Atomic Backland — Putting a Boot Fitter Near You Out of Business


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 24, 2015      
Randy Young (right) of our advertising partner Cripple Creek checks out the new shoes.

Randy Young (right) of our advertising partner Cripple Creek checks out the new shoes.

I’ve got about 20 days of testing on my Atomic Backland Carbon ski touring boots. We fit them in Austria using their full “Memoryfit” technology that’s purported to heat mold the shell to your foot along with the liner. I was a little suspicious of this. Why doesn’t the whole shell just expand and get too big? Turns out the process does work, but has to be done correctly (and may not be needed if you get a good shell fit out of the box, in which case you can just do a normal “stack” heat of the boots for a molding.)

Note that Atomic will offer three liner options when the Backland boots go to full retail next fall. One of the liners will be ‘high volume’ to help fill for lower volume feet, while the other liners will be a standard version and a super light and flexible version. Official word: “Three liners, Platinum Light (which is in the orange boot for uber light weight touring guys), Platinum, and a Platinum Low Volume (which is currently being developed for the women’s version as well as aftermarket sales).

Thing is, if you’ve got any alignment problems or any areas on your feet that normally need a boot fitter’s punch, you just might be able to do an oven mold of the Backland and get it all perfect in one step. More, if you’ve got the classic problem of skinny ankles and long feet you can possibly downsize for ankle fit and depend on the process to lengthen the toe area.

I was just joking about the boot fitter, as you’ll still need him and his calibrated oven to do the Memoryfit. But you might not need him as much.

A few days ago Lisa and I attended a demo of the process, hosted by Colorado area sales rep Michael MacQuarrie. Check out a few photos and commentary.

Aspen Powder Tours manager Bob Perlmutter gets ready to bake.

Aspen Powder Tours manager and guide Bob Perlmutter gets ready to bake. It takes some pressure from the inside to get the shell to expand, so padding key areas of your feet is key. Just like molding liners only you have to be a bit more aggressive with the padding if you want the shell to really respond.

The boots are heated for 12 minutes.

The boots are heated for 12 minutes (after the boot fitter gets some experience this can vary somewhat with how aggressive you want the molding process to be). Temperature of around 240 degrees F is necessary. Too hot can damage the boots. This is probably something you won’t be doing at home in your kitchen, though it’s possible that the do-it-yourselfer with a big enough convection oven could pull it off.

The boots don't have to go on particularly quickly.

The boots don’t have to go on particularly quickly as they’re nicely heat soaked after 12 minutes. But foot insertion has to be done smoothly so the liner doesn’t get bunched or wrinkled. Plastic bags on the feet do the trick. Ultra thin socks are worn so the molding is done ‘bare foot,’ otherwise the boots can easily increase too far in volume.

A boot fitter who's experienced in the process makes for success.

A boot fitter who’s experienced in the process makes for success.

Bob got a good mold, surprisingly good actually.

Bob got a good mold, surprisingly good actually. He did mold with his custom orthotics, but doing so can sometimes throw things off if the boot doesn’t have a cuff alignment system. In the case of Memoryfit the boot is somewhat self aligning so long as you’re careful about your stance as they cool from the mold. In Bob’s case, he stepped on to this cool $15,000 stance checker and got a nearly perfect score.

Check out our other Atomic Backland boot posts firstlook here. and my visit to Atomic in Austria here.

Thanks goes to boot fitter Steve Centofanti for use of his location and equipment (if you need boot work in the Aspen area, he’s at 430 South Spring Street in the old mining town).

