2019-2020 Black Diamond Helio 116 Carbon

Paul Forward reviews the Black Diamond Helio 116 Carbon for Blister
Black Diamond Helio 116 Carbon

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”?

Flex Pattern

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:

Tips: 5.5-6
Shovels: 6-7
In front of Toe Piece: 8-9
Underfoot: 10
Behind Heel piece: 9
Tails: 8.5-9

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?

Bottom Line

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

26 comments on “2019-2020 Black Diamond Helio 116 Carbon”

  1. About flex pattern part in your reviews. What do you mean by “Underfoot”? I always thought that it’s somewhere near boot mid-mark. But order of #3 and #4 a bit confusing

    #1 Tips: 5.5-6
    #2 Shovels: 6-7
    #3 In front of Heel Piece: 8-9
    #4 Underfoot: 10
    #5 Behind Heel piece: 9
    #6 Tails: 8.5-9

    • Hi, Vale – apologies, there was a typo in the review, which has now been fixed.

      By underfoot I mean (broadly speaking) the center of the ski — or roughly, between the bindings. So that would include the midsole mark.

      So from #1 – #6, I mean to identify the flex pattern as it moves from the very tip of the ski on back to the end of the tail. Tips -> Shovels -> Front of Toe Piece -> Underfoot -> Behind Heel Piece -> Tails

      • Thanks, now it is clear! It would be useful if you describe (or even better – show) someday the procedure how you check the flex, cause everybody do it in his own way

  2. Got to demo these guys at Alpine Meadows on Saturday in some seriously saturated snow (hot pow) and REALLY dug them. I have some BD Amperages (now the Boundary), and it felt just familiar enough to what I liked in that model while improving on it in every way I would have liked. Their on piste/ harder snow performance seemed much better even with dropping a ton of weight. The tails felt better, couldn’t really tell you exactly what made it better though. Loved the light weight for jump turning in some of the narrow short couloirs at Alpine.

    Didn’t really test any “top end” abilities of it.

  3. About to mount a pair of these in 186. The BC line looks waaaay forward given the amount of tip rocker, thinking 1.5cm behind the BC line. -2cm looks even better, but hesitate to deviate too far from the factory line.

  4. Skied these for a (powder day), in 185cm. Frisch it Tecton BBinding, Cochise 120 boot.

    Two hours of resort powder morning to start, some trees, some smooth, low angle resort powder (10”), chopped Powder and some moguls. No issues with stability or agility at my (low)speeds.
    The skied them in the backcountry for the afternoon. Plenty of float for the 11” fresh on a slightly firmer deep lauer. Tips planed up, agile enough, mostly skied open terrain, nothing steep or tight trees.

  5. Have run these down some double black diamond runs ranging from fresh turns to mixed conditions and they performed perfectly! Running them on telemark bindings with no issue (so far)!

  6. Hi Paul,
    If you had a chance to measure the length of tip & tail rocker sections, that would be super helpful in contextualizing tip & tail rise numbers. Funny you mention breakable crust in your Helio 116 review: I’m looking to replace my Voile V8, which is quite similar on paper, due to poor performance in breakable / heavy variable snow. I put that down to what I call the “fatal combo”: deep camber (8.7mm!) in conjunction w/ too much sidecut (18m). I have two other skis in the 115-135mm width range w camber heights of 3-4mm and they perform far better in breakable/variable regardless of sidecut (16m-22m).

  7. A little update from my last comment.

    Height: 5’11” Weight: 155lbs
    Binding: Vipec
    Mount point: -2.5 to -2.75 depending on which boot I use

    I managed to score a used 186 length and was a tiny bit apprehensive about the extra length as I normally ski 175-180 length skis, but have been VERY stoked on them.
    The extra length is not noticed as much for two reasons; they’re so damn light, and that tip rocker travels pretty far down the ski so the effective edge is much closer to my non powder skis. Mostly inbounds on them, with both saturated powder, fresh pow days, and full spring corn, and holy shit are they fun. Love the extra surface area especially doing any little cliff drops or jumps, and when I really want to drive the front of the ski. DID find the speed limit of them straight lining back to the lifts, but it almost seems to my untrained eye that the tune on them might be base high so maybe that plays into it. Yeah they aren’t laying down trenches on the piste but they felt better than my Amperages. I could care less about that with how light and fun they are in powder. The flat-er tail though probably helps that firmer snow feel.

