2023 Black Diamond Impulse 104 Review
For soft snow and deep days, reach for these playful planks
This article was first published by SkiMag.com.
The Scores (out of 10)
- Overall Score: 6.68/10
- Rank: #9
- Versatility: 6.82
- Crud Performance: 6.55
- Flotation: 7
- Playfulness: 6.73
- Responsiveness: 6.45
- Quickness: 6.55
- Hard-Snow Integrity: 5.82
- Stability at Speed: 6.64
- Forgiveness: 6.36
- Price: $730
- Lengths: 165, 172, 179, 186
- Dimensions: 136-104-123
- Radius: 18 (179cm)
- Level: Intermediate, Advanced
In a Nutshell
- Pros: Flotation (#10), Versatility (#9)
- Cons: Hard-Snow Integrity (#15), Forgiveness (#14)
More and more skiers are looking for one ski that can be strong all-mountain ski inbound yet is lightweight enough to be a suitable backcountry option, ideally without sacrifices on either end of the spectrum. Black Diamond specifically designed the Impulse 104 to be that do-it-all tool regardless of terrain or conditions.
In softer snow, the Impulse 104 is a smooth operator that makes short work of navigating bumps, trees, or any other terrain where quick, nimble skiing is required. Even when you get it into open terrain, the Impulse 104 is willing to ski with more power and will let you push through crud and variable snow without concern. Testers awarded this ski its highest marks in the Crud Performance and Versatility categories. Tester Chad Jacob, a race coach from New York, commented that the Impulse 104 is most at home in soft snow and steep terrain. Tester Jon Sexauer, a Copper Mountain regular, agreed. “Soft snow is the ticket,” he says. “Though it’s nimble and responsive enough to allow you to play in the bumps and the trees.”
Black Diamond uses an engineered poplar core and high-performance prepreg fiberglass to maximize torsional stiffness and power transmission for skiing in all conditions. The dampness of this construction also allows the ski to appeal to a wide range of skill levels—intermediates who need a maneuverable and confidence-inspiring tool to begin exploring variable terrain or aggressive skiers wanting to be able to power through crud off the beaten path. Tester Abby Ghent, a former U.S. Ski Team member from Park City, pegged the Impulse 104 as a good option for “intermediate to advanced skiers out West looking for a ski that can do most things.”
The Impulse 104 struggled in hard-snow performance, where testers noticed the tips chatter, and the ski becomes uncertain underfoot, especially when trying to carve turns on firmer snow. Less aggressive skiers not pushing the skis as hard will appreciate the complete ABS sidewall construction and the internal dampening layers Black Diamond uses to help mitigate feedback through the skis. But at higher speeds, the feedback from hard snow overpowers those technologies, and the ski becomes less reliable and stable.
The Impulse 104’s MO is finding a good mix of inbounds and backcountry performance, and for the most part, the skis deliver in those areas. Except for hard snow, testers were surprised by how well the skis could perform in most conditions with a “nice balance between predictability and energy.”
“This ski doesn’t have all of the power and drive of some of the others in the category,” said Sexauer, “but it’s an easy-going ski and solid compromise for skiers looking to have one pair of skis to ride the resort and explore the backcountry.”
A self-proclaimed gear nerd when it comes to skis and mountain bikes, Jon Sexauer grew up skiing in Northern California, spending the majority of his time getting loose and sendy in terrain parks. He now lives in Colorado and calls Copper Mountain his home hill. Though he still gravitates towards playful and wide all-mountain skis, he’s developed a more open mind when it comes to skis since joining SKI’s official gear test crew five seasons ago. These days, you’ll find him ripping around Copper on his trusty Nordica Enforcer 100s.