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Backcountry Skis

2023 Black Diamond Helio Carbon 95 Review

A ski made for the technical backcountry lines of the Rockies

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Brand: Black Diamond

Model: Helio Carbon 95



Specs

Tip / Waist / Tail (mm)

124-95-113

Lengths (cm)

155, 162, 169, 176, 183

Radius (m)

19

Gender

Unisex

Level

Intermediate to Expert

Strengths

Responsiveness, Versatility

Weaknesses

Flotation, Playfulness

Stability at Speed

7 / 10

Quickness / Maneuverability

7.5 / 10

Playfulness

6 / 10

Forgiveness

6.25 / 10

Crud Performance

6.5 / 10

Versatility

7.75 / 10

Responsiveness

8 / 10

Flotation

5.75 / 10

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 Black Diamond 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.

Related: Learn the basics of backcountry and ski touring gear

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.

Compare the Black Diamond Helio Carbon 95 to the other best backcountry skis of 2023


Lily Krass is a freelance ski journalist based in Jackson, Wyoming with work featured in SKI Magazine, Powder Magazine, Freeskier, Teton Gravity Research, and Ascent Backcountry Snow Journal. She spends winters backcountry skiing in Grand Teton National Park and riding lifts at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, with the occasional trip to the Alps (for the food, obviously). While she’s been in ski boots since she learned to walk, Lily has been professionally writing about skiing, gear, and all things outdoors for the past seven years. In addition to an all-consuming addiction to powder skiing mixed with heavy doses of Type II fun, Lily takes snacking seriously, and when she’s not writing or sliding on snow, she’s likely deep into a baking project in her tiny kitchen. She is the co-author of Beyond Skid: A Cookbook For Ski Bums, a collection of dirtbag-friendly recipes inspired by life in a mountain town.

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