REVIEWS AND TESTS
Ski Tests & Reviews
Liberty Helix 98 (2018-2019)
Liberty Helix 98 2018-2019
P.O. Box 4555
Avon, CO 81620
Suggested Retail Price (MSRP):
All mountain twin
Rating (with comments):
(1="get me off these things"->10="I have to own a pair")
8 - All mountain, do-it-all pretty well ski for the masses ++ $500 reality retail pricing w/3 Yr warranty
8+ All mountain, do-it-all pretty well ski for stronger skiers who want a stable platform
"The Helix is back! Now in a more versatile 98mm waist, but retaining the do-anything DNA of its award-winning predecessor, the NEW Helix98 is a one-ski wrecking machine. Versatile, energetic, and stable, the Helix98 features easy turn initiation and floatation with control from our signature bamboo and poplar core. Crush the entire mountain with performance and a grin."
- Website November 2018
Technical Ski Data:
Sizes available: 165, 172, 179, 186cm (179cm tested)
Dimensions: 133-98-121 @179cm
Radius: 17m @165cm, 18m @172cm, 19.5m @179cm, 21m @186cm
Bamboo/poplar wood core
Machined aluminum ail protectors
Claimed weight: 1850 grams
Measured weight: 1881 and 1848 grams
Unusual 3 Year warranty
Bindings and Boots Used:
Tyrolia PowerRail PRD 12 bindings
Salomon S-Max 120 boots.
Salomon X-Pro 130 boots
Beautifully finished and base-prepped out of the wrapper. Nice stoneground base structure. Impressively machined and fitted tail protectors. Textured, vibrantly colored topsheet. Hand flex shows somewhat medium-to stiff flex with rounded arc, no hingepoints. Damp feel, torsionally strong. Moderate tip rocker, moderate camber underfoot with nearly flat, rounded tails with a bit of rise to handle switch skiing and avoid hangups in the bumps. Looks like a cross between a stiffer all-mountain design and a nearly symmetricaly park twin "all-mountain twin?" Nicely subdued, business-like graphics. Mount position looks like a cab-forward freestyle mount for a symmetrical twin..but upon closer inspection...it's defiinitely mounted back a bit into the all-mountain position category (as testers at BlisterGearReview noticed as well). Unusual quality for the moderate price point (you can realistically find the Helix 98 for $500 usd if you search a bit).
Late spring through mid-winter. Eastern corduroy, packed powder and hardpack groomers & boilerplate. Some shin-deep and knee-deep powder sections, skied-out afternoon powder, 2-3 day old skied out powder, crud, crust, bumps, open areas and trees. Spring condition snow...pretty much everything. Important note: We did not get a dedicated park tester on the Helix 98, so please refer to other review sources such as NewSchoolers to assess the park capabilities of the Helix 98.
Liberty's description of the Helix 98 is nearly spot on...with some exceptions on the "energetic" part, depending on who was skiing it. The ski is intended to be a do-anything, one-ski machine for a more athletic target market (in our opinion), and we found the geometry, flex, camber profile and construction materials make the Helix 98 completely reliable and solid in nearly any situation you can find. It also feels really light underfoot while being stable and able to take pretty aggressive antics in stride. It's not a surfy-soft-and-smearly twintip, but a more stout and athletic platform for park and all-mountain rowdyness. You could grab the Helix 98 for pretty much any day...pow to hardpack and have a fun outing. It doesn't really "excel" at any one thing other than doing a lot of things pretty darn well without trying...and that's what Liberty apparently intended. This is a wide-spectrum ski without a laser-focus on any one particular condition, but can be used all-mountain, in the park, on a powder day or crud-busting situations perfectly well without any glaring weaknesses.
Add an unusually affordable $600 price (Realistically $500 actual retail in nearly all stores) and a 3 year warranty, and you have a compelling "one-ski-for-nearly-everthing". Some testers hooked up with the Helix 98 right away...others did not..so this ski is one people should definitely demo before they buy to see if they like the flavor.
