Outdoor Retailer 2016 — Black Diamond’s Helio Ski Pole Is A Stunner

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 7, 2016      

The WildSnow crew is all over the map this month. Lou and Louie are ski touring in Greece while I’m in Salt Lake attending the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show with some of our favorite guest bloggers.

WildSnow Girl, Rachel Bellamy, found something pretty cool -- Black Diamond's new Helio ski pole.

WildSnow Girl, Rachel Bellamy, found something pretty cool — Black Diamond’s new Helio ski pole.

Every year, Outdoor Retailer kicks off with an on-snow demo day, this winter held at Solitude ski resort. It’s a fun way to check out new skis and boots but admittedly it’s hard to evaluate backcountry gear during one day on resort hard pack. Luckily many companies support WildSnow’s model of long term testing and we look forward to thoroughly evaluating innovative new products throughout the season.

Once in a while a new product comes out and it’s immediately obvious that it is a stunner. After our cruise around the booths at demo day, the prize goes to Black Diamond for their Helio ski pole. Fully constructed of balloon molded carbon fiber, a pair of Helio poles weighs under a half pound. Pick up one of these poles and you truly will be amazed at how silly light they are.

Balloon molding or vacuum bagging is a manufacturing process that puts mechanical pressure on carbon fiber during its cure cycle to remove air between layers, compact the fibers, and squeeze out excess resin. The process is common in aerospace and racing industries to produce composite materials that are exceptionally light and strong.

With this technique, Black Diamond was able to contour the thickness and shape of the Helio poles. It’s thicker in places that encounter more stress. They say it’s one of their strongest poles. Indeed, I whacked it on the ground several times with all my might and it didn’t even flex.

The Helio is elegant.  The pole is full carbon and literally nothing else except for a  rubber basket and a light fabric strap.  And surely the weight weenies at WildSnow will

The Helio is elegant. The pole is full carbon with literally nothing else except for a rubber basket and a light fabric strap. And surely, the weight weenies at WildSnow will ditch the strap to eliminate even more grams.

Helio poles are non-adjustable and come in various lengths (100, 110, 120, etc).
Shop for Helio carbon pole here.


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22 Responses to “Outdoor Retailer 2016 — Black Diamond’s Helio Ski Pole Is A Stunner”

  1. RDE January 7th, 2016 9:17 am

    Now if they’d just fill those things with UP pressurized to about 200 psi it would make them even stiffer. Of course you’d always have to wear the wrist straps to keep them from floating away.

  2. Charlie Hagedorn January 7th, 2016 10:29 am

    Awesome. Fixed-length ski poles are great.

    Does BD claim any numbers for breaking strength, elasticity? How might they compare with their existing carbon and aluminum options?

  3. Dave C. January 7th, 2016 1:06 pm

    I have the Vapor Carbon 1 pole, which looks very similar (although is probably a bit heavier). How are these different?

  4. Jim Milstein January 7th, 2016 1:43 pm

    At 9 oz/pair, the Helio is tempting. Might go fixed length and suffer!

    My question is whether a full carbon handle would do all the binding manipulation that the BCA Sceptic pole handle does so well. If it’s all slippery, the answer is no. Of course, everything shall be modified: Dip the Helio handles in liquid tool handle coating. Less elegant looking, more functional.

    Whoops! Just saw a price of $300!

  5. Kyle January 7th, 2016 2:10 pm

    Purchasing new light gear always has the side benefit of decreased wallet mass on the uphill(:

  6. Chet Roe January 7th, 2016 6:04 pm

    the current carbon BD ski poles I own are only half a pair because one broke with seemingly no significant trauma…no hurry to spend $ on another of their’s ….Chet

  7. Buck January 7th, 2016 9:55 pm

    I have half a pair of BD carbon poles too – happened to snag a tree and drop one in some deep deep powder. Dug around a bit but never could find that skinny little bugger. That set spent 300 plus days of incident free heavy mileage ski touring with me, with not even an unintended slip of the flicklock mechanism. But I must confess I did have to replace a $7 basket once. Cheap garbage, eh?

  8. trollanski January 7th, 2016 10:25 pm

    Tried adjustable poles once. Found them heavy and awkward to swing compared to my old Scott pencil-poles. Been skiing the same poles since 1990! Just set up your wrist straps long, and slip your thumb through the end of the strap for your uphill pole. Having said that, am coveting some Carbon Compactors for the Splitboard…

  9. Ben W January 8th, 2016 7:22 am

    You know what’s even more boring than adjustable pole?


  10. Tuck January 8th, 2016 7:23 am

    I’ve also got a pair of adjustable BD ski poles with a carbon lower shaft. They’re probably 10-11 years old now, and all marked up, but they’re perfectly fine.

    I bought them after hearing a horror story from a friend about getting hung up upside down from a tree in the woods, and being unable to release the binding since the poles weren’t long enough. LOL.

    I did finally have that happen last year, but it was in a chute, not a tree, and indeed was able to release the binding after lengthening the pole. 10 years later… Got a quicker return on my first helmet!

    I figured the carbon part would snap at some point, but despite being yanked out of my hands by many a root or branch while tree skiing, they’ve been perfectly fine.

    I’d buy another pair in a minute if these weren’t still perfectly functional.

  11. Lisa Dawson January 9th, 2016 9:40 am

    Jim, the carbon handle lip is smooth and not designed to change modes on bindings. However, the pole will come with a rigid basket that is designed to manipulate bindings.

  12. Lisa Dawson January 9th, 2016 9:42 am

    Chet Roe, I talked with the folks at BD and they encourage you to contact Customer Service via their website to repair or replace your broken pole. Possibly will be done for no charge.

  13. Lisa Dawson January 9th, 2016 9:45 am

    Ben W, hahah yes, ordinary poles aren’t too exciting. But I bet you’ll be amazed when you pick up one of these poles.

  14. Lisa Dawson January 9th, 2016 9:47 am

    Tuck, Glad you’re okay! Good tip about the adjustables.

  15. Louie Dawson January 9th, 2016 9:58 am

    That pole looks awesome!

  16. Jim Milstein January 9th, 2016 4:33 pm

    Lisa, I’ll bet the “rigid” baskets won’t be up to changing from Walk to Ski mode on the Vipecs. There is a price for beauty and insanely light weight coupled with strength like Superman!

  17. b. fredlund January 10th, 2016 5:55 pm

    +1 for adjustable poles.

    Lisa, any intel on a lighter version of the Whippet?
    It seems like it’s due for a minor redesign/ update.

  18. Lisa Dawson January 17th, 2016 12:32 pm

    Hi Beau,
    I asked the folks at BD and they don’t have immediate plans to update the Whippet. There’s a carbon version available, but I bet you already knew that. 🙂


  19. jasper October 10th, 2016 10:16 pm

    Any ideas what hapened to the Helio pole? It was on the BD site a couple of months ago, but I can’t find it now. Maybe they floated away?

  20. Lou Dawson 2 October 11th, 2016 8:48 am

    Jasper, I asked BD, it’s off the site because it’s not available at the moment, when they get their inventory they’ll put it back on the site. It’s light enough to have floated away, but it only hid itself temporarily (smile).

    Thanks for the comment as I needed a reminder to mess around with the Helio Pole and perhaps do a more extensive review.


  21. Mark W October 11th, 2016 10:01 am

    Amazing product, but who pays $300 bucks for a couple sticks?

  22. trollanski October 11th, 2016 4:19 pm

    The answer is….. Nordic Skiers and Rando Racers. Doesn’t mean you NEED them, or that you cant have the best day of your life w/ a pair of free poles, But they are a performance advantage….

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