2023 Black Diamond Helio Carbon 95 Review
A ski made for the technical backcountry lines of the Rockies
This article was first published by SkiMag.com.
The Scores (out of 10)
- Crud Performance: 6.5
- Responsiveness: 8
- Stability at Speed: 7
- Flotation: 5.75
- Playfulness: 6
- Forgiveness: 6.25
- Versatility: 7.75
- Quickness: 7.5
- Price: $830
- Lengths: 155, 162, 169, 176, 183
- Dimensions: 124-95-113
- Radius: 19m
- Weight: 1,400g
- Level: Intermediate to Expert
In a Nutshell
- Pros: Responsiveness, Versatility
- Cons: Flotation, Playfulness
Black Diamond re-designed its popular Helio Carbon series this season, revamping the skis with a pre-preg carbon-fiber layup that has improved the dampness, torsional stiffness, and the flex pattern of the ski. The 95 sits on the sleeker end of the Helio series (which includes an 88, 95, 104, and 115), making it a solid tool to tackle long missions in the backcountry.
Raring to tackle steep skin tracks, the lightweight Helio Carbon 95 is ideal for uphill chargers with big mountaineering days on their agenda when weight and reliability count. A lightweight paulownia wood core maintains energy and snappiness, and an early rise tip allows for easy steering. While testers agreed the Helio Carbon 95 wasn’t the most playful or creative ski, it inspired confidence in committing lines, which is no doubt what the ski was made for. It also zips through the trees without having to put too much muscle into it, which is great when you’re slogging back to the car after a huge day of climbing. “It’s strong and stable and feels at home on steep fall lines and technical terrain,” commented tester Luke Larson, owner of Salt Lake City’s Lifthouse Ski Shop. “I like the direction Black Diamond is heading. This one is a diamond in the rough.”
Durability was an obvious priority when BD added full-perimeter 5mm beveled ABS sidewalls and a tail protector with integrated skin-clip tab. Testers agreed it’s a sturdy ski that can take a beating on long backcountry adventures. Black Diamond also increased the size range in this line this year, adding a 155cm length for shorter skiers.
Several testers found the Helio Carbon 95 lacked some playfulness and suffered a bit in deeper snow thanks to its slim waist, but that it’s confidence-inspiring in terrain that requires precision. As a result, Larsen pinged this one as ideal for “a skier who likes higher speeds and wants to push this thing in the backcountry.” He also noted that it’s best skied with some forward pressure, since it gets a little loose and catchy if you get in the backseat.
Testers all admitted to feeling surprised by this ski, which was more capable than many had anticipated given past models of the Helio skis. It’s a fantastic choice for spring volcano missions, steep objectives, and technical terrain, and while more aggressive skiers felt it could handle the heat, the responsiveness and stability will also feel approachable for intermediate skiers who are excited to get out and explore beyond the ropes.
“Snappy and livelier than expected, but still a lightweight ski with limitations,” concluded Paul Marshall, a tester from the East. Keep this one ready to go for steep, cold snow and spring corn, but leave it at home (maybe grab the Helio Carbon 115) if you want to truly enjoy your powder day.