Black Diamond’s new and revamped Efficient Series ski models come in six flavors. For details see BD’s microsite — 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.)