Review: 2015 Black Diamond Carbon Convert with Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12 binding

When skis go carbon, usually I run away, fast. However, the lightness of the Black Diamond Carbon Convert left nothing to be desired in its downhill performance. The ski has incredible stability given its low weight, while it’s profile lends to incredible versatility.

In a mid-fat 105mm waist width and rockered tip and tail, the Convert can tackle pretty much any kind of condition, especially excelling in powder. A mere 8 pound setup including skis and bindings makes your hip flexors sing with delight on your way up the skin track. Given its surprising versatility and stability on the way down, the uphill is a breeze.

Black Diamond recommends the most optimal use for the Carbon Converts in mostly softer snow, yet when you’re nearing the bottom of a long run with hard-pack or chop, these skis won’t quit as fast as your quads. The Converts come in lengths from 164cm to 188cm. I’ve chosen the 180cm with hesitation thinking about making kick turns on steep switchbacks as a female standing 5 feet 4 inches tall. Yet after taking them out my first day I felt at ease with the longer length, given the tip and tail rocker allows more of the ski to be lifted off the snow and it’s super light weight for maneuverability.

When faced with my hesitation about the ski length, Black Diamond Ski Category Director, Thomas Laakso reassured me, “With the tip and tail rocker of the 105mm Carbon Convert, the 180cm sort of has the effect of a [shorter ski].  I’d give it a try actually. Especially when it’s so light.”

While the skis flew up and surfed down the mountain, the bindings provided an excellent platform to do so.

Tech bindings with toe and heel pins are truly game changers. Although their minimal, low profiles stereotypically give a skier less of a “locked and loaded” sense of security, Diamir has made some exceptional technological advances to enhance safety and performance. The Fritschi Diamir Vipec 12 bindings contain a sliding toe plate, similar to a DIN binding, in order to give with the movement of the boot to ski interface before reaching its threshold to release when necessary.

To step into the binding, “You don’t wiggle the boot side to side at the toe to engage the pins (like in a Dynafit), but rather come into it straight forwards and when you’re lined up vertically with the pins, step down flat footed.  Don’t over tip the toes downwards.  Just put your heel on the brake, so you’re lined up straight, and then step flat footed downwards.” According to Laakso.

The toe lever creates an idiot-proof system for walk mode, ski mode and “step-in” mode. “Put the toe lever into WALK mode by flipping it [fully] up.  It’s not a ‘lock out’ mode, so you can still have avy safety release with it snapped upwards in Walk mode. It just adds some extra friction in the system since you have so much leverage with your heel out of the binding and could twist your toes out of the pins if just left in ski mode.” Laakso explains. The toe pins are also fully adjustable to your boot width, making the Vipec the only tech bindings compatible with all major ski touring boots.

I felt completely safe charging down some Wasatch backcountry chutes with speed into variable terrain and not pre releasing out of the bindings that go up to a 12 DIN. I feel safe clicking in and speeding up the hill with three levels of hike assist, for an epic ride down, knowing they’ve won an ISPO Award Gold for 2014/2015 ski touring equipment.

In all, I feel that I’ve become a true convert to the lightweight tech setup, knowing that with the right equipment one does not have to sacrifice weight for downhill performance. Check out BlackDiamondEquipment.com for all their skis including Fritsche bindings. See also Jim Harris’ “Going Up: A Tribute to the Painful Joys of Skinning” as a precursor to your next uphill adventure.

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