Ski Review – Black Diamond Kilowatt

Post by blogger | July 13, 2010      

While I’ve owned and skied a few Black Diamond ski models including the Verdict, Zealot, and Justice, the Kilowatt has really been my (and many of my ski partners) go to ski for ski mountaineering. For a guy my size (215 lbs), I think it is one of the most well rounded all conditions backcountry skis on the market.


Joe and I on the summit of North America. Super stoked to be skiing down instead of walking.

Rumors were swirling a while back that BD was releasing a new model of the Kilowatt that was going to be a bit softer. My initial reaction to the news was that of disappointment, as I have come to rely on the ‘Watts for their stiff flex and great edge hold on the varying conditions I usually find myself in. Well, I got my first day on the new Kilowatts on North Maroon Peak just two days before we left for Denali. My initial worries vanished after I took my first turn down the steep powder face. Pure enjoyment. It seems this latest version has more pop than any previous iterations, while not relinquishing that hard snow edge hold I have come to appreciate so much. This new Kilowatt may finally replace my beloved older model ‘Watts, and it is probably about time given that I’ve bled them dry on the rocks of the Rockies.

Three members of our Denali team (Joe, Caleb, and myself) took the Kilowatts up the Kahiltna and I heard nothing but praise. I even noticed a guide or two who shared our taste in skis. The diverse ski terrain above both the 11,200 and 14,200 ft camps demands a ski that can do more than just a fast climb or one type of snow. The ‘Watts handled the variations of Denali snow (from blue ice to 3 feet of freshies) just as we hoped they would.

Caleb Skis

Caleb will usually tell you that he prefers a shorter ski for ski mountaineering, but I didn't hear any complaints about his 185's when we woke up to 3 feet of snow on our tent.

The ‘Watts were as common a sight as ravens on the headwall of Denali’s West Buttress route while we were in the area, seeing as our group lapped it about every other day during our trip.


Joe said he loved the skis. Here he is on the West Buttress between 16,200 and 17,200.

The 185’s dimensions are 127-95-115 with a turn radius of 24.5 meters. While I am no slalom ski racer, I do like a ski with a nice short turn radius on steeper lines as it allows me to keep the speed under control and provides edge-hold on hardpack. The 185’s weigh in at 8 lbs 6 oz, not the lightest ski out there and perhaps this plank’s only downside, but in my opinion a satisfactory performance to weight ratio. I think skiing anything up there with less beef under my feet would have been a much more difficult endeavor.

The Kilowatts come with a wood core, certainly a plus, and due to durability and performance characteristics is something I prefer in all skis in my quiver.

In the end, I think Black Diamond made a winner even better, thus keeping the Kilowatt at the top of the ski mountaineering charts. The ‘Watts will remain my go to skis for big days on big lines.

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54 Responses to “Ski Review – Black Diamond Kilowatt”

  1. Anton July 13th, 2010 2:30 pm

    Hey Jordan,

    How does your model compare to the 08 Kilowatt in stiffness? I am 6’2, 200lb so we probably drive them similar.

    Also which boots did you guys use? I can see you are on FT or ST Dynafits.

  2. Jordan July 13th, 2010 4:30 pm

    Hey Anton,
    I’ll be perfectly honest, I couldn’t tell a huge difference in stiffness between the two models. The new ones felt as though they “popped back” at me a bit more, which I enjoy. I have had the chance to ski them on steep hardpack too and found that they held an edge just fine. On Denali I was using the Scarpa Skookums. However for most of my stuff I am in a pair of Dynafit Titans. FT 12’s were the bindings.


  3. Lou July 13th, 2010 5:24 pm

    Anton, when I flexed them out side-by-side I recall the new ones feeling a bit softer but that was a while ago. I skied them and they felt fine for the old dog, but then, I’m not Jordan (grin).

  4. Chris July 13th, 2010 9:09 pm

    What would you think about running these at a shorter length (like 175)? Do you think you would overpower them? Same question now assuming you lost about 20 lbs and skied a bit slower (which is probably where I am in comparison to you)?