Comments

22 Responses to “Atomic Backland — Putting a Boot Fitter Near You Out of Business”

  1. Mike March 24th, 2015 1:47 pm

    Is there any allowance for instep customization, or does the tongue/buckle configuration pretty much predetermine the shape and volume of that portion permanently?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 March 24th, 2015 2:10 pm

    Mike, everything will mold, including the tongue. Everything can be easily spot punched as well. When running without the tongue it would perhaps be challenging to get the buckle cables to not be uncomfortable if you had a high instep. My instep is moderately high and I’m just on the edge of needing some more work. Lots of things could be done. Lou

  3. Lou Dawson 2 March 24th, 2015 2:20 pm

    P.S., they provide a bit of padding to go on the buckles/cable, I’m thinking that a better configuration would be to use the lightweight flexible tongue from the other non-carbon model, it has a faux tongue nearly identical to TLT 5/6 that is removable. Lou

  4. Zach March 24th, 2015 6:50 pm

    Is this the same plastic Fischer has been using for their vacuum fit boots?

  5. Lou Dawson 2 March 24th, 2015 7:05 pm

    No, but similar. This is a Grilamid with an additive. It doesn’t get as loose as the Fischer does, for better or worse depending on needs. Lou

  6. Tom March 24th, 2015 10:49 pm

    Lou,

    This process is pretty similar to now I used to fit my race boots:

    – shell is super narrow (<93mm) to begin with
    – leather liner has no padding on the foot, with minimal high quality padding on ankles and up the leg
    – shells are heated to about 80 degrees C in a water bath
    – you put on the liner (with extra packing in problem areas) and then into boot and do up shell very tightly
    – your foot acts as the mold, forcing the shell to perfect fit to your foot, once it cools it stays in the new shape
    – since the liner essentially has no padding, there is no opportunity for liner pack causing a deteriorating fit.

    I wouldn't want to tour in my race boots, but the process created a great fit. Looks pretty similar to the backlands. My question – do they come in a very narrow shell to begin with…?

  7. Pablo March 25th, 2015 3:57 am

    #Tom
    No, Backland come in a, not really wide last, but high volume shell.
    Its a mix between wide forefoot, and high instep. But it’s not that wide at midfoot and heel.

    I’ve used mines last two months and they fit me really comfortable coming from a TLT5 wich is clearly narrower.
    Maybe as Lou says, Backland is a boot you can downsize and then mold to have the perfect fit.

  8. Mike Marolt March 25th, 2015 8:45 am

    The boot technology these days is incredible. The ability to mold both the liner and shell really is the ticket. I was skeptical but Fischer has the same system and it works. In general, in my view, I think the advancements in ski boots is the greatest technology breakthrough in the whole AT game. The boots available are so light and comfortable it’s crazy. And the function climbing and skiing is off the chart. And with all the punching and modifying that has happened in the past, kind of odd that molding the shell hasn’t happened sooner.

  9. Lou Dawson 2 March 25th, 2015 9:35 am

    Totally agree, skis, fat or whatever, yawn, but the boots! What’s funny about the boots, however, is they’re basically reworks of the same technology from nearly 50 years ago. Better plastics is the main boot improvement. Tech bindings revolutionized the sport as well, but that’s old news now. Lou

  10. chill March 25th, 2015 3:41 pm

    I skied this boot for a few weeks and must say they are a good fit, but very cold, I wear a 26.5 boot that is 306 mm in my other b/c boots. The Atomic Backland comes in at a 288 mm. The rondo racers will love this boot. It is very light and even out of the box they fit good. But I think they are what they are and that is speed running boot, and not for the skier that will spend all day in the b/c working for his or her turns. All I am saying is skier beware no what you want out of a boot. Chill

  11. Lou Dawson 2 March 25th, 2015 4:33 pm

    Each to his own. Mine are the warmest boots I’ve owned in years, in fact they’re too hot sometimes. In super cold conditions without the shell tongue, I can feel the cold on top of my feet where the fabric covering the shell is, but that is the extent of any “coldness” I’ve experienced and is a novelty not a deal breaker. Lou

  12. See March 25th, 2015 7:31 pm

    Assuming you haven’t already covered this, a piece about the different plastics used in boots would be interesting (at least to me). There are differences in weight, flex, temp sensitivity, moldability, cost, environmental friendliness, strength/durability, etc.. Not to mention the multitude of names used to identify the different (or same?) materials— Pebax, Pebax rnew, Grilamid, Triax, Marfram, Vacu-Plast…

