy, longitudinally soft powder touring sled.Excellent, all-around backcountry skis in nearly all conditions.Excellent backcountry skis for the majority of applications.Touring skis for he or she that prefers downhill performance to uphill efficiency.All around choice for beginner to advanced backcountry skiers on a budget.
Rating Categories Black Diamond Route 95 Kastle TX98 Volkl VTA 98 Dynafit Beast 98 Fischer Hannibal
Weight (25%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
8
Stability At Speed (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
5
Firm Snow (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
Powder (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
Crud And Poor Snow (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
Specs Black Diamond... Kastle TX98 Volkl VTA 98 Dynafit Beast 98 Fischer Hannibal
Weight Per Pair 7.3 lbs 6.2 lbs 6.4 lbs 6.8 lbs 6.2 lbs
Measured Length 184 cm 177 cm 185 cm 183 cm 183 cm
Manufacturer Length 183 cm 178 cm 184 cm 184 cm 183 cm
Available Lengths 163, 173, 183 cm 168, 178, 188 cm 156, 163, 170, 177, 184 cm 170, 177, 184 cm 162, 169, 176, 183 cm
Claimed Dimensions 125/95/114 mm 128/98/117 mm 133/98/116 mm 136/98/117 mm 126/96/114 mm
Measured Dimensions 125/95/114 mm 122/97/116 mm 132/98/111 mm 126/97/116 mm 127/97/113 mm
Weight Per Ski grams 1660g, 1669g, average: 1665g 1394g, 1400g, average: 1397g 1454g, 1449g, average: 1452g 1541g, 1553g, average: 1547g 1421g, 1388g, average: 1405g
Weight Per Pair 3329g 2794g 2903g 3094g 2809g
Weight per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2 0.81 0.71 0.69 0.75 0.69
Construction Type Sandwich Sandwich Cap Hybrid Sandwich Cap Hybrid Sandwich Sandwich Cap Hybrid
Core Material Poplar, pre-preg fiberglass laminates Karuba Wood Beech, poplar & paulownia Ash/poplar wood Paulownia wood with carbon stringers
Waist Width 95 mm 98 mm 98 mm 98 mm 97 mm
Radius 20 meters 22 meters 22.3 meters 21 meters 21 meters
Rocker/Camber Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot Low camber Tip rocker Double Ellipse Rocker Tip rocker

Our Analysis and Test Results

New Helio Recon 95 vs. Route 95


The Route 95 is replaced by the Helio Recon 95 ski. These skis are nearly identical save for the fact that the dampening technology has been changed. Rubber was added to the top of the sidewall, a design meant to allow the ski to handle variable terrain better. There are some fresh graphics, as well. The new ski, the Helio Recon 95, is pictured first, followed by the Route 95 that we tested.


We're linking to the Helio Recon 95 ski above, but, as we haven't tested it, the review below still tells our account of the Route 95.

Hands-On Review of the Route 95


Black Diamond's description of the Route 95 mentions "durability" several 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. For the weight, we wish they skied downhill better. We had no such 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 Route 95 is suitable for all-around  casual backcountry use. Here our lead test editor makes late season laps on the mellow western peaks of Wyoming's Tetons.
The Route 95 is suitable for all-around, casual backcountry use. Here our lead test editor makes late season laps on the mellow western peaks of Wyoming's Tetons.

Weight


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 a lighter kit. When we correct for width in our "surface area to weight" calculation, the Route 95 stands out even more. Our Top Pick ultralight ski selection is less than 2/3 the mass of the Route 95. Many excellent skis are 75-90% the weight of the Route 95.

Mounted with relatively light touring bindings (here the G3 Ion LT) you recoup some of the weight issues of the Route 95. Mount them with beefier touring bindings and you end up with a set up that is super heavy with limited performance gains.
Mounted with relatively light touring bindings (here the G3 Ion LT) you recoup some of the weight issues of the Route 95. Mount them with beefier touring bindings and you end up with a set up that is super heavy with limited performance gains.

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.

Firm Snow


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 specialized soft-snow tools but is less tenacious than the best all-rounders. 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.

Powder


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, his first turns on this model of ski, 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 a testament to the predictable and versatile fresh snow performance of the Route 95.

Consider the Route 95 to be basic  all-around backcountry tools for occasional use.
Consider the Route 95 to be basic, all-around backcountry tools for occasional use.

Crud/Poor Snow


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 ski construction "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, and 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.

We don't have anything real bad to say about the Route 95  but we don't have any strong favorable words either.
We don't have anything real bad to say about the Route 95, but we don't have any strong favorable words either.

Value


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.

This is literally one of the first turns we logged on the Route 95. Lead test editor Jed Porter  here  dropped into a 3000 foot run of perfect powder  adjusting instantly to the neutral soft snow performance they offer.
This is literally one of the first turns we logged on the Route 95. Lead test editor Jed Porter, here, dropped into a 3000 foot run of perfect powder, adjusting instantly to the neutral soft snow performance they offer.

Conclusion


These are solid, if bland and heavy, backcountry skis. 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.


Jediah Porter