  5. The Grudge July 14th, 2010 12:52 am

    Imagine my surprise to find a glowing review of a product on this website… The unbought of the ski industry tend to have consensus that BD is a good 2-3 years behind in technology in general compared to other manufacturers like Dynafit and Ski Trab. BD skis comparatively offer little to nothing over any other brand. Knowing full well all of you who heed every word that’s printed on this site will call me all number of names, I’m totally tired of sponsored media sources praising BD ski products. BD skis are heavy and clunky to ski, they have a poor flex pattern at best. The boots do not hold a thermo mold beyond three days (we tested every AT boot brand on the market exhaustively) and are also way too heavy. They’re designed to feel good when you try them on in the store, period. Wake up people.

  6. Lou July 14th, 2010 6:52 am

    Grudge, you have every right to your opinion. Just know that we could have come up with all sorts of different brands and model skis for Jordan to use on the Denali trip. He likes BD Kilowatt, so that’s what he used and reviewed.

    You can accuse us of bias all day long but that doesn’t make it true. In fact, perhaps you are biased against those of us who have the privilege of our writing being supported by advertisers?

    Also, please bear in mind that this is a blog, and not a ski review website. We pretty much just publish one post a day on weekdays, and thus we don’t have the space or manpower to review every ski on the planet.

    The filters I use to pick what skis to review are mainly:
    1. What I or the reviewer like (hence, the terrible propensity of “glowing” reviews).
    2. What we can get and use for extended time so we can do a real review instead of a magazine paragraph from someone who’s been on the ski for a few hours.
    3. What’s new and interesting, for first-look style posts.

    As for your comments about ski technology, as Jordan mentioned in his review the Kilowatt is a bit heavy and I’d agree that other ski makers may be making skis that ski as well but are lighter weight. However, durability is another issue, and Jordan is an EXPERT on that. If he says the Kilowatt holds up, that means it is probably pretty darned strong. That alone is super important for larger, aggressive skiers and might be the most important point of this whole review, as some of the lighter weight skis out there don’t hold up to that kind of abuse.

    As for BD boots, well, we know a lot of skiers who like them, and we’ve done some extensive first-look types of reviews due to the huge event of BD becoming a boot maker. But where is the biased worship of BD boots that you have a problem with? I looked back through our blog posts and I’m not seeing it…

    If you think all we do is worship gear, you might also check this out, as we do cover the negative side of things now and then:

    As for your statement of “wake up people,” well, I too have infinite wisdom compared to the unwashed sleeping masses — sometimes it’s such a burden, isn’t it? (grin)

  7. Hal July 14th, 2010 7:24 am

    You are spot-on with your statement that the most important point of Jordan’s Kilowatt review is his point of durability and performance. Those of us over 200 lbs., are always interested in gear suited for the forces our Sasquatch-like bodies exert on our gear as we lumber though the back-country.

  8. Ben W July 14th, 2010 8:33 am

    I also find BD skis to be… uh… not good. But I also find skis like the Dynafit Manaslu or K2 Wayback to be too light for aggressive skiing (although I use a pair of Manaslus for longer tours with 2-buckle boots). If I treated my Manaslus the way treated some of my other skis, I suspect they’d last about a week.

    I think having reviewers with different styles and physical characteristics is very useful. I weigh 180. I prefer skis in the 7-8 lb range. Jordan is not small. He likes skis that weigh more than 8 lbs. Lou is skinny and likes sub 7 lb skis. Hmm.

    Also, I have never before read a glowing review of BD skis on here. And the flaws of the BD boots (heavy, poor range of motion in walk mode) have been noted. Lou has clearly stated, numerous times, that he focuses on reviewing products that he likes. Products that are truly flawed are outed. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that some products are held in a very high regard (Dynafit bindings, boots and skis- K2 Skis- Scarpa Boots) while others are mentioned more as alternatives, perhaps with more specific benefits.

    If Jordan is sponsored by BD, that is quite different, and it should be noted. But claiming bias because you don’t like something irresponsible.

  9. Lou July 14th, 2010 9:02 am

    Jordan is not a BD sponsored athlete, FYI, but he of course gets the best deal he can on skis, just like any smart shopper or swag master!