  13. Pablo March 26th, 2015 5:43 am

    Mines are also warmest than my TLT5P…
    But I live in a warm Country so I could’t try at very cold temps.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 March 26th, 2015 6:21 am

    See, problem is that some of the plastics are somewhat secret formulas, while others are just the same stuff only with different names cooked up for branding. Fact is that nearly all ski boots are made in a few factories in Italy, using the same or similar sacks of plastic pellets probably delivered by the same truck driver.The big dividing line is your boots are either going to be polyurethane or nylon, Grilamid and Pebax are nylon. Various additives etc. are mixed in to change melting point and softening temperatures, and so forth. What drives much of the choices in plastic is actually how it works in the injection molding process to squirt into a mold that’s quite thin in spots with lots of area to fill. If they can get the plastic working for that, then they try to improve how it performs for skiing and fitting. Injection molding a ski boot is quite tricky, from what I understand, though I’m sure these days there are tougher things being molded, like some of the Lego kit parts kids seek worldwide?

    At Masterfit U. they try to sort out the plastics, I remember a pretty good seminar a few years ago with a white paper they handed out. But that was then and now we do have more confusion. I’m planning on attending Masterfit again next fall, perhaps they’ll do an updated seminar on plastics. If so I’ll be there and report.

    You’re probably familiar with the Masterfit website, but here is the link for anyone who’s missed it.

    http://www.bootfitters.com

  15. Pablo March 26th, 2015 6:31 am

    #See,
    Great idea, an specific article about plastics

  16. chill March 26th, 2015 7:54 am

    Lou Thank you and every one at WildSnow, Your articles and blogs are so spot on, they do so much for us the skiing public. Thank You!

  17. Spencer May 31st, 2015 9:22 am

    Anyone know if I could find a pre-production pair for sale in Europe? Will be in Italy and Spain in a couple weeks in mid June. Thanks!

  18. Lou Dawson 2 May 31st, 2015 10:16 am

    Spencer, they made quite a few boots… if no one answers here just contact a few specialty retailers when you’re in Europe (or before). I’ve got a lot of days on mine now, have found that though I can ski them without the tongues most people will probably want to be skiing down with the tongues in, otherwise they bulge quite a bit during forward pressure. I’ll do a long-term use review sometime this summer. Lou

  19. Spencer May 31st, 2015 11:09 am

    Thanks for the quick response Lou! Glad to hear they are holding up after a bunch of days. I live full-time in Chile and had my F1 Evo’s recalled so am needing a short term ski mountaineering option for our ski season which is just around the corner!

    You have any recommendations of specific specialty retailers I can contact in Italy or Spain? Have never bought gear over there so don’t have a great idea of where to start looking.

  20. John February 24th, 2016 11:29 am

    Lou you mentioned shell downsizing for volume and possible lengthening the toe area with the shell mold. Has anyone done this with success? It’s exactly what I need. I demoed these a couple weeks ago and the one size smaller shell fit my low volume feet great but of course they weren’t long enough and my toes were really bunched in the front. I guess If I could get the 27.5 length in the 26.5 I’d be pretty happy of course my complaint with my current touring boots is too tight a fit in the front of the foot….

  21. Jim March 1st, 2016 2:30 am

    Can they widen them by 10mm?

  22. Brian January 11th, 2017 8:35 pm

    I’m also interested in the fit of the boot with molding. I am between sizes (26.5/27.5). My slightly longer right foot measures exactly 27cm. Shell fit is about 12mm in 27, dropping to 26 my toes are at end of boot in standing position (can feel the shell on my toes). Not sure if the memory fit would be enough correction and allow me to size down- or if i go with the 27 if the memory fit will shrink it up a bit (I wear 26.5 dalbello in my alpine boot).

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