Black Diamond’s new and revamped Efficient Series ski models come in six flavors. Below is an overview with my test notes for the Drift and Aspect. These two models seemed to be the most “modern” style western U.S. touring skis of the bunch and are thus the planks I tested.
Black Diamond’s Drift is intended as a wide lightweight powder touring board (100 mm underfoot, 138/100/123) similar in purpose to skis such as Dynafit Manaslu or K2 Coomback. Drift is only rockered at the front running surface for about two centimeters, but has a long slowrise tip that also provides float and a rocker effect. The tails have very little rise, actually surprisingly little.
Due to the lengthy tip, the pair of 186 Drifts I skied definitely felt shorter than their measured length. I was delighted at how nimble they were, though for my own setup I’d still probably downsize to the 176. Hardpack performance was excellent for a “powder” ski.
Most importantly, Drift was indeed heavenly in the fluff (wide and soft, so what else would you expect?), but they’re so light and supple that as expected they didn’t feel particularly powerful in steep chop. That’s just an observation not a crit, as soft lightweight powder skis have a purpose, the their purpose is powder, not proving how much chop you can throw around.
Speaking of the weight of the Drift, I did the math to get an approximate weight of a 176: 1614 grams, 57 ounces. That’s a bit heavier than this genre’s weight leader Dynafit Manaslu, but considering the fact that the Drift is significantly wider than the ‘Slu, you’re getting a lot of ski for those extra 6 ounces or so. My question would be do I really want that width, as it means I’d end up hauling even more snow buildup on the ski topskin during the uphill? Each to his own — that kind of girth sure feels good on the down.
It interested me that the Drifts are quite soft in flex. To me that’s good, as I’m quite certain they’ll gain a reputation as a forgiving and fun powder ski. Problem is, a few strong skiers will probably whine that they’re too soft. If the whine is loud enough, design by appeasement will take place and the Drift will get stiffened up for the 2011/2012 model year. Lesson, if you want this as the sweet state-of-art backcountry powder ski I think it probably is, don’t wait, get ’em while they’re soft!
Aspect model of the Efficient Series is probably more my style of plank. It’s got some width to work with at 90 underfoot (130/90/117) and compares favorably to other lightweight skis on the market such as the K2 Baker SL. I found Aspect to be a pleasant ride on the hardpack and as good a powder performer as any other well designed ski in that width range.
In a word I’d call Aspect a hybrid. It hearkens to the weight and agility of narrower skis, but definitely has the width to do more in soft snow. If I had to pick a quiver-of-one ski from the lineup, Aspect would definitely be it. For example, as a board for the Silvretta Traverse we did last spring, this would be the one.
I did not test the following skis:
Stigma (124/80/108) is what BD terms a “classic touring ski,” and is redesigned from older model with the same name.
Guru (120/75/105) is Black Diamond’s lightest ski and again is redesigned from an earlier eponymous model. Claimed weight for the 167 is 1235 grams.
Starlet (134/100/121) is the female version of the Drift and I suspect just as nice.
Syncra (122/80/107) is female version of the Stigma.
In summary: By using the paulownia wood core that’s become common to many lightweight touring skis, as well as a materials layup that carefully eliminates excess mass, Black Diamond has come up with a line of skis that should all be winners for various forms of human powered skiing. Very worth checking out, and hint, the MSRPs look terrific.
Weights (per ski) and dimensions of planks mentioned in this post:
Dynafit Manaslu, —– 178 cm, 1457 gr, 51.4 oz (122/95/108)
Black Diamond Aspect, 176 cm, 1490 gr, 52.5 oz (130/90/117)
K2 Baker SL, 167 cm, 167 cm, 1510 gr, 53.3 oz (122/86/107)
Black Diamond Drift, — 186 cm, 1706 gr, 60.2 oz (138/100/123)
And yes, girls and boys, I did uphill on the Fritschi Eagles. They worked fine and just as when I first tested them I’m convinced the relocated touring pivot is a bonus. Nonetheless I probably won’t be mounting any Eagles on my own quiver, as Dynafits do everything I need. But if you want a true step-in step-out touring binding, good old Fritschis are still a great choice. (And as rumor has it, they may be one of the only choices, as manufacture of the Silvretta Pure is said to be ceasing for various reasons, not the least of which that they’ve been paying a patent licensing fee to Fritschi which makes it hard to get the correct cost margin.)
