Black Diamond has two central ski ranges right now, the Efficient and Power range. The Power range contains skis like the Havoc, Kilowatt or Zealot which are powerful freeride skis, and the Efficient series which are lighter more orientated to longer touring and more significant ascents but aiming to keep downhill performance high. Looking at the range, I was initially drawn to the Havoc or the Kilowatt but after some thought went for the Voodoo from the Efficient series.
The Voodoo uses a lightweight version of the Dual Torsion Box used by the Havoc (and others), this keeps the same longitudinal stiffness but has a more relaxed torsional rigidity. Effectively you’ve got a Havoc, but with a few fewer layers in it, this saves about 200g at the 185cm length. What grabbed my attention with the whole Black Diamond range was that they’re designed from the bottom up to be robust, light and high performance, I caught a fascinating interview with Thomas Laakso who does ski design work for Black Diamond, that conversation can be watched online at TelemarkTips.com.
I spent a long time thinking about what bindings to put on these skis; I’d recently (Spring 2015) got some Dynafit bindings on some ultralight skis along with some Dynafit compatible boots in the Garmont Megarides. I really couldn’t convince myself that the slightly soft Megaride would drive the ski efficiently, I’d been riding my Stormriders with Garmont Endorphins and thought I might need to use the Endorphin on the Voodoos as well. That drove me to mount some Fritschi Freerides on the Voodoos, the logic being that I could use either the Megaride or Endorphin but the downside being the weight penalty of that heavier binding.
What I’ve discovered is that Megarides work just fine with the Voodoos, I think this is down to having a consistent flex all through the system. I took a quick test of my Endorphins on the Voodoos and found it a reasonably weak combination at least for me. Apparently, I’m now left wondering if I ought to have just mounted some Dynafits, but that’s hindsight I guess!
Having cleared the hurdle of what bindings to use and received the skis (from the excellent Telemark-Pyrenees) the next thing to worry about was how good they’d be uphill, they’re significantly more extensive than any skis I’ve toured with before, so I was concerned. It turns out that they’re really very good indeed, in fact, the better flotation from the broader ski that’s desirable for downhill is actually quite useful on the ascent, compared to my ultralight Stormrider PIT lights I’m not crashing through the snow when breaking trail and it’s actually a lot less effort on some kinds of snow. I’m skiing them at 185cm which is reasonably long for a pure touring ski, and there’s a slight difficulty kick turning them although my technique is partly to blame probably.
I have to say it’s taken me a little time to get used the ski, the length and the width differing from my previous skis and being unfamiliar. We’ve had a variety of conditions this season, from crust and hard-pack to fantastic powder days and now I’m familiar with the Voodoo I’m pretty comfortable on most surfaces I think. So far I’ve not skied them much on piste and probably not too much in bumps or anything like that, so I’m not sure how they behave there. I have a couple (at least, so far) of multi-day tours planned in the spring and I’m not hesitating to take the Voodoos along, before Christmas I’d assumed that I’d use my ultralight Stormrider PIT lights, but the downhill performance of the Voodoos is so good it’s worth the weight penalty.
Downhill I’m finding the Voodoos amazingly good, stable and secure at much higher speeds than I expected on all kinds of snow including the piste, okay they’re a bit Plankey on clear ice sometimes and rattle around a bit, but it’s not a big deal. The compromises I expected with a lighter ski having that slightly softer flex just aren’t there.
I’ve got a load of other Black Diamond kits: Gloves, a rucksack, ice axes, ice screws, etc. They’ve just released some ski touring boots, so far only “Power” series, and when I need some more boots I’ll look at what they have. Though they need to get a better range of stockists and test centres up and running, I know there’s a place at La Grave but I’m not about to travel all the way down there to test some skis, I live in one of the best freeride ski areas in Switzerland, if not the best, and you can’t buy or test Black Diamond skis. I even emailed a couple of dealers in Zermatt and didn’t get anywhere.
The range is almost too big, it’s tough to choose without a proper test facility, my eye went between the Stigma, Voodoo, Kilowatt, and Havoc and I’d have liked to try the Verdict. I often see people looking at my skis, and people come up and ask me how they are so there’s an interest in the Black Diamond range, but I have yet to see another pair of Voodoos around here, in fact, I’ve seen just one other pair of Black Diamond skis in the Anniviers all season. It looks to me if you’re going to sell a ski range you need to create a buzz around, which they’ve done, then make sure you’ve got the channels in place to satisfy demand which so far look inadequate. They should open a test center here, I’ll keep the kit in my workshop, and I’ll promise to look after it well!