Overall, the Helix 98 is trying to be good at a bunch of things...carving hardpack, pounding bumps, hitting park features, jib and jump antics, powder, crud-busting and everthing in-between. This is a hard target to hit with high marks in every category, and we found some testers have it high marks nearly across the board, while others were underwhelmed. That's why you need to demo these to see if you're a good match with the Helix 98s. If you mesh well with the Helix 98, you have a bargain value with a 3 year warranty to close the deal. If you prefer a different feel underfoot...there are other options for this category. Bottom line: The Helix 98 could be a stunning bargain and compellingly supported do-it-all ski for a wide segment of the skier population out there, and the people at Liberty are some of the most helpful in the business, so the Helix 98 should be on your "must demo" list.
Hardpack and Boilerplate:
We first test our skis oiut-of-the-wrapper to judge how serious the finish process at the manufacturer is. The Helix 98s came out with a nice base structure and tune....good enough for Eastern hardpack right out of the box, and better than most companies deliver. In stock trim and mounted on-the-line, the Helix 98s had a fairly impressive and quiet grip on hardpack for a 98mm ski, and delivered an even more impressive edging prowess when the snow was a bit softer (enough to get a sidewall-depth cut into the surface), taking lots and lots of increasing amounts of pressure without ever protesting or waivering. You can lay into the Helix 98's cambered midbody with race-ike pressure and the chassis will take whatever you dish out, so heavier skiers will have a solid platform that doesn't wash-out on you. If you hand-tune the edges a bit to up the grip level on hardpack, you get a more accurate and precise grip along the ski's length without generating a darty behavior. The Helix would get a bit wandery and vague on the hardest, impenetrable boiler plate, but we have grown accustomed to most twin-tip all-mountain skis yielding some security on these kinds of unforgiving surfaces...so no major points off for that behavior. Since it's a 98mm ski, the Helix 98 needs a bit of tipping up on-edge to get the grip you want. The relatively mellow sidecut means you can drift the Helix sideways on-demand, but you lose a little auto-engaging carving behavior in this design, so you can't just roll it over and expect it to begin a death-grip on the snow......you need to roll the ski up to the proper angle and apply pressure to get the bite you want, and once you do, it's reliable and predictably good.
Of particular note is the quiet behavior and stablity of the Helix 98 on hardpack for a ski that feels this light underfoot. The ski never gets darty or squirmy underfoot on hard surfaces, and rides a high speed arc pretty darn quietly for an all-mountain twin. Vibrations are kept low, and stability of the platform is reliable and predictable, even at higher speeds. If you find the right surface conditions, you can rip long-radius GS turns on the Helix really well under low or high pressure at various edge angles really well with lots of confidence. Some testers found it took some extra effort and body English to get the Helix into a pressure+angle situation to deliver the grip they wanted or expected, while others felt the Helix worked just fine. Quick, edge-to-edge hardpack turns can feel a bit forced, while medium-to-larger radius turns feel more at home with the Helix 98. You can encounter patches of hard, slippery snow nearly anywhere on the mountain without changing your stance on the ski...so this is a big plus for an all-mountain design.
Mixed Surface & Variable Conditions:
The Helix 98 eats up cruddy, choppy conditions with a more directional, deliberate feel than surfy, smearly style. You can deliver a rock-solid, authoritative ride across mixed surface conditions by standing centered on the Helix 98 and driving the trajectory to your destination point. No deflection, no unpredictable interruptions, just steady, quiet arcing with an undercurrent of energetic response if you load the ski up with pressure and release tactics. If you don't load it up...it can feel less energetic...almost unexciting unless you put something into it. The Helix 98 is a confidence-inspiring mixed-surface ride since you can break it into a smear pretty easily and it won't fight your efforts, and press down to get an gripping change of direction when you need it. Some testers loved the way it felt when doing this..others expected a different response underfoot and found the Helix subdued.
