Black Diamond Helio 76 – First Look Ski Review; BD ATK – Binding Peek

Post by blogger | January 18, 2018      

(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)

The 2018 Black Diamond Helio 76

2018 Black Diamond Helio 76

I love skiing pow as much as the next ski goof, but sometimes it’s nice to go as fast as you can uphill, carry around heavy things, or take skis to silly far away places. Fast, light, and versatile ski mountaineering gear helps in such pursuits. With that in mind, Black Diamond has some very interesting ski mountaineering gear coming our way.

Disclaimer: This is a first look. I have only had a chance to spend a couple of days on the Helio 76. I skied the 171 length mounted with Vipec Evos (understandably heavier than most will have set up on this ski) in La Sportiva Spitfire 2.0 boots. I skied it both on-piste and in the backcountry, but given how few runs I have had on the ski, these are only initial impressions.

Black Diamond has been making the Helio ski in 88, 95, 105, and 116 underfoot sizes for two seasons. I am a big fan. They are fast on the up and stable on the down. The Helio 105 has been my go to touring ski of late, and the Helio 88 is my go to spring ski. Both skis rock.

Along with the other Helio sizes, BD has made a ski for most skiers, however the skinny ski has made a comeback, and 88 is just not that small. The BD website says that the 88 is made for “ski mountaineering races, high-altitude objectives, and long-distance tours.” I have put it to use in Alaska and Colorado for expeditions, hut trips, and 14ners a plenty — but skimo races? NO WAY.

Skimo skis are generally 65mm underfoot and only 161cm in length. This size is really an uphill oriented tool (though world class racers do attain high velocities on the down), but it is gaining in popularity for fitness uphilling at ski resorts. Some strong skiers are taking 65s out into the mountains and doing impressive things with them, but generally speaking it is a limiting size. That said, 88 is also a big ski to an increasing number of people who like skinning in bounds, use skis to go real far, carry heavy packs, ski couloirs, or even like to rip corn in the spring. Enter the Helio 76!

2018 Black Diamond Helio 76
MSRP: $799.95
Available fall 2018


  • tip – waist – tail: 106-76-96
  • 4lbs 9oz (pair)
  • 171cm

  • tip – waist – tail: 107-76-97
  • 5lbs 1oz (pair)
  • The Austrian Alps make for a fine testing ground

    The Austrian Alps make for a fine testground.

    As a big fan of the Helio construction, 76 is the size I have been waiting for. A few other brands have been doing well with similar skimo inspired skis, and the Helio 76 now offers a BD made option.

    The Helio 76 sports early rise in the tip and the Helio tail design, prepreg carbon layup, and an ultralight wood core (balsa reinforced with flax). BD has added rubber to their sidewall and layup to help damp the chatter. The Helio is built with 5mm ABS sidewalls – pretty rad for such a small ski. For comparison, the lighter weight Voile Objective is a cap construction ski, and the Dynafit Speedfit sports a ‘micro-sidewall’ (I guess it’s like a sidewall but smaller?). This all adds up to the Helio 76 being a tad heavier than some competitors at the size, but built like a bigger ski, which really helps them with the down.

    Five pounds (227 gr) a pair is still darn dainty and easily qualifies as a “one kilo” ski. Other skis in the same category have often felt too soft or too unruly, but the Helio turn is snappy when you want it and stiff when you need it. Be warned: the 76 still feels a bit like you have Twizzlers on your feet. However, these Twizzlers hold an edge pretty darn well. I think BD really hit the sweet spot with this ski design: perhaps slightly heavier than other stupid-light skis, but in exchange for solid downhill performance.

    I really like skimo style tip-fix attachments on my skins, and think they are downright necessary in some ski mountaineering contexts (and obviously have a huge race application). I went so far as to file a notch into my Helio 88s. BD finally hopped on board and put in the notch so I don’t have to hardware hack (sorry Lou).

    I think at 161 and 171 this ski will be a super good fit for a lot of resort skinners, serious racers looking for a non-race ski, casual racers, and some ski mountaineers. I also think that BD may have missed an opportunity by only offering two sizes. A 176cm (or there about) would be a better length for spring corn, and undoubtedly there are many backcountry enthusiasts who just won’t hop on anything so short. Maybe a longer size will show up down the road?