    And yeah, I’m the opposite of Jordan when it comes to ski choices! So my K2 Wayback review is on tap!

  10. Jordan July 14th, 2010 9:12 am

    I think that for me personally a 175 would be a bit too short. I think It would ski fine on corn and harder pack, but I think I would experience a lot of tip dive in deeper snow. The extra edge hold is a plus too for those pucker moments.


  11. Caleb Wray July 14th, 2010 12:06 pm

    I too am often wary of any gear recommendations unless they come from someone I know and trust.


    Perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that you have been using the Kilowatts as your go to ski mountaineering ski for several seasons, including during most of your 14ers project. And that all 3 of the BD skis (2 pairs watts, 1 verdicts) that you own were paid for out of pocket.

    I was impressed with the Watts, which I took to Denali in a 185. I had many other choices but went with the Watts based on recommendations from Jordan, Joe, and other ski partners. At 6’3″ and 175lbs the 185’s were a little bit less nimble than I prefer, like Lou I prefer a shorter ski, but the stiffness and shape seemed about perfect for the job.

  12. Joe Brannan July 14th, 2010 2:28 pm

    I own 4 models of Bd skis, all paid for by myself. I love the kW for long BC days. They are light enough on the up to get the job done and ski very predictably. They are wide enough under foot for deep conditions and handle chop and HP/ice well enough. Its not great for any given condition, its a Jack of all trades. Oh, and they are way cheaper price wise than other options mentioned here. That’s why its my ski of choice. Perhaps if you demand a lighter ski and the extra bucks are not an issue going another way is your choice.

  13. Mark W July 16th, 2010 10:53 am

    Amazing how many people really like the Kilowatt, and now with serious ski mountaineers’ endordements, this should make the naysayers think a bit. Having said that, I’ll remind us how fickle ski reviewers can be.

  14. Mark W July 16th, 2010 12:28 pm

    I have seen reviewers rave one season about a ski and discard it as average the next. Someone like Jordan spent way more time on the Kilowatts than most of us could conceive of, so I think his review is very valid.

  15. Mark W July 16th, 2010 12:34 pm

    There is one BD ski review on Wildsnow that raves. It is s few years old. Remember the Mira?

  16. Lou July 16th, 2010 1:07 pm

    Indeed, those really were good skis for their time…

  17. Euro Rob July 17th, 2010 6:02 am

    Seconding the skiers weight importance. Am 6’1 / 170 myself and own the 175cm Kilos (08 model), they often seem to be lots of work in less than ideal conditions. They really tear it up inbounds when legs are not fatigued from the uphill though.

    Looking forward to the wayback review.

  18. Lou July 17th, 2010 7:00 am

    Once you’ve skied a bigger ski, you really notice the extra work a shorter narrower ski takes during the downhill. Over the past few years I’ve been finding this compromise is a difficult one to nail. I’ve been on the Kilowatts and like the way they ski, but they’re more weight than I need since I’m light on my feet and don’t need the extra durability I’m assuming the extra weight adds to the ski.. Manaslu is still my fav for when I know it’ll be mostly powder or soft, but the Coomback is rather attractive, and the Wayback is my go-to ski for spring ski mountaineering and for traveling when I have no idea what conditions I’ll be skiing. So many skis, so little time…

  19. peter July 23rd, 2010 4:53 am

    id like to ask if combination kilowatt with dukes is too brutal?:)
    i mean i do touring,but want secure downhill performance.
    it will be a little heavier than frritchis freerides plus but i think dukes makes the best downhill performance.
    and there is no other lighter binding that i can jump with and be secure.
    or is it just bad combination?will it be hurting to do long touring with dukes?

  20. Euro Rob July 23rd, 2010 6:49 am

    Peter, there is a spectrum between dynafit and duke, specifially the new Fritschi Freeride and Marker Tour offerings might be an interesting compromise, but if you need a 12+ release all non-duke bets are off I guess.

    Dynafit’s FT12 takes some beating too, but their bindings have a different release feeling due to its construction, which some people seem not to like.