We had the chance to ski the Helix 98 in spring corn conditions when the early AM is hard, refrozen granular snow, evolving into softer corn and mushy slush throughout the day, and the Helix is a great ski for those changing conditions as long as you don't expect it to be the finest ski in the land for each particular condition you encounter from first chair to last...but want a totally competent and solid ski for each situation you find.
The Helix 98 occupies a spot on the slightly stiffer side of the spectrum from most all-mountain twin tips, and it rewards an aggressive, charging stance into bumps rather than a passive one. The rounded tails work really well at allowing the Helix to waddle through the bumps without hangup, and the fairly stout flex and response of the bamboo core can deliver a sporty, athletic charge through the bumps. The modest tip rocker means the Helix 98 feels pretty true to length, so if you pick a 179cm version, it feels like that in the bumps. We found you can keep pounding the bumps harder and harder with the Helix 98, and it never feels like you're approaching the point of surrender, so the ski stays stable and responsive....never like you've over-driven it past its comfort zone.
The Helix 98 has the surface area (133-98-121) to support a skier in modest powder depths fairly well, but since it's cambered underfoot and lacks the powder-optimal tip and tail rocker profiles to deliver a surfy-smeary powder experience, you get a very directional and somewhat stiff-feeling ride in 3D snow. That being said, the Helix 98 is perfectly happy to venture into fresh snow...the faster the better to get the rise you want, although you can noodle your way through the trees at slow speed in powder and have a grand old time. The phrase I kept using when people asked how the Helix 98 worked in powder was "Perfectly fine...pretty darn good actually..." . You get spoiled using dedicated powder skis in fluffy conditions, and when you find an all-mountain ski with a somewhat stiff flex profile and very little rocker up front that works pretty well in powder, you need to readjust your expectations.
Turn Initiation, Apex & Finish:
The Helix 98 can be driven from the front, center or back, depending on the kind of turn you want. In some ways if feels somewhat neutral when mounted on-the-mark, which opens up a bunch of possiblities. You can aggressively drive the front to get the forebody to engage the surface, then pressure the rest of the ski as needed, or get a more pivoty-oriented center stance to drift a bit. The important part is to keep pressuring the Helix since it will resort to its fairly neutral behavior if the pressure and angle are relaxed. The Helix doesn't automatically complete its turn for you once you start it. You need to be actively engaged during the whole process for best results. Some testers felt the turn behavior required more effort than it should to get the degree of intensity they wanted. Others felt fine with it. The good news is you can start to crank a turn with a flexed and angled edgehold, then relax to quickly straighten the line out and get a side-drift going to scrub speed, then re-engage the ski into the surface and change direction if needed. This is handy in the trees and meant we could point it at pretty much any kind of terrain with confidence.
Analogies: ("This ski is like...")
A Dodge Charger or Chevy Camaro....not quite a sports car, way more fun than a boring family sedan, strong and sporty all around town, totally at home on the side streets or open highway, invites you to hit the gas frequently, rewards a strong hand at the wheel and can do pretty fun stuff on-demand while being a bargain hunter's dream with a low sticker price and extra-long warranty.
Notable Tester Comments:
"Now I have to admit that this ski and I on four occasions did not hit it off. I’m not quite sure why but it was quite underwhelming. The mounting point seemed OK I moved it around a little bit and it didn’t seem to change things. I just felt like there wasn’t anything in particular the ski did well. It didn’t really slarve , it wasn’t a charger...
It was really damp and didn’t have a lot of pop to it and while I know that I’m more turned biased, this really felt like I was working too hard to make it do anything. It didn’t do anything bad, it just seem like it was a application of the damp, soft liberty feel in a size that it was not suited for with respect to the width.
