Ski: 2019-2020 Black Diamond Helio 116 Carbon, 186 cm
Available Lengths: 166, 176, 186 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 186.4 cm
Stated Weight per Ski: 1650 grams
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1654 & 1682 grams
Stated Dimensions: 145-116-126 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 145.0-115.9-125.1 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius: 25 meters
Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 67 mm / 16 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 3.0-3.5 mm
Core: Balsa/Flax + Pre-Preg Carbon Fiber Laminate
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -9.2 cm from center; 84.0 cm from tail
Blister’s Recommended Mount: -9.2 cm
Boots: Fischer Ranger Free; Scarpa Maestrale RS; Scarpa Alien RS; Salomon S/Lab X-Alp; Dynafit Vulcan; Fischer Ranger Free 130
Bindings: Fritschi Vipec 12
Test Locations: Alaskan Backcountry
Reviewer: 6’0”, 195 lbs
Days Skied: 13
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 17/18 Helio 116 Carbon, which was not changed for 18/19 or 19/20, apart from graphics and a very subtle tweak in the construction (addition of rubber strips along the edges).]
Welcome to 2018, everybody. To kick the year off on a hopeful, optimistic note, we thought we’d present this First Look of the Black Diamond Helio 116, a big, fat touring ski, in the hopes that we’ll all find a few deep pow stashes this year.
Black Diamond calls the Helio 116, “an ultralight powder ski with the chops for serious technical lines.”
And “ultralight” is a fair description…
For comparison, here are a few of our measured weights (in grams) for some similar skis:
1424 & 1438 DPS Wailer 112 Tour1, 178 cm
1622 (avg) DPS Lotus 124 Tour1, 185 cm
1654 & 1682 Black Diamond Helio 116, 186 cm
1816 & 1872 G3 SENDr 112, 188 cm
1862 & 1873 Faction Prime 4.0, 185 cm
1903 & 1929 Moment Wildcat Tour, 184 cm
1910 & 1941 Scott Scrapper 115, 189 cm
1922 & 1958 Volkl BMT 122, 186 cm
1959 & 1975 Volkl V-Werks Katana, 184 cm
2161 & 2163 Faction Dictator 4.0, 186 cm
So yeah, those DPS Tour1 construction skis are ridiculously light, but aside from those two skis, nothing else we’ve reviewed is really in the same ballpark.
The Helio 116 is definitely light, but what about the rest of Black Diamond’s claim, that the ski has “the chops for serious technical lines”?
BD says that the Helio 116 has an “ultralight, engineered, balsa flax wood core with a pre-preg carbon fiber layup for torsional stiffness and balanced flex.” They also say that the ski is intended for 90% soft snow use, 10% firm snow.
In terms of how that translates to a hand flex of the ski, we’d describe the flex pattern like this:
In front of Toe Piece: 8-9
Behind Heel piece: 9
The shovels of the Helio 116 are pretty soft, and the ski — with its 145mm-wide-shovels — should easily plane up in deep snow. But all of the skis listed above that are heavier than the Helio 116 all have stiffer shovels, though not necessarily stiffer tails.
Point is, while the Helio 116 might do fine on “serious technical lines,” our hunch is that those serious lines better have pretty soft, forgiving snow. For less-good snow, we’d probably be inclined to go with one of the stiffer, heavier skis listed above … but once we get out on these, we’ll be able to address this.
The other thing to note here is that the flex pattern of the narrower Black Diamond Helio 105 is very similar. Both skis have about 3 mm of traditional camber underfoot, and the Helio 116 has a bit more tip & tail splay than the Helio 105.
While the Helio 105 didn’t blow us away by its performance in any single category, we thought it fared pretty well in a range of conditions. So will the Helio 116 be a similarly good all-arounder? Or will it be best reserved for touring in deep, good snow?
By the specs, the Black Diamond Helio 116 should be an excellent tool for longer tours or fast laps on deep days — it would be quite surprising if that isn’t true. So really, our two biggest questions are (a) how well the ski holds up to serious, technical lines, and how well the ski holds up to more dense, variable snow.
These skis are on there way to Alaska, where reviewer Paul Forward will be able to answer both of those questions. Stay tuned.
NEXT: The Full Review