Shop for Black Diamond skis here.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.
I saw a picture of the Hansen Apex Ski Boot. I swear it is a knock off of a boot that Dynafit made in the 1970’s or 80’s. Could you ask at Dynafit if anyone remembers the boot and if there is a picture of it? My recollection that it was the same concept. If you find it, it would be kind of neat to Post a picture of it. Thanks Kirt Brown
Kirt, I’m thinking of testing out some of those Apex boots, possibly by replacing sole block with a Dynafit compatible sole block.
Various people have tried the exoskel boot over the years. Paul Ramer for one. The problem was the older style skis that required more boot. Now, with skis that turn so easily, these exoskel boots might end up being very popular.
I am disapointed. A 100mm ski is too fat for many snow conditions. Not versatile enough and a true pain when skinning up on hard snow traverse. Too wide for steep terrains most of time as well…..
Radius is ok at best for the Drift, way too low for other models. Same thing as has for the width, you need a radius wider than 20m for skinning up and skiing steep terrains in a proficient way.
Awesome to see BD finally dropping the weights! That’s the main reason I have shied away from their skis so far. I mostly tour and weight makes a huge difference. Trab, Goode, and Dynafit have been leading in this category. Kudos to BD!
I held up a pair of the Aspects the other day and they are indeed incredibly light!
L.A.U.- I used to think that 100mm was too much for some conditions, but I’ve come to find that with a little practice, that size works fine for just about anything, and is obviously incredible in powder and variable conditions. That said, this ski seems to be intended as a backcountry powder ski, not a steep spring couloir ripping machine.
@L.A.U. I have a pair of 100mm Karhu BC 100s that I’ve skied on everything from hard spring conditions to deep powder to piste. They are nimble for skis that wide. They are outstanding in powder, by far my favorite skis for powder tree skiing. And they hold an edge on all but the hardest conditions, although naturally I like a somewhat stiffer and narrower ski for hard conditions. The BC 100 is relatively old design (5 years?), so I’d expect BD to benefit from design and materials advances to make an even better ski of that type.
Why do they have so much sidecut? The dimensions look awful. I expect they’ll be incredibly inefficient on steep traverse, and hooky in variable snow. I agree with nick that a 100mm waisted ski is quite manageable for skinning once you’re used to it, but the huge tip and tail on the Drift will constantly push the center of the ski (and the bit of edge and skin that should be doing most of the gripping work) away from the snow. The wider the ski the more pronounces this effect becomes. I think a 138-110-123 skis would probable skin AND ski powder better than the Drift.
Not sure I’d use a 100 waist ski as a daily driver, mostly because of the massive amount of snow weight they pick up while breaking trail or even following a powder skin track. But they do make skiing powder incredibly easy… I too have to wonder if that much sidecut is necessary. It might be what makes them much nicer on hardpack, but I don’t see how it would help in powder. Like any ski, they are a sum of their parts and time will tell if they become a game changing classic or just another interesting plank.
Main thing that excites me about this whole iteration of BD is that they’ve trimmed some fat while making an effort to provide skis that ski well. Doing this is a much tougher engineering challenge than just making good skiing skis and not worrying about weight.
I bought the Manaslus [178cm] last year with Vert Sts and love the set-up….here are my questions: How does the BD Aspect or even the Coomback compare to my Manaslu skis in differing snow conditions? Do they ski the same lenghts? I am looking for a second set of skis is why I am asking since as a Ski Patroller at a small area here in NE Oregon my Manaslus are eating **** on small rocks due to lack of snow…when and if the prices come down this spring I want to buy a second set-up…
I use DPS Lotus 120’s (140-120-125) for powder tours. The tip rocker is subtle but starts very early. I find that I have less snow build up on the Lotuses than on my 99mm waisted skis, because the long tips (and width) make them plane up naturally. Skinning in deep, heavy snow with traditional camber fat skis, however, can feel a bit like walking in deep mud.
