Atomic Salomon Backland-MTN Binding Heel Breakdown

Post by blogger | March 28, 2017      
Backland-MTN heel unit, in this case the Atomic version in orange and black.

Backland-MTN heel unit, in this case the Atomic version in orange and black.

Break it down! The Backland-MTN is a beautifully executed classic tech binding that combines both vertical and lateral release under the control of one U-spring. How do they do it? We dig in.

Atomic Backland Binding and U-spring.

Atomic Backland Binding with U-spring installed, as well as an example U-spring to left.

We just happened to have a damaged pre-retail Atomic MTN binding heel unite here at WildSnow HQ, shown here with lifter pin driven part way out and the length adjuster ground off.

We just happened to have a damaged pre-retail Atomic MTN binding here at WildSnow HQ, shown here with lifter pin driven part way out and the length adjuster head ground off. U-spring to right.

Pin out of top, lifters removed, U-spring to right.

Pin out of top, lifters removed, U-spring to right.

Heel lifters off, but, tower still wouldn't come apart.

Heel lifters off, but, tower still wouldn’t come apart.

Aha, looking underneath tower, hex head machine screw.

Aha, looking underneath tower, hex head machine screw.

Boot length adjustment rod removed, hex fastener easy to access.

Boot length adjustment rod removed, hex fastener easy to access.



Off comes the top.

Off comes the top.

Exploded view of heel unit center tower.

Exploded view of heel unit center tower.

Top of tower with spring installed, showing what are clearly hardened steel glide surfaces.

Top of tower with spring installed, showing what are clearly hardened steel glide surfaces.

This depicts how the U-spring rides on the steel gliders.

This depicts how the U-spring rides on the steel gliders, on the tower ‘lobes’ that create release resistance by expanding the U-spring rods as the U-spring rotates.

Simulated lateral release.

Simulated lateral release.

When I busted the pre-retail tester (my fault) I was bummed, but every cloud has a silver lining. In this case, I had a binding to dissect! The Backland-MTN can probably be taken apart in a way that would allow reassembly, but I obviously didn’t bother with that here. In terms of wear and tear, it’s obvious this simple machinery could be quite durable. On first glance, you might wonder how well the housing rides on the center post, and how durable that assembly is. The machining on this part of the binding is impressively tight, and everything appears durable, but consumer testing is obviously key. We’ve got a couple sets of Atomic-Salomon bindings that have seen a number of days and don’t exhibit any problems. But the history of tech bindings as many of you know firsthand is fraught with disappointment. So we be watching things such as how the aluminum heel lifters interact with their steel axle pin.

More, we’d like to see one more spring option for fine-tuning release. We’re not sure if the spring is tunable as it is on some other U-spring bindings. Research is ongoing.

U-spring is basic, same as used on many other tech bindings over the last three decades.

U-spring is basic, same as used on many other tech bindings over the last three decades. The plastic housing snaps on, is screwed down to anchor the rear of the spring.

Related Links

FAQ for Backland MTN ski touring binding.

A few tech bindings compared.

Another one.

Low Tech



48 Responses to “Atomic Salomon Backland-MTN Binding Heel Breakdown”

  1. Eric Steig March 28th, 2017 7:51 am


    What keeps the plastic housing, which holds the U-spring, from blowing part during a release, and causing the whole U-spring assembly to come out of the binding? Obviously, you haven’t seen that happen, but it seems like a weak point. Perhaps this question applies to any U-type tech binding, and I’m just overestimating the forces involved.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 March 28th, 2017 7:55 am

    Eric, the plastic housing on the rear of the spring is strong, and doesn’t have to resist much movement of the spring. Now, if the binding was not adjusted correctly, especially in the case of the tech gap at the boot heel being too small, the spring could be forced back against the plastic and blow it up. All tech bindings have to have the correct tech gap set for this and other reasons. Lou

  3. Matus March 28th, 2017 8:55 am

    I am switching from ATK to this Atomic next season. It looks like and ideal binding: great brake (will not probably use it), wide mounting pattern, full metal body, relatively OK price, good weight, spare parts available, simple operation. I think that Dynafit missed the train with bindings (they just cannot match what we really want).

