Expert Review: Black Diamond Helio 350 Ski Bindings · 2022Published on 10/04/2022 · 4 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the bindings, which I purchased with my own money in October of 2021.
Ripping powder in the Helio 350s. All photos courtesy of Alex Arnis
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the bindings, which I purchased with my own money in October of 2021.
The Black Diamond Helio 350 binding is one of the most reliable and durable on the market. Originally made by ATK, with a Black Diamond logo slapped on its face, these bindings help me lighten up my setup while remaining steadfast on the downhill.
About the gear I own
- Model: 2022 Helio 350
- Height: 5’6
- Weight: 140 lbs
- Preferred DIN range: 5-12
- Experience: Backcountry skiing 5 seasons, resort skiing 20 years
- When I bought these: October 2021
- Days tested: 25
- Boots: La Sportiva Synchro boots
- Boot Size: 25.5
- Skis: Black Crow Navis Freebird
- Where I’ve used it: Skiing in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah
- Terrain: Ranging from steep double black diamond, mellow 30-degree slopes to deep powder.
How they perform
What I was looking for
I bought these bindings because I was looking for a lightweight binding that could also handle hard-charging and steep terrain in the backcountry. This binding was exactly what I was looking for. It routinely performs on the downhill and weighs only 350 grams per binding, so it does not hinder me on the ups.
Why I chose this gear
I chose this binding because I wanted something durable that I could rely on for hard-charging in the backcountry but not so bulky it would weigh down my whole setup. I considered the Helio 200 but decided against it because I wanted a more reliable release system and brakes. I also considered the Fritschi Vipecs, yet I was skeptical because the plastic design is known to break and malfunction.
What I love about them
- Release Reliability: Din settings 5-12 with the slide plate make these extremely reliable when releasing (the same cannot be true for most other touring bindings). The slide plate allows extra lateral release, which helps to prevent all too common ACL injuries.
- Uphill Performance: Super smooth weight transfer on uphill. These come with five magnetic risers, which are extremely easy to adjust with a pole and don’t get jammed up with snow and ice.
- Durability: They are super durable. I have only used the bindings for one season; however, when I worked at Black Diamond, I did not see a single pair come back through warranty. To put this into perspective, I saw at least one pair of Fritschi bindings a day having problems with the plastic snapping. The Alu Alloy and stainless steel create a nearly indestructible binding and are a testament to the detail and pride ATK takes in their work.
- Weight: 350 grams is extraordinarily light for bindings of this caliber due to its stainless steel construction. Obviously, there are lighter bindings on the market, but none with this reliable release or durability.
- Power Transfer: Pretty standard power transfer for what one can expect from an AT binding.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Downhill Performance: I wouldn’t say the downhill performance is an “issue” at all. However, I believe someone can get similar downhill quality with a bit less weight. For instance, I demoed some ATK RT 8 bindings (weighing in at 260 grams) and felt they performed downhill just as well as the Helio 350s (weighing in at 350 grams). They are strikingly similar bindings, with the ATK RT having a release rating of 8 instead of 12, which as a smaller guy, suits me just fine. I love how solid these provide on the downhill. Just burly enough to control my skis and have never doubted their ability to get me through tough terrain.
Favorite moment with this gear
I had the pleasure of skiing the NW couloir of the Pfiefferhorn in the Wasatch Mountains. This required us to take two raps on extremely icy terrain into the couloir and make pretty sketchy jump turns throughout the day. I was pretty fearful yet thankful I could rely on these bindings to get me through safely.
Value for the money vs. other options
With a $699 price tag, these certainly are not cheap bindings. The Fritschi Vipec 12 was another option I considered at $599, yet I (correctly) decided the Helio 350 would likely last longer. So if the $100 can spare me another two seasons, it would absolutely be worth it. The Dynafit 12s were another binding I considered coming in at $650, yet, once again, I was a little worried about the plastic exterior compared to the Helio’s stainless steel design.
Overall, I have found it incredibly difficult to find anything I don’t like about these bindings. I swear they are not paying me. They are solid on the up and downhill, extremely durable, and have great release technology. The price would be the only deterrent if someone is on a budget and wants to start with a cheaper setup. Aside from this, ATK, an Italian-based company known for making parts for Ferrari, absolutely nailed these bindings and then allowed Black Diamond to throw their brand on it.