  21. Lou July 23rd, 2010 7:37 am

    Peter, Onyx tries to be the exact binding you seem to be after. I’d give them a go.

  22. Jonathan Shefftz July 23rd, 2010 4:02 pm

    “Onyx tries to be the exact binding you seem to be after.”
    — With a maximum vertical release setting of 10? Or are they increasing it for next year on a new model?

  23. Lou July 24th, 2010 3:31 pm

    I should have said something like, yeah, it is “DIN” 10 but I’ve never spoken to anyone who has any retention problems with Onyx. “DIN” in parenthesis because neither Onyx nor Dynafit are certified by an external organization such as TUV to be “DIN” standard.

  24. Jonathan Shefftz July 24th, 2010 5:13 pm

    I strongly suspect that no skiers have ever had problems with the maximum 10 vertical release setting on the Onyx b/c anyone who needs a higher setting just gets the Dynafit FT12.

  25. Lou July 24th, 2010 5:16 pm


  26. pete July 26th, 2010 11:05 am

    question of the boots…scarpa typhoon or spirit 4?should work with dukes or barons-im not decided yet..
    is the comfort of tour mode the same or spirit 4 is more comfortable uphill?
    but i suppose typhoon should be the same uphill but much more stiffer and control skis better than spirit 4..any suggestions?

    i know ,i looked at dynafit zzeus but much more expensive,but probably tour so much better than scarpas?

    i will tour with baron or duke but maybe in the near future i might switch to something lighter so boot wit dynafit holes will be needed
    i suppose something like g3 onyx or dynafit will come to my way in the future,but i ski quite aggressive on the way down…

  27. Lou July 26th, 2010 11:10 am

    Pete, the tech binding decision is what might have to drive your boot decision. The Typhoon doesn’t have tech fittings, while the Spirit 4 does.

    Spirit 4 is fairly beefy but not nearly as stiff as the Typhoon.

    If you’re used to stiff alpine boots, skiing a boot such as Spirit 4 might require some getting used to, while Typhoon would be familiar.

    Just remember that some of the hardest most radical lines in the world are regularly skied in boots such as Spirit 4, so don’t get caught up in the hype of needing cinder blocks on your feet for ski alpinism.

  28. Chris July 31st, 2010 2:16 pm

    Hi Wildsnow-
    I like the look of the idea of the Kilowatts, but I am looking for something a bit wider. My wife needs something in the 155-160cm range, and not a lot of 105mm underfoot skis seem to come that small. Any recs or ideas for a shorter ski for her that are around 100-105mm underfoot? She was on the 160 Dawn Patrol (88underfoot, the flower-Hawaii design one) before, and needs something wider and maybe a bit shorter. Thanks, Chris

  29. Lou July 31st, 2010 5:22 pm

    Jog my memory, what’s the female version of the Coomback? That would be one to look at for sure…

  30. Chris S September 8th, 2010 9:20 am

    The K2 Gotback are the same dimensions as the Coomback, but come in shorter sizes. Last year’s were black with a pink bow, but this years are white and purple.

    Lou, I have a question about ski weight. Dynafit Guide skis are advertised to be 1550gm, K2 Backups are 1750gm, and the BD Gurus are a whopping 2500! I’m normally a K2-loyal fan, but I just got a pair of the BD’s as a gift.

    In hand, the BD Gurus feel lighter than my newly de-mounted Shuksans (despite the Shuks being 2cm shorter). Presumably the Shuksans and the Backups are similar in weight. Presumably.

    So when the weights are posted on the manufacturer’s website, are they typically 1) per ski or 2) per pair? Per pair seems to be the rational approach, since most of us ski with both legs, but the advertised difference in weight between BD, K2 and Dynafit, plus my anecdotal experience, now has me wondering.

  31. Lou September 8th, 2010 10:11 am

    Chris, it is indeed confusing. I don’t pay much attention to manufacturers printed weights, so I can’t remember which print for two skis or one, I’m looking at the K2 catalog and it prints weights per one ski, as does the Dynafit catalog.

