I can still remember cuddling on the couch with my beloved Black Diamond Carbon Convert, sipping chardonnay while watching “The Way We Were”. But alas, she’s gone (cue up Hall and Oates). Now I’m on the edge of my seat, shotgunning beers with my new best buddy, the Helio 105, watching Stallone kick butt in Rambo. Parting was such sweet sorrow but nothing lasts forever.
I have never hidden my affection for the Carbon Convert, as smooth and supple as Chinese silk in powder and variable conditions. But that was where it ended. No real beef or brawn and certainly no match for hard snow.
Enter Black Diamond’s new Helio series, slated to replace the carbon Aspect, Convert and Megawatt. The Helios are a three model selection of pre-preg carbon laminate backcountry touring skis consisting of the 95, 105 and 116 widths underfoot.
BD has departed the Far East and gone right to the motherland of alpine skiing with the Helio skis being made by Blizzard in Austria. The first obvious difference in the construction is the return of a full length edge which was missing in previous BD carbon skis. Gone is the metal tail clip for skins with a return to a notch in the abs tail protector.
I spent 3 days on the 175cm Helio 105 recently with the grand finale being a day of hiking laps and riding lifts in 12″ of fresh at Aspen Highlands.
My first day started with a run on a groomer at Aspen Mt. before heading out back to tour a lap. My immediate thought as the Helio 105 held firm, tracked well and begged for more speed was, “This is a real ski.”
They were surprisingly damp for a lightweight carbon ski and stayed glued to the snow allowing the full length of the edge to engage. I headed out back to tour a lap in one of my usual haunts where I am virtually guaranteed to find powder. Sure enough, the powder was there albeit with a few tracks scattered across the slope. Every time I crossed a track I got bucked into the backseat a little bit, making me think maybe the tail of the Helio 105 was a touch too stiff. Maybe I was still thinking about my old flame and hadn’t fully committed to this new friendship.
My second day was guiding cat skiing. I brought along my trusty DPS Wailer 112 “just in case” but left them racked for the day because if one is going to talk the talk then you had better walk the walk.
The snow report said 3″ but to my surprise we found 12+” had blown into the lee side of our terrain. My kind of miscalculation. I honestly missed the extra girth and found myself working a bit harder than usual to get down the hill. Was it lack of girth, a bit lower tip profile or a bit too stiff a ski to allow for enough float?
My final day on the Helio 105 was a classic Colorado powder day. Bluebird and cold with a foot of new snow. It was also my first full day of the season riding lifts with nothing on my plate beyond ski my butt off. I don’t know if it was powder fever or the sense of freedom of not having to think about the well being of clients behind me but something different was in the air. I almost took my Wailer 99 with me “just in case” but tossed them back in the corner at the last second and thought “The hell with it.”
Solely by luck, my wife and I were part of the first 50-100 people up Highlands Bowl when it opened. It might as well been heli skiing.
Swooping down a wide gully just above treeline, a couple of wind affected turns went by as if they weren’t there, Dropping into some trees, popping off features, arcing little sidehills, all the while playing the terrain at will. Then it opened up onto a big apron that rolled over steeper with each turn. I caught a glance out of the corner of my eye of friends who were parked on top of the rollover as I punched the accelerator and increased the radius of my turns. All the while, I was letting out spontaneous howls, yells and whoops of joy. When we hit the runout of the Bowl I made sure my wife was behind me as we worked one final margin of untracked to the far right that sees a bit of sun. I never would have known it as the Helio 105 blasted through the denser snow just like all the blower above.
As the day unfolded there was plenty of powder but also some tracks to contend with while linking swaths of untracked. I expected such a featherweight AT ski to get tossed about like a ship at sea but as I pressed into the front of the Helio 105 they just stayed right on course, no deflection. Before it was all over I pushed around chunky crud, smeared and slithered over and around powder bumps and finished it all off arcing through sun drenched bumps just above the base. I held nothing back that day and the Helio 105 never let me down. I was a born again skier.
The Helio 105 is a true one ski quiver. Despite being touted as a high tech, high performance AT ski, it is all that and more. I never thought I would see the day that a 6lb AT ski would stand up to the abuse of a ski area thrashing. The harder I pushed the Helio 105 the more it gave back. It’s damp and stable, tracks well, holds firm and is energetic and reactive. In short, there is no mistaking it’s Austrian build. Short of mid winter bottomless (did I mention the 116), I can’t think of any terrain or condition that I wouldn’t grab the Helio 105 and go. While wistful memories of the Carbon Convert still linger now and again, I am only looking ahead as my new best buddy and I are off to grab an apres beer.
Helio 105 specs: