During our meeting at the Outdoor Retailer Show, Black Diamond confirmed that the updated Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12 (the black) will be available in the U.S. A limited number will be for sale soon at select retailers such as Backcountry.com, REI, Outdoor Gear Exchange and Allspeed.
More news from Black Diamond: their new ski mountaineering line is the Helio Collection. We touched on the Black Diamond Helio fixed length carbon pole in an earlier post. Other new and redesigned products in the Helio series include skis, skins, harness, pack and clothing. Lighter, faster buzzwords abound!
Lou compared the updated black Vipec 12 to the white Vipec 12 here. While Lou is in Europe, WildSnow tester, Bob Perlmutter has been skiing on the blacks. He posted thoughts in a comment to Lou’s comparison. In case you missed it, here’s what he had to say:
From Bob Perlmutter:
Just the other day I received the latest 3rd generation Vipec, slapped them into the holes on my trustworthy Converts and off I went on a short tour behind Aspen Mountain. The following day, I went on an extensive tour which really allowed me to put them through their paces. I am happy to report that the 3rd generation Vipec is finally ready for the consumer marketplace.
The first thing I noticed was the new boot toe guides, improved yet again from the 2nd generation, which allowed for ease of entry on par with any other tech binding. Also improved is the toe wire, which is now a solid piece that sits lower than previous models. No doubt, this works in conjunction with the new boot toe guides. Gone are the days of having to manually hold the toe lever down with your ski pole to spread the toe wings open so you could get into the binding. Now one simply pushes the toe lever down, which automatically holds the toe wings in the open position, step in, and away you go.
Next, and almost startling, was how decisively and powerfully the tech toe wings engaged the boot at the tech inserts. Like the shark in Jaws clamping down on an unsuspecting swimmer. I had a person who has used both the 1st and 2nd generation Vipecs step into the new model and she also noted this distinct difference. Lou pointed out the new longer toe lever, but I couldn’t find any functional difference versus the length of the previous generations.
Another significant improvement is how much easier it is to get out of the new Vipec when in the ski mode. In the past, one had to first push the heel lever down into walk mode, then depress the toe lever to spread the toe wings to get out. A painful two step process unlike any other binding. Now simply depress the toe lever to automatically open the wings and step out just like every other binding. Yahoo!
My first tour was short and unremarkable except for the snow (which was great.) By unremarkable, I mean I had none of the issues I’ve had in the past with Vipecs.
The next day’s extensive tour exposed the Vipec to every sort of situation and condition one might encounter on any given tour including trail breaking through deep snow (potential icing,) numerous uphill kick turns and, of course, lots of skiing.
Like any product, the Vipec has its idiosyncrasies. Numerous times on the uphill, one of the brakes would deploy, causing the ski to drag, requiring some fiddle factor with lifters and sometimes getting out of the binding to put everything back in place. At first I thought something must be wrong with the brake which has happened in the past. Of course it turned out to be user error.
It is very important to be mindful of the heel lever in both the uphill and downhill mode. By this I mean it is very easy to push down on the heel lever for walk mode or pull up on the heel lever for ski mode where it looks like and you think the lever is fully engaged when in fact it is not. Make sure you go past that point for either mode to where you feel a decisive click. Then you are locked in preventing brake deployment in the walk mode (which I never experienced again) and worse yet, insta-tele in the ski mode. This problem can arise from either user error and/or any snow or ice build up on or between the heel lever or heel housing. This mandatory mindfulness is the small inconvenience one pays for the great convenience one gets being able to switch modes without having to get out of the binding.
The ski performance with any binding is very subjective. The only way to truly judge this is to take two pair of the same ski mounted with two different bindings, using the same boots and skiing the same runs back to back. I have done this before and in some cases have been able to feel a performance difference.
The Vipec provides a solid feel but beyond that I have no opinion to offer. I have never had occasion to release out of the Vipec(or Dynafit and G3 for that matter). I prefer the bury the springs and don’t look back school of skiing.
There were some Vipec disciples who were horrified that I was picked to do this review given my unpublished yet privately discussed utter disdain for the 1st generation. They assumed I could not present an unbiased opinion. My response was, “Step back and let a professional handle this.”
I am pleased to report that the 3rd generation Vipec are going to stay right where they are, mounted to my Carbon Convert. I will enjoy the advantage (if ever used) of fully functional lateral toe release, the convenience of switching modes on the fly with the mindful ease of use as any other tech binding. These Black Beauties are here to stay.
Black Diamond Helio Series
The Helio 105 is the plank designed for backcountry ski touring.
The Helio 105 is the next generation of light weight, carbon construction touring skis from BD with similar footprints to the Aspect and Carbon Convert but that is where the similarity ends. More from WildSnow testers soon. The Helio 105 is constructed of pre-preg carbon fiber layup, ABS sidewalls and balsa flax wood core.
Like the black Vipec 12, a limited quantity of 175cm and 185cm Helio 105s will be available for sale from select retailers such as Backcountry.com, REI, Outdoor Gear Exchange and Allspeed.
Dimensions and stated weight (weight per pair):
Other widths in the Helio series are: Helio 116, Helio 95, Helio 88.
The redesign of Black Diamond’s Glidelite skins shave 20% of weight from previous models. The tip loop is constructed of aluminum and Dynex (Dynex is the BD name for polyethylene material that is similar to Spectra and Dyneema). The mohair mix skin is 65% mohair and 35% nylon. The tail attachment provides 10cm of length adjustment.
The Couloir Harness is the lightest in BD’s line with a stated weight of 215gm. It’s unisex and designed for technical glacier travel and short rappels.
Cirque 35 pack is a simple rucksack with a synch top. The 35 liter pack comes in S/M and M/L and has a stated weight 2lb 4oz. It’s compatible with AvaLung Element (sold separately).
Lastly, if you’ve always wanted to work in Austria, Black Diamond could fulfill your dreams. Black Diamond Equipment is moving its European headquarters from Basel, Switzerland, to Innsbruck, Austria. BD is recruiting staff for the new office, with approximately 35 jobs across sales, marketing, customer service, operations and finance. The new office is expected to open May 2016.