    If you look at our weight chart, it’ll give you a general idea of ski weights per one ski, which can then be compared to a catalog weight to make it pretty obvious if they’re publishing for one ski or a pair.

    That said, bear in mind that skis come out of the factory with a variation in weight from ski to ski. More, the prototypes they weigh for the catalogs are frequently of different weights than the production models.

  32. Chris S September 11th, 2010 11:17 am

    Thanks Lou-

    I did look at the Gear Weight list, but hadn’t thought of comparing it to the catalog first. I believe BD is advertising a weight per pair – one of the design engineers last winter told me they were working to produce a ski equal in performance to Dynafit but equal or less in weight. So this makes more sense now. Taking these Gurus with TLT Speeds and BD Slant boots to the Pensacola Mountains of Antarctica this winter!


  33. Jon Liam September 25th, 2010 9:07 pm

    Hi all,

    Did anyone gets to compare 09′ Kilowatt with the 10′ Kilowatt? What do you think?


  34. Lou September 26th, 2010 6:42 pm

    Jon, they’re both good in my opinion. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they add a bit of snap to the new one? I’ve skied them both and both seemed fine.

  35. Jon Liam October 12th, 2010 10:05 pm

    I got a reply from BD people:

    “The Kilowatt is remaining unchanged for the 10/11 season (so, same as it was in the 09/10 season).

    We did, however, do a small overhaul on the KW’s stiffness between the brown (08/09 season) and blue topsheets (…current). We softened the tail, making the KW much more manageable and easier to turn at slower speeds. Dimensions, core construction et al remained unchanged between both versions, however. “

  36. Lou October 13th, 2010 7:30 am

    Jon, thanks for that. Yeah, they took some of the snap OUT, I had it the opposite. It has become a well liked ski, in either vintage.

  37. Joe D October 29th, 2010 2:15 pm

    Hey all. I have been skiing the kilowatt for 4 years now (tele) and I thought I should jump in.

    I actually have the older model (brown – 2008), and I do feel that it is a stiffer ski than the newer (2010+) model. I skied it for a half day thinking I would like to switch but, when it was all over, I liked the stiffness in my older model and kept it. I felt that the transitions on the new model were mushy and too soft for good edge hold at speed – not as smooth and stable as the older ski. This seems to fall in line with what the BD guy said above, in that the tail has been softened to make low speed turns easier. For what it’s worth, I see no shortcoming in the low speed turning in the older model.

    Keep in mind however, that I only tried the newer ski at Alyeska resort, so my impressions were based on groomed snow.

  38. Lou October 29th, 2010 3:23 pm

    I liked the brown ones and thought they were plenty soft…

  39. dave downing October 29th, 2010 3:55 pm

    I’m just looking to replace my brown kilowatts this year only b/c i wanted a little more girth on my main BC ski. But my ‘Watts are far from going the way of the shot ski, i have future plans for them as they have plenty of life still. I have 3 season on them and they’ve done what i’ve needed. Hold an edge on steep and exposed terrain, stable at high speed, float through powder. Are they the best ski i’ve ever been on? Nope. That position is still held by a $1200 ski that I can’t afford on proform. However the ‘Watts are bomber, and ski like a well tuned 2×4 (in a good way). For more money I can get something with a bit more snap, progressive flex, or whatever you want. But the Kilowatts do deserve a good review for a job well done at a reasonable price.

  40. Corky November 3rd, 2010 12:09 pm

    I am interested in any comparison of the Killowat to the Verdict. I have been accessing BC via lifts for years although spend most of my time on the front side in trees/bumps and am considered an agressive expert all-mountain skier, 5-10, 170 lb. Recently purchased the Verdict in 180.

  41. Jobe November 9th, 2010 5:24 pm

    The first turns I made on these nearly tore my legs off. They were incredibly “hooky.” I put a true bar on them and realized the factory tune was probably to blame. The tips were very cupped. I had them stone ground flat, and put a 1deg. bevel on the tips, hoping this would solve the problem. Unfortunately they remain way too eager to turn for my liking. I guess its just the side-cut profile. Anyone else have this problem? Otherwise, they are a terrific ski. I weigh about 210- that also might be part of the problem!

  42. Lou November 9th, 2010 5:45 pm

    Try mounting your bindings back a centimeter, given that you now have a flat ski with correct bevel. Or, de-tune the tip a bit more before re-mount and give that a try first before more drilling.

  43. Corky November 9th, 2010 5:46 pm

    Are you referring to the Verdict ski and did you find it pretty responsive and not too stiff? Thanks for the input.

  44. Lou November 9th, 2010 7:53 pm

    I assume he meant the ski that was reviewed, the Kilo…

  45. Jobe November 10th, 2010 9:18 pm

    Lou- thanks for the tip on mounting the bindings back 1cm. I’m 6′ 3″ and have a size 13 foot, so sometimes my bindings get mounted relatively too far forward. I’ll have to check where they mounted them. I really hope that works, because they are a great ski overall. I probably de-tuned them much more than I normally would, but I bet this will work.

  46. Jobe November 10th, 2010 9:21 pm

    Oh yeah, I am referring to the KIlowatt by the way (’09).

  47. Lou November 11th, 2010 8:09 am

    Jobe, yeah, check your mount position!

  48. andrew November 18th, 2010 11:39 pm

    i just got myself a pair of the new kilowatts in a 185 as my touring/ski mountaineering ski for this year.

    my question for you all is where to mount. do you feel as though mounting on bd’s line gives you enough tail?

    i hate being mounted way back with very little tail so im thinking +1 but would appreciate any insight into the matter, especially from those who have skied the new watts. thanks

  49. Lou November 19th, 2010 6:54 am

    Andrew, I wouldn’t say the Kilowatt mounting position puts you “way back.” It appeared pretty standard when we mounted the boy’s Denali skis last spring… Thus, I’d suggest trying the recommended mounting position first. When doing so, if you’re truly concerned about possibly needed a re-mount to get farther forward, if using Dynafits just make sure the Dynafit heel is positioned in such a way as to allow you to bring the toe forward a centimeter and only have to drill new holes for the toe unit, not the heel.

  50. DAVE June 3rd, 2011 1:32 pm

    I think bd skis have weighed to much for realistic backcountry use. Untill the Guru came along. I mounted them with dynafit speeds, and Scarpa F1 boots and havnt looked back. They ski anything I can. Float my 200lbs in pow well enough, hold edge on ice, and I hardly notice the are on my pack or on my feet on the way up. They might not last as long but heck I usually buy at least 1-2 pairs of skis a year so who cares.Highly recomended.

  51. pete January 16th, 2013 1:04 pm

    i have kilowatt for 2 years and love them
    i made mistake mounted duke on and i dont like touring with it
    is it ok to take duke out fill the holes -not sure what material is best for holes
    and drill new holes for some dynafit bindings?

  52. Lou Dawson January 16th, 2013 1:13 pm

    Sure, fill the holes with epoxy New ones should be a few mm away from the old ones, at the least. Lou

  53. Lenny May 15th, 2013 9:41 pm


    I am looking at buying a pair of 09 Kilowatts off a friend & given that most of my weekend outings into the BC are mid winter powder (80% this past winter), would this be a good choice, or should I look at something softer? I do like the wider turns, but know that there with inevitably be shorter radius tree skiing. They sound like a great all around ski, but if I’m looking for something more for powder days, would I be better off looking at something else?

    I’m faster on the open slopes, but definitely slower in the trees, 5′ 8” 160lbs without a pack. I’m semi aggressive, but tend to lean back in deeper snow to avoid sinking tips.

    Thanks in advance. I’ve read his blog often & appreciate the gear advice.

  54. Andy Mason January 6th, 2015 10:52 pm

    Lenny, if it’s not too late, I’d look at something a bit wider and with at least an early rise tip if not full rocker. A bit softer, or not. I do get that hooky feeling that Jobe mentioned, even with a good tune and bindings in the right spot. I like the stiffness at times, but there are some conditions where they’re grabby, and I think a raised tip might help. I’m thinking of upgrading to Converts (and keeping the Kilos for NTN tele on the usual hardpack/ice!).


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