An Expert Guide to Black Diamond Ski Gear

Ski Expert Adam St. Ours breaks down some of the latest and greatest new ski gear to check out this season from Black Diamond Equipment!

A skier walking up a snowy path.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Untersee

Black Diamond equipment is known for high-quality and innovative mountain sports equipment. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, they design and manufacture equipment and apparel to be used in all aspects of mountain athletic pursuits. From skiing and snowboarding to hiking and climbing, from the skin track to the crag, if you’re looking to excel in the alpine, Black Diamond can help you.

History

Black Diamond was born from Chouinard Equipment in 1989. A group of employees took over the company that had been manufacturing climbing equipment, renamed it Black Diamond, and moved it to the base of the Wasatch mountains in Salt Lake City. They have since diversified to designing and manufacturing equipment for climbing, skiing, and other mountain sports. Climbing products include carabiners, harnesses, helmets, ice tools, and crampons. Ski and snowboard equipment includes climbing skins, poles, avalanche equipment, bags and packs, in addition to skis and splitboards.

Traditionally Black Diamond has been focused on backcountry-oriented products, although lately, they’ve released some skis that are suitable to be used in the resort as well as the backcountry.

Black Diamond has always been at the forefront of mountain sports innovation. A great example of this came in 1972 with the release of the Clean Climbing Manifesto. Operating as Chouinard Equipment at the time, the company noticed that climbing routes were littered with fixed bolts and pitons drilled into the rocks, leading to scarring and permanent alterations. As the popularity of climbing continued to increase, it became apparent that this method posed a threat to the natural beauty and long-term viability of climbing areas all around the world.

What the Clean Climbing Manifesto proposed was that any climbing equipment and protection should be removable and not damage the rock. The magnitude of this proposal cannot be overstated—at the time, pitons were 70% of Chouinard’s sales, and yet they were telling the climbing world to stop using them. This ethos has given birth to many innovative pieces of equipment throughout the history of the company, ultimately leading to today’s award-winning climbing pieces like camalots (a spring loaded device that can be placed in a crack of a rock and hold the weight of the user to climb, then removed with no damage or markings).

Black Diamond Today

This high level of commitment to be a champion for the conservation, preservation, and access to mountain, crag, and canyon environments, while minimizing the environmental footprint continues today. Black Diamond is committed to complying with the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility in all their operations, from their headquarters in Utah to their vendor partners.

They are a founding member of the Outdoor Industry Association’s Climate Action Corps, advocating for sustainable recreation practices, trade policy, ethical business innovation, and increasing outdoor participation.

Many of the materials used in both their hard goods and apparel are Bluesign-approved, meaning that the product chain, from sourcing to manufacturing, has been documented and provides transparency to improve environmental performance, working conditions, and resource consumption to create the highest level of safety for people, planet, and consumers.

Ski Gear

Currently, Black Diamond makes two main lines of skis, the alpine touring-focused Helio Carbon series, and the resort-focused Impulse.

Black Diamond Helio Carbon 95 Skis

The Black Diamond Helio Carbon 95 Skis.

The Helio Carbon lineup of skis comes in a variety of widths, from the lightweight and technical Helio Carbon 88 to the powder-hungry Helio Carbon 115.

All of them use a pre-preg carbon fiber layup to stiffen the skis, giving them strength without adding many grams to the weight like a traditional titanal layer.

Sitting in the middle with maximum versatility is the Helio Carbon 95. This ski balances soft snow flotation while still being capable in mixed conditions and a wide range of terrain.

Early rise in the tip and tail keep the skis afloat in soft conditions, while a pre-peg carbon fiber layup and full perimeter ABS sidewalls provide torsional stiffness and dependability for steep terrain and couloir descents as well as variable snow conditions. The ski is comfortable while turning on a steep grade, but still provides a smooth flex for responsive skiing in more mellow runouts.

The Helio Carbon 95’s lightweight and touring-specific features, such as the integrated notch in the tail to secure climbing skins, are truly designed for the backcountry.

Black Diamond Impulse 98 Skis

The Black Diamond Impulse 98 Skis.

Where the Helio Carbon series of skis are meant to conquer remote peaks in the alpine, the Impulse is more of a hybrid, or 50/50, resort/backcountry ski.

Available in an all-mountain 98mm width all the way up to 112mm for deep powder skiing, the Impulse is equally at home riding the chairlift in a ski area as it is trekking uphill for fresh lines.

A supremely versatile ski, it's rarely out of place on the mountain. From powder snow to moguls, intermediate slopes all the way to double-black. Almost 30% heavier than the touring-dedicated Helio Carbon skis, that extra weight helps bust through crud and rough snow, but still lighter than most dedicated resort skis.

The Impulse strikes a nice balance between lightweight touring capability and downhill strength and dampness. It also comes with some well-thought-out touring features like the integrated skin-clip tab for climbing skins.

Add to Your Skis

Black Diamond also offers a full range of alpine touring bindings and climbing skins to suit any level of committed ski touring need, from leisurely fitness laps to traversing the Haute Route across the Alps!

Apparel

Black Diamond Men’s Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell Jacket

The Black Diamond Men’s Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell Jacket.

Black Diamond makes a full line of apparel meant for pursuing objectives in the outdoors. Their outerwear offers a high level of protection, waterproofing, and breathability, with many features that are needed in the backcountry.

The Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell jacket, for instance, uses an outer hardshell material to repel rain, snow, and wind but is combined with a more breathable softshell material in key placement for improved temperature regulation during high-exertion activities.

Black Diamond Gloves

From left to right: the Black Diamond Women's Guide Gloves, the Black Diamond Spark Pro Gloves, and the Black Diamond Men's Tour Gloves.

From left to right: the Black Diamond Women's Guide Gloves, the Black Diamond Spark Pro Gloves, and the Black Diamond Men's Tour Gloves

The gloves are incredibly popular because of the level of protection they offer while still being functional and long-lasting. This stands to reason they would focus on offering gloves that remain functional, being a company focused on technical outdoor activities like climbing where you need a high level of dexterity and grip in addition to protection from the elements.

Accessories

Black Diamond also offers a plethora of accessories for whatever you may need in your mountain pursuits.

You can get a pack with all the snow sports features you may need: multiple ski carry options, insulated space for a hydration sack, designated pockets for climbing skins, etc.

And of course, they offer the necessary avalanche safety gear you need to safely travel into the backcountry, from shovels, probes, beacons, and transponders, and even airbags to keep you above the snow in the event you get carried away in an avalanche.

Final Thoughts

A bird sits on the top of a pair of Black Diamond Skis.

Photo by Logan Mayer

Black Diamond is one of the premier brands for skiers who want to enjoy the high alpine. They offer just about every piece of gear you may need, from clothing and apparel to skis, gloves, and backcountry safety equipment. If you’re looking to get outfitted for an excursion, or just need advice on a new piece of your kit, talk with a Ski and Snowboard Expert like myself to get all your questions answered, and get personalized recommendations for exactly what you’re looking for this season!

Ski Expert Adam St. Ours
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Adam St. Ours
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I know that your ski gear should be as unique as you are. With the exceptional quality and variety available these days, there's no need to settle on cookie cutter recommendations or the first results that you can find. When I'm on the mountain, I'm always bouncing around the trail map, trying not t...

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