I agree that it’s great to see BD get into making lightweight skiing gear, as it a market that could use more competition. But I wish they modeled the new line on the dimensions of their existing models, rather than creating new shapes best suited to skiing groomers.
Phil, I’d definitely give the BD skis a shot. But I’d really need a lot more time on them to give a good direct comparison. I may try to do that in February. Would be fun to get a Coomback, Manaslu and Drift or Aspect and get a couple of guys switching between the different models. Remind me in February — I’ll bet we could make it happen.
How does the Drift compare to the Havoc as far as ride? The Havoc is a great ski for technical terrain- is the Drift as snappy?
Actually meant to ask about the Aspect verse the Havoc- similar ride? As snappy in tech terrain?
Randy, I’d say the Aspect is less snappy. They very different. Aspect is more of a mellow ride, in my opinion.
Thanks Lou. I saw that the turn radius for the Aspect was shorter than the Havoc- thought it might mean a quicker ski.
Depends on what you mean by “snappy.” I thought you meant that it rebounds quickly when flexed… Aspect is definitely easy to turn. In terms of “quicker,” I don’t know… it’s pretty supple so that might make it have a less “quick” feel even though It’s got a different radius.
Thanks again Lou- I enjoy a quicker turn initiating type ski, which is sometimes at odds with BC skis. The Havoc has been a good compromise for me to date. Perhaps I’ll give the Aspect a try anyway.
I got to ski the 186 Drift yesterday at The Big LePowSki event. First, big thanks to everyone who made this event possible. It was really fun to meet so many diverse and interesting people, and the feel of the event was really genuine rather than some slick marketing strategy.
I liked the Drift. I could see and feel how BD has evolved some of the designs from the 2010 skis. I currently have a pair of 175 Justice with Dynafits set up for powder touring, and I like them, but they don’t really carve turns, and the tails seem to just disappear (soft, tapered, and short).
The Drift seems to address this with similar tip and tail width and a more pronounced sidecut (10mm less at the waist). This allows them to rail at high speed on hard snow, which feels sketchy on the (shorter) Justices. The early rise tip is awesome (similar on both models), it seems to plane above the snow surface effortlessly on both the skin up and the descent. The tail of the Drift feels much stiffer and wider than the Justice, and it looks like a new design that leans back toward traditional tails (similar across the whole efficient series).
I would have preferred to demo the 176 length as it matches my own skis, but the 186 were a lot of fun in the variable in-bounds conditions. They didn’t seem especially light to me, but that was likely due to the length and the bindings (Fritschi). I didn’t get to tour on them, so I can’t comment on how the sidecut may effect steep traverses, but they do turn really nicely.
I’ll give the skis two thumbs up with a big smile. For some, the Drift will be a happy medium between super fat, powder only boards and more traditional designs.
Question about Rossi Altibirds: With little experience BC but eager to get into it, I’m wondering if the Rossis will be too soft for BC and lift-served 75/25… I grew up skiing and racing, (20 years), but have fallen out of it for ~10 years… More or less taught myself to tele two years ago and went and bought the Rossis, but changed my mind and am looking at Dynafits and Garmonts. (Haven’t even unwrapped the Rossis yet.) Sorry for the off-topic post… Love your site!!
Bringing this topic up again. I am having the problem of choosing a touring ski for my daughter. She’s 11, a hair under 5′, and ~90lbs. Last year she skied a G3 Viva and Onyx combo, but the weight really took its toll on her ascending. That combo is 5.0kg. The Viva is 88 under foot, and she floated well on them, and thanks to conventional camber and a reasonable sidecut, she skied them well on hardpack and groomers too.
My problem is in trying to tell the future without wrecking the present. These new lightweight BD skis seem perfect! The Aspect is a bit fatter than the Viva, and weighs a lot less. But, the Starlet weighs barely more than the Aspect, has 100mm under boot, and has an early rise tip. It seems to me that a pair of Starlets with Dynafits (she has a pair of the new Gea lightweight Scarpa boots, so she’s tech compatible) seems like a perfect set-up. The total for a 156cm Starlet and ST rig would be 3.5kg, or a weight savings of 1500g. Wow.
But, anyone think a 100uf ski is insane for a kid? She has a pair of awesome Head resort skis, so she doesn’t need to use them on the groomers, though it would be nice to ski the touring set up at the resort to get used to the ski, and practice getting in and out of the STs.
I’m also thinking of the future. As she gets older, I’d like to have bought skis this year that she can ski for some time. This stuff ain’t cheap.
John, it seems like that might indeed be a bit wide for someone that small and light. But a year from now it might be a different story to at least some degree.
What width does she like for resort inbounds crud and pow?
I tend to recommend to people such as yourself that you worry about weight of boots and bindings, but just get any ski that would ski well and make sure it’s shorter than you’d pick for strictly resort use. That way you can go budget on the ski as well as getting something that really rips and she can perhaps even demo.
Her resort skis are shorter (150) 70uf skis with a ton of side-cut (120-70-110) and carve well. She did ski the Vivas at the resort last year too, and after a morning of getting used to the extra length and width, she was ripping up everything on the Vivas.
So, based on her adept skiing on the 88 width skis, I think the 100’s might be fine, especially in the soft stuff. But, the Aspect (90mm) might be the way to go. About the same size as the Viva, but a lot lighter. Choosing skis is too complicated today!!
Aspect would be good, but why not just pop the bindings off one of her favorite resort skis, mount the backcountry bindings, then go for a tour and see how she likes them?
Which begs the question, what type of backcountry skiing are you guys planning on doing?
Her resort skis have a rail-mounted binding, so that’s not possible. They are also super heavy.
What type of skiing are we doing? Well, to date mostly out-of-bounds at resorts so we can combine lift usage and skinning up to make the most of the day. She is getting stronger, and with a lighter rig, we’ll be able to go farther and do more, but we’re still dependent on having a group, as she, of course, cannot do companion rescue. On that topic, it would be horrific for her to have to deal with an emergency situation, so we only venture out with others along.
She bagged her first technical mountaineering peak this summer, and is chomping at the bit to do ski mountaineering, but that typically involves complex (Class III) terrain, and even with a large group, I am keeping her to simple and challenging terrain for now.
This spring we are flying into the Campbell Icefields Chalet for a week of earning-our-turns, so I’d like her to have a dialed-in bc set-up to make the most of that experience. Some tree skiing, open bowls, and lots of varied terrain are offered there. We’re going to do as much yo-yo skiing as possible there, not going for long tours.
I’m new to backcountry, am an accomplished alpine skier and looking for max fun, lots of turns on all terrain in Northern Michigan. I’ll ski with heel down in tight situations but look forward to learning Tele turns on the groomers. I’m 6’1, 185, competitive cyclist and skate skier so like the up and the down. In fact, planning to herringbone many ups on the groomers (read skate up the hill) and look for soft, crud, grooves, piles etc on the way down. Debating between the BD Drift vs Justice.
I saw someone ragging about the Aspect not being wide enough for fritschi freeride mounts. Stating 60mm. Is this accurate
I have been resort riding 2007 Volkl Mantras with Dukes exclusively for the past few years and loving them. Having started the transition into backcountry skiing, I just got a great deal on a pair of K2 Hardsides and am planning to mount them with Dynafit TLT Vertical ST’s. I typically ski PNW heavy snow (Oregon) and figured the metal in the Hardside would be a positive trait with our snow conditions, as it seems to have worked well in the Mantra which has similar dimensions to the Hardside. What I want is a ski that is good in variable PNW backcountry snow conditions that is also able to make tight turns in the trees.
After reading this review it leaves me wondering if you think the Drift would be a better choice for what I want? (I can return the Hardsides and only be out a little for shipping) Any feedback you have is appreciated, Thanks!
I just bought a pair of stigmas, but have yet to
find anyone who has reviewed them.
The older stigmas have been pretty good
to its users, however, this years has a different
tip and tail.
I hope I can get away with it as a lift served
ski for here in the East. The Description of
the newest stigma has me wary of it’s
performance capabilities. BD decribes it
as a backcountry ski. I am worried it may be to
Skiing the Havocs right now, but they’re
feeling a little chunky.
