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Oct 21 2014

Review: BD’s Carbon Aspect ski

To behold the statistics of Black Diamond’s Carbon Aspect is to be tempted with a model of touring perfection. At least, to this ol’ guys perspective. Fat skis are the rage and weight is great and all that except that it’s not. In the backcountry extra flotation comes with a heavy price and for my purposes 90mm at the waist is enough, especially with a free heel.

Black Diamond's Carbon Aspect. 6 lbs. light, and white to resist snow sticking and adding weight back.

Black Diamond’s Carbon Aspect. ~6 lbs. light, and white to resist snow sticking and adding weight back.


Light & White

Weight wise the Carbon Aspect yields a package that is shy of 6 pounds (< 3 kg) per pair (@176cm). Add a pound-and-a-half more for a binding, give or take a little depending which one you chose, yielding a touring weight less than 5 pounds per foot, including skins. You could go fatter, and many do, but why wear more weight on your feet than you need to?

Colorwise you might consider BD’s new carbon infused backcountry skis to be a liability. Indeed, they could be considered the perfect touch to a 10th Mountain man looking for the ultimate camouflage set up, or a liability if they’re missing. That’s not the rationale behind the color though. With a white top sheet, theoretically they will absorb less solar energy and thus prevent snow building up when breaking trail. If you’re breaking trail in deep snow it will still pile up; however, it will shake off pretty easily too, something that never happens with fashionably colored skis. Does it prevent snow buildup on a warm sunny day? Not really, but on hazy or cloudy days the build up is noticably less.

Speaking of skinning, you’ll definitely appreciate the rockered tip which helps to keep these skis floating to the surface when breaking trail in deep snow. The tail has a slight rocker too it, just enough to release easily out of turns in crud. You’ll appreciate it most when you want to stuff your tails on a tight switchback, or jam the skis in a snowbank without ‘em splitting apart.

The Aspect’s rockered 127mm tip is fat enough for flotation without stealing the sensation of depth, and with a 90mm waist, narrow enough to hold a hard edge when you need it. That sort of performance is to be expected. Where the Aspect shines is where lightweight, skinny skis are known to come up short, in crud and carving at speed.

Not too Light

In heavy crud the Aspect holds up admirably. Surely a fatter ski will float easier, but the Aspect holds on and pushes back while cutting through the junk. Manky snow is a bit tougher, but easily dealt with by simply charging forward and keeping speed up. With a turning radius in the 19 meter range it can hold a medium radius turn well, or easily knock out slalom style turns by pressuring the shovel harder. In mank this will slow you down, so if you’re able, let ‘em run a bit.

Icy snow blues

About the only place the Aspect fails to impress is, like any lightweight touring ski, is doing true GS turns on truly GS caliber hard snow, the icy kind where a ski needs the muscle of real steel to hold on. In that sort of stuff you can still hold an edge and bleed speed with control making them adequate enough for steep couloirs in spring if you descend a bit prematurely before they ripen to corn, but at speed on ice you can’t buy a carve. Let the surface soften just a bit so you can hold an edge, whether it be corn al dente or polished windbuff, and the Ascent digs in and simply makes you smile. Short and medium radius turns are its forte, but it likes to carve when the carving is good, especially with a locked heel.

Conclusion

If you haven’t been swayed by the crowed and are satisfied with the flotation a true mid-fat (sub-100mm) yields, especially for the balance in performance it provides on snow that is defined less by depth and more by texture and hardness you’ll be happy with the Carbon Ascent’s performance.

Black Diamond Equipment
Carbon Aspect
MSRP: $850

Length (cm)
166
176
186
Dimensions (mm)
12-90-112
127-90-113
129-90-114
Radius (m)
18
19
20
Weight (pounds)
5 lbs., 6 oz.
5 lbs., 14 oz.
6 lbs., 3 oz.
Weight (kg)
2.44 kg
2.66 kg
2.81 kg

© 2014

  • randy

    Do you have any sense as to whether you lose significant traction skinning with seriously rockered skis? I’m thinking about getting the G3 Synapse 109, but don’t want to be sliding backwards on account of the tail and tip not touching the snow much?

  • http://ern.reeders.net.au/blog/ Ern Reeders

    Would this ski be your choice for a Sierra High Route tour Dostie?

  • Dostie

    Definitely a good ski for a long traverse like the SHR, or simply a long day with a lot of vertical. Personally I don’t need or want much more width than 90mm – hence the reason there are more mid-fat ski reviews on this site than full-fat ski reviews. ;) But I’m working on the latter for my powder pig friends.

    Back to your Q. When I did the SHR I used Atomic RT86s, only 86mm at the waist. That was plenty fat enough for Sierra corn and the occasional section of over ripe corn with a veneer of edge grabbing crust on top, with a 40+ pound pack.

  • Dostie

    Depends on how much rocker you’re talking about. For something like Volkl’s BMT series skis, or the Gotama, or Blizzard’s Cochise (<2015) where the rocker is more like a camberless ski plus rocker at the tip and tail, it shouldn't cause any trouble. For spoon shaped skis, it IS a problem.

  • Zach Roeder

    Would you recommend this ski for ski mountaineering, or would you choose something lighter weight?

  • Dostie

    In the case of ski mountaineering you have to account for your own personal perferences. Personally I wouldn’t go much lighter as my experience is lighter skis always impose some compromise on downhill performance. So it depends on how steep you intend to go. That said, I would recommend the Aspect for ski mountaineering. It’s a good balance of weight with decent performance. IMO. YMMV.

  • Raggi_Thor

    They are over one pound lighter per pair than my 10 year olds Jak BC 90s, I think.
    Is that right?

    What’s the tip width at 166cm? One digit missing there in the table.

  • Zach Roeder

    125

  • Dave Johnson

    Looking for a ski for the Haute Route next year…this looks perfect. Thoughts?

  • Paul

    Dostie,
    I am 6ft and 165 pounds, would you recommend the ski in 176cm or 180? Thanks

  • Paul

    176 or 186 of course

  • Dostie

    At your size I’d say 180cm but that isn’t available. So probably 176cm. Depends on how much edge length you’re comfortable with. Because of the early rise tip, which is noticeable but not dramatic, these ski short. Thus a 186 skis like a 180 in firm, a 186 in soft. Ditto for the 176. Hope that helps.

  • Paul

    It does, thanks!

  • Dostie

    Agree, it would be “perfect.” YMMV.