    Some other uphill and ski mountaineering goodies from BD are on the way this year as well. BD will begin distributing ATK bindings in North America. These are all ultralight tech bindings out of Italy, boasting clever engineering that does things such as improving the performance of U-pins, or significantly reducing weight. The following ATK bindings will be rebranded as BD Helio bindings as part of their new distribution:

  • ATK SL Evo — Helio 110
  • ATK Trofeo — Helio 145
  • ATK SLR Logic — Helio 180
  • ATK Haute Route — Helio 200
  • Available fall 2018
  • MSRP for Helio 110 binding: $624.95

    The numbers above each correspond to the binding weight in grams. The Helio bindings will replace ATK branding in North America and are going to match the color scheme of the Helio skis according to weight — the lightest being grey to match the 76 and the heaviest being blue to match the 105. This will solidify their presence in the Lycra clad cohort of uphillers and weight conscious touring community among whom ATK already has a solid skimo reputation.

    The lightest pairing.

    Grey Helio 110 bindings, rebranded ATK SL Evo, mounted on Helio 76 skis.

    Helio 145 bindings mounted on Helio 88 skis.

    Yellow Helio 145 bindings, rebranded ATK Trofeo, mounted on Helio 88 skis.

    Helio 200 bindings mounted on Helio 105 skis.

    Blue Helio 200 bindings, rebranded ATK Haute Route, mounted on Helio 105 skis.

    Oh so easy on the carry – and remember, we spend a whole lot of time heading up hill. Manfred works at the Blizzard factory and he showed up to tour with the 76.

    Oh so easy on the carry – and remember, we spend a whole lot of time heading up hill. Manfred works at the Blizzard factory and he showed up to tour with the 76.

    BD is hopping on the lightweight train and the tracks spell “Helio.” The Helio 110 on the Helio 76 will be a true ultralight BD set-up.

    The Helio 76 was smooth on the groomers, decent in a bit or pow, and I managed not to fall over in variable chunder snow — a win on such light boards. Mind you, I own more than one pair of Spandex and have been accused from time to time of being a ‘speed-weenie,’ but my first impression is that the Helio 76 is a super cool ski. I like it a lot.


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    20 Responses to “Black Diamond Helio 76 – First Look Ski Review; BD ATK – Binding Peek”

    1. Kristian January 18th, 2018 9:17 am

      Just great… BD makes a compelling case to replace my entire quiver.

    2. Rudi January 18th, 2018 10:15 am

      The skis look great, but the real story here is expanded retail of ATK in North America. They have by far the most compelling line up of ski touring bindings and hopefully with BD pushing them prices will come down a bit.

    3. Buck January 18th, 2018 10:46 am

      will the adoption of ATK affect BD’s distribution of Vipec & Tecton in any way?

    4. wtofd January 18th, 2018 10:54 am

      I love skiing my old 88s after years of believing that width under-foot was the answer. Only question about these (and proper skimo race skis) is, at what point do they become to short for tall skiers? Even my 184s seem like kid skis. Can’t imagine 171s.

    5. Alex January 18th, 2018 11:15 am

      Buck, BD will still be fully distributing the Vipec and Techton. IMO The Vipec/Techton won’t compete much with the ATK bindings – I think they really compete with the Ion and Kingpin, while ATK competes with the lighter Dynafit market.

    6. Scott January 18th, 2018 11:17 am

      Awesome first look — eagerly awaiting the full in-depth review after the spring corn cycle rolls around! I have to admit that Alex’s initial photo of the Helio 76’s in the overall BD lineup got me salivating, since (like Alex says) even the Helio 88 has always seemed a tad wide for a “speed touring” rig. Definitely looking forward to adding a pair of the 76’s to the quiver — looks like they’ll fit right in the venerable “race plus”/mountaineering-ski heritage of the Dynafit Nanga Parbat, Movement Fish-X and Hagan Cirrus (the Hagans having been my choice for several years as an “everything but the powder day” ski).

      Quick tech spec/weight weenie Q: was that gram stat 2027g, or 2270g? The former would definitely put it in the 1kg weight class for the 171cm length…the latter would place it well back in the pack compared to, say, the Skitrab Maestro (915g in 171).

    7. RDE January 18th, 2018 11:21 am

      So the purpose of having a black front half and a white tail is to make sure the tips are always weighted down with frozen snow so they don’t get too light and fly away?