Do you know anyone who has tried, or reviewed the
My havocs feel a little
to chunky, so I decided to go for the stigma.
Great review here. I had a go on the Aspects and the Drift Ski’s recently (my friend is a sales rep for BD!) and I concur that the Aspect is the better all round ski yet neither of them are poor for either hard pack or powder, I’ve gone and bought a pair of Aspects for use this year, yes while their nice and soft 🙂
Are you still keeping the pair with you?
How they glide in a gentle slope especially in “Low” temperature?
Myself and Buddy have bought Drift 186 and having very serious glide
Bit tired to see off Boarders and Kids…. 😐
Thanks for the great information! Do you know or anyone else how the Aspects ski compared to the Joules? I’m considering both pairs for my next backcountry setup. I like that the Aspects are much lighterweight. I recognize that a much lighter ski doesn’t (generally) perform the same as a heavier ski of similar specs. Any feedback on performance would be appreciated.
Lou – After a recent incident at Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State where a skier incurred series knee injuries while on the up track with non releasable tele bindings I began to wonder if Dynafits will release in an avalanche with the toe lever locked while the heel is in tour mode?
Rick – I took a low speed tumble/fall a few weeks ago when i was trying to race up track to lap a friend who didn’t want to get in as many more laps as I did before the day ended. At the time I had my Dynafits in touring mode with the toe lever locked. When I stumbled and rolled forward…… and then sideways down the slope (yes I looked like a total jackass, you can laugh at me!) I was worried that I would either break a binding or hurt myself. I was pleased to see that the tumble in the forward direction pushed the lever down on one of the skis and it released from the torsional movement. The other ski released but I’m not sure if it was the torsional stress on from different angles or if it was from the same reasons as the other ski, but I am happy to report that neither binding broke, and neither did my knees.
I have been really impressed with my Dynafit Vertical ST’s and would recommend them to anyone who wants a good touring binding. (As a side note, I also use the brakes with mine and haven’t had any issues with them as I have seen others mention from past years reviews.)
Hope this helps answer some of your concerns. I saw another post that Lou put up on review of Dynaduke Plates where he talked about his faith in Dynafit’s, you may want to look that post up if you have a chance.
Faith, now that’s a pretty strong word!
As for knee injuries, they happen to hikers, roller bladers, and others who do anything but spend the day in a hot bath. They happen more to skiers, but I wouldn’t worry about touring with a locked toe Dynafit being particularly risky to your knees.
Based on previous testing by some gals I know, and guys on Aspects, I would venture to say the Aspect is a different and in many ways much better ski than Joule… But, am I mistaken or has the Joule changed in construction and remains the same in name only? If so, I’m talking about older Joule… That’s as far as I’ll go, except to say we’re not paying much attention to the Joule, though we do like some of BD’s newest skis (the ones for next season), which seem to have matured and reached a higher level of performance than in years past.
how would you say that the Drift compares to the Stokes? Been hearing that they are even softer and might not be as good on hard steeps. What do you think?
Simon, I can’t see how the Drift would be any worse than Stoke on hardpack. I’d say neither ski would be particularly exceptional on “hard steeps.” That’s not what they’re designed for. If I had my choice of either for steep hard snow, I’d probably pick the Drift, actually. So now you’re hearing something different (grin).
I’ve been skiing the Stokes this season and I’m really happy with them except that the inserts got ripped out of em at the end of the year. Have heard about other simliar incidents so even tho I’m getting a new pair from dynafit I’m a bit concerned it might happen again. Drift could be a nice option. Thx!
Any follow up on how you likes these skis this season? I’m looking at possibly purchasing these and see some mixed reviews…. At 5’9″ 165lbs I’m unsure if i should get the 176 or the 185’s any input on these sizes?
I’ve really liked the Drift, but I’m a very low-performance skier. But they did OK night skiing on hardpack at New England resorts, and are a blast in soft snow. Very soft, very light.
I was out with a very good skier on Drifts and he was looking fine,he had nice things to say about the ski. Personally, I had no big problem with them and liked the width/weight ratio, and would rate them “above average.” I think this is a ski that responds greatly to how they are tuned and what binding mount position you end up with. As always, a demo is a good idea.
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