    Did definitely mounted them back from the recommended line and haven’t had reason to second guess that (some good discussion of this on the Helio 115 TGR thread). When I was looking at the effective edge or even just ski length in front of the boot it ended up being really close/same to the other skis in my quiver I really like.

    I ended up putting DPS Phantom on them (that’s why I skied some inbounds spring corn on them) and HOLY CRAP does it work. I was blowing past people on cat tracks on skinny carving skis even with all that extra surface touching snow.

  8. Great review, per usual.

    I’m curious about sizing for the Helio 116’s as a dedicated powder-touring ski for the French alps, the Wasatch and perhaps Japan. For reference, I’m 5’7″ and ~145#, and spend last winter touring for powder on G3 Synapse 109’s in a 180, and loved them in that length.

    I’m leaning towards the 186 but any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • I think the Helio will be great for a dedicated pow touring ski in Utah and Japan and for pow days in the alps. I think you could go either way on length. the 186 is pretty easy to ski but they provide a lot of float for their length and the 176 might be more fun for you on the uptrack and in tight trees. that said, I’d be totally content to ski this shape in 190+ at my size. best of luck. let us know how it goes.

  9. Hey, I’m trying to decide between a few pairs of skis. I’m looking for a lightweight, mid-fat touring ski, that is pretty easy-going. I’m not a hard charging skier, and I’m not an expert, so something that is forgiving is best. Based on the Buyer’s Guide, seems like, BD Helio 116, 105, or K2 Wayback 106 are great options. I ski mostly in the Cascades/volcanoes, and I’m 6’3″, 210lbs. Any help would be fantastic.

    • Hand-flexing the 18/19 and 19/20 versions, I didn’t notice any difference in flex pattern. The only change (apart from graphics) was the addition of additional rubber layers over the edges, which is very unlikely to result in a difference in flex pattern.

      • Thanks Luke. The 2019 Backcountry magazine gear guide review reports a complaint from a lighter tester that the ski was “too stiff”. I’m 75kg/175cm–similar to you? I didn’t get the sense from your review that the ski was too stiff.

        • I haven’t skied the 116 but I have spent a lot of time on the 105 which did not feel overly stiff to me. I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners, but if you have fairly good technique I don’t think the stiffness of the Helio 105 or 116 will be an issue.

  10. One more question: does the tail shape that the Helio 116 have allow backwards skiing? I can ski backwards on groomers with a very small amount of raised tail in other skis I have (eg old BD Justice), but the Helio style is very gradual without a “curl” at the end.

    • In shallow / firm snow it’s definitely doable, I just wouldn’t want to land switch after a jump or try to ski switch through any snow deeper than a few inches.

  11. Curious about Helio 116 vs Wilcat Tour 116 for a dedicated touring ski in the PNW/Brittish Columbia area. Im a little worried about a ski as light as the Helio in heavy “powder”, but interested in dropping weight as i generally tour on an old Exit World 190+Mercury+Radical FT12. Plan to pair w a hoji tour pro boot and atk fr14 binders so will drop a little weight with either of these new setups. Have a volcano ski for spring but use my Exit Worlds on sub 7000ft days.

    RE Exit worlds: Love the long turns, easy to break free. Generally find them stable enough. A little more pop could be fun esp in trees but it might be that they are old and beat like me.

    Resort skis include second gen hojis (Adding CAST binders for sidecountry) and original bibby pro 186 which are getting beat. Like both these for different reasons. Find the bibbys a bit heavy and occasionally oddly catchy one Tip or tail on the other but otherwise very fun. Hojis took some getting used to but are pretty damn fun until the pow is superdeep (tipdive).

    Appreciate any advice.

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