    8. Mike Henrick January 18th, 2018 11:37 am

      Neat! Thanks for the update – does anyone have any DIY guides to adding in the holes for race skin attachments to ski tips? I have a pair of skis I would love to mod but it’s unfamilar territory

    9. Lou Dawson 2 January 18th, 2018 11:44 am

      Scott, I’m pretty sure the weight is 2270 and you are correct, while I’d still call that being ” in the one-kilo” weight class there are quite a few “one kilo” skis that are closer to one kilo. We’ll do a bit more editing on that. Thanks, Lou

    10. Andy Carey January 18th, 2018 12:11 pm

      Love my 84-mm waist 177 cm Vertex-X (2200 g/pair) with Superlite 2.0 White bindings–together the weight is 5 lbs 10 oz and I ski them with my TLT6 M without power strap or accessory tongue (5 lbs) in many kinds of snow so far (corn, consistently breakable crust, 4″ of new on crust, 18 inches of powder) etc. So light, so fun, so very hi performance. I like my 182 Cho Oyus (89 mm waist, 7lbs 1 oz with Speed Radicals) too, but I find my hands reaching for the Vertex. My poor super-fine 177 Shifts (98 mm waist, 9lbs 8 1/2 oz) are being relegated to cruddy snow days. Of course, we don’t get to ski that nice, deep, light Utah powder in the PNW bc very often and my 176 V8s & Yaks (112 waist, 9 lbs 12 oz) haven’t seen snow for awhile. The light weight for up and swing weight and lightweight boots are hard to resist!

    11. robin January 18th, 2018 1:22 pm

      I’m very happy to hear of BD will be distributing ATK. I’ve been on that binding with 172cm Carbon Converts (105mm waist) several seasons with great performance at lighter weight, particularly with the La Sportiva Syborg boots. Via Quiverkillers I swap over to Movement Response-X skis (89mm) to drop another 480gm when conditions or preference warrants. My North Idaho tour partners are on similar gear and we are always mystified at the heavy set-ups that seem to be the fashion, but then we’re not hucking the heights or tipping the scales at body weights over 75kg or so. I’ve also used them in BC, the Alps, and about to take them to Japan. Kudos to BD for continued progress with what for me is a great quality backcountry ski line and thanks for the review.

    12. TimZ January 18th, 2018 2:40 pm

      Fantastic news about ATK being distributed by BD. I only wish they had chose SLR Release over Trofeo/Logic.

      I’ve been on many of their bindings, RT, SLR, SLR Lady and Revolution and find them to be fantastic.

    13. Cody January 18th, 2018 3:00 pm

      Mike Henrick don’t over think it. All you need is a sharp manual saw/ Dremel/ band saw, a file/ sandpaper, and some epoxy to seal things back up.

    14. Lou Dawson 2 January 18th, 2018 3:55 pm

      We have a blog post about that somewhere! I’ll look.

      I found this:

      The way I do slots is with a rotary disk grinder, with a regular type of grinding disk, thicker variety. I just cut sideways into the ski tip while spraying some water on the mess. Sometimes I seal with epoxy, sometimes I don’t if the slot is in some sort of ABS or other waterproof tip.


    15. JCoates January 18th, 2018 5:52 pm

      Brian H (the “H” stands for hard-man) over at skimolife dot com also has a pretty good write up on it as well as how to make your own skin attachments etc. .

    16. See January 18th, 2018 7:09 pm

      When are “tip-fix attachments… downright necessary?” I’ve been saying for years that those tip notches look perfect for getting stuck on bushes (with no reports of it actually happening), but I still prefer the Fischer style slots which work great in my experience.

    17. Jim Knight January 18th, 2018 7:52 pm

      It’s nice to see a return to ski alpinism with the Helio 76. Remember the BD Guru? Full circle. ATK partnership is a wise decision. Well done BD!

    18. Alex January 23rd, 2018 2:26 pm

      Hey Alex or Lou, do you know if BD will be offering a race skin to be used with the 76? If so any information on what that would look like?

    19. rpski January 31st, 2018 9:42 am

      Skied these yesterday at the SIA show. Same set up with vipecs in a 171 and with my Spectre 2.0 boots. On groomers only so not anywhere near complete for a review but these skis stole the show for me in the wider-than-skimo-race-but-still-light category. Channeled my inner Bode Miller on them and railed them like I was on full metal GS boards. Never had this much fun on such a light ski. Tons of pop and energy, no chatter at top speeds, enough sidecut to help initiate turns, holds an edge like you won’t believe. I’m ordering a pair for sure and may only use the Wasatch Speed Projects now for races.

    20. Mike May 9th, 2019 7:00 pm

      Does anyone know if the rise of the tip has been modified since the first generation helio 105? Like the author, my go to back-country ski is a helio 105 but the only downside I have found is that the low rise tip catches on sun cups leading to several painful and awkward falls on sun cupped snow. Does anyone know if they have added a little more tip rise to the second generation of the helio line and in particular the 76? I am looking for a light and fast corn board and this ski looks like the one but I am hoping to hear they added a couple degrees to the tip. thanks!

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