I would say that this is a strong 4 across-the-board for me out of 10. It’s not as bad as the homebrew beer that often has a skunk flavor to it, but it’s also incredibly underwhelming. About the only application I could see for these would be the intermediate who wants to have a stable feel but doesn’t have a lot of strong desires to car or charge.
I even took them out in the rain last week and thought that they would be much better and what I found was well I could finally get them to turn with a lot of body English, the width was too wide and the side cut too shallow to avoid stumbling over my feet even in the soft snow. They kind of felt like big snow blades that had somehow overgrown their cage. I would never consider purchasing a pair of these. There simply too vanilla."
"You can really lay into them, and they take whatever you dish out without folding up"
"Likes medium-to-larger turns...surprisingly quiet at speed"
"Pretty good all over the place"
"I can't figure them out"
"Pound 'em...they don';t care...totally stable"
"At $500, they're a bargain"
Things I Would Change About This Ski:
Not quite sure. Some people wanted it to have a tigher, curvier radius, others liked it as-is.
Short Answer When Someone Asks "What Do You Think About This Ski?":
The Liberty Helix 98 is indeed a do-it-all one-ski quiver solution. Some people like it, others want a different feel...demo it for sure. At $500 and 3 year warranty....they're one of the best new-ski deals out there.
What kind of skier is this ski good for and not suitable for?
The Helix 98 seems to work better for heavier, stronger skiers and less so for technically-inclined, lighter skiers, even if they have top-shelf skills and physical fitness. People who want an Eastern freeride comp ski with plenty of stable platform underfoot might like the Helix 98 if they don't straight-line huge lines. Skiers who routinely sack-out their somewhat softish all-mountain twins will probably like the durablity and stronger feel of the Helix. People who want a ski with broadband appeal over a wide range of surfaces and terrain types in the twin-tip family might really like the Helix 98.
Advice To People Considering This Ski:
Demo this ski in two lengths. It feels pretty true-to-length and can behave quite differently in a shorter or longer size. If you want a durable twin you can beat at the park and still cruise the mountain, this might be the ticket for the price.
"The Liberty Helix 98 is a versatile ski that does a good job of blending a wide range of traits and accommodates a variety of skiing styles. It’s light and easy to turn in bumps, but is also pretty stable for its weight. It can carve well on groomers and rewards a forward, driving stance, but it’s also a bit more playful than many of the other directional all-mountain skis out there. And while you can ski it hard and fast if you ski with an active / dynamic style, the Helix 98 is just as comfortable at slower speeds.
While some skis have one or two standout characteristics and fall short elsewhere, the Helix 98 does a lot of things quite well. That’s high praise, and why I think it should work for a wide range of skiers."
"I’d say that the Liberty Helix 98 is a ski that performs on all-mountain almost as well as it dominates the park. For an advanced park skier, this ski provides a super-durable, energetic, stable, and lively platform. The shallow rocker in the tip & tail helps with lightening up the stiff flex giving a slightly looser feel but this is a totally different ski from most circa 98mm jib skis like the Blend and EDollo. It’s stiff, stable and works best for skiers who like to charge, be it big rail features, large jumps or blasting all mountain natural hits. I wouldn’t recommend this ski to anyone one who is a beginner to intermediate skier because they would have trouble with the stiff, non-forgiving ski while learning new tricks.
The Helix is 100% a very versatile ski. The Helix 98mm is the perfect ski for the everyday variable conditions that the east coast will throw at you: hardpacked ice one day and the seven inches of snow the next and lots of park sessions. I personally loved the Helix for my aggressive ski style and I really enjoyed the wider 98mm platform because it gave me more ski to work with on rails. The stiff camber allowed me to charge jumps, with the super low swingweight made it easy to go big & spin fast. The hint of rocker felt great too when carving trails and skiing slushy days. I had great luck with durability too. In fact, I enjoyed these skis so much so that I made them my Editors’ Pick for the park."
Pics: (click for larger versions)
Tail protector detail
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