  4. See March 28th, 2017 9:03 am

    Interesting post, Lou. Thanks. Now if you could only break some Vipecs…

  5. Lou Dawson 2 March 28th, 2017 9:07 am

    See, I have some older Vipecs I can do a take-apart of, been meaning to, but they’re highly complex so I’ve been waiting till I had time. Am using the Tecton now as well, talk about complicated! The toe is the Vipec, but the heel is not only an alpine step-in but has the mode-change-on-the-fly feature that includes a brake lock. It’ll take 25 photos and 2000 words to try and explain it all! And video won’t be easy either. Stay tuned. Lou

  6. Matus March 28th, 2017 9:32 am

    Lou, video is always easier for us to understand. Step by step photos of disassembly are good but still require more 3D imagination than video. More videos please!

  7. Greg Louie March 28th, 2017 10:21 am

    Thanks for the look, Lou, and hats off to Amer for taking the “Everything You Need and Nothing You Don’t” approach on this binding!

  8. Alex March 28th, 2017 10:39 am

    So if you are using the expert spring on this, to rotate the heal piece for flat touring, you basically need to overcome an ~11 “din” setting? I.e., to twist the heal, you are manually performing a lateral release, at the release value given by the combination of the chosen spring and the heal tower?

  9. XXX_er March 28th, 2017 12:00 pm

    a generic question on minimalist tech bindings, how is the up and down retention adjusted because on Rads and Verts I have to run the little screw for up/down retention 1 din (like) more than the Din like setting on the big screw or I get pre-release

    I am assuming on these minimalist bindings nobody worries about it?

  10. Lou Dawson 2 March 28th, 2017 1:13 pm

    Xer, I guess I did need to do a video (smile). The spring controls both side and upward release, the two are not adjustable independent of each other. That’s a downside of this type of binding.

    Alex, yeah, when using heavier springs you can definitely feel it when you rotate the binding heel, but it’s not a big deal.

  11. Lee Lau March 28th, 2017 4:16 pm

    Alex – the downside to using the Expert spring is that you can’t easily whack the heelpiece with your pole to rotate it from walk mode to ski mode as easily. Not a big downside but just means you have to take your skis off to transition or bend over to rotate with your hand. Guess I’m just lazy

  12. Lou Dawson 2 March 28th, 2017 4:25 pm

    Seems what folks need to know is that if you do not need heel flat on ski, you can just leave the Backland-MTN heel unit in downhill ski position (pins forward) with the lifter holding your heel above the pins. Want ski mode? Just flip the lifter up out of the way, step down, and you’re clicked in. Actually pretty cool though personally I don’t need this as a feature.

    As Lee says, if you’ve chosen to rotate the heel pins out of the way for heel-flat-on-ski, then yeah, you can try whacking the heel unit to rotate it if you want to make a mode change on the fly. Me, I hardly ever need to do that and also find that reaching down to bindings isn’t all that bad once I’m used to doing it for a particular setup.


  13. See March 28th, 2017 6:05 pm

    I’m probably not understanding something, but it looks to me like the U spring bears directly on the aluminum center post at the corners of the squared-off part at the rear (second to last photo). If so, it seems like this would wear rapidly and possible contaminate the mechanism with metal shavings.

  14. XXX_er March 28th, 2017 7:55 pm

    ” The spring controls both side and upward release, the two are not adjustable independent of each other ”

    yeah I kinda guessed that just looking at the pictures so I wanted clarification, too minimalist for me, maybe if I was running up hills in lycra I would feel different

  15. paulb March 29th, 2017 1:21 am

    Any thoughts on how these will mount on the volkl bmt h-mounting zone? Thanks for providing a mounting jig. Looks like these are too narrow in the heel?

  16. Matus March 29th, 2017 5:11 am

    The heel is not stressed so much (the rotation forces cannot be effectively transferred through the rear pins) so I think there is no point making it wider. This is what I like about Atomic/MTN: no unnecessary gimmicks and features that no one needs (well

  17. Lou Dawson 2 March 29th, 2017 7:19 am

    See, the U-spring steel bears on the shiny steel gliding surfaces. I exaggerated the release angle a bit in the photo, but did make sure it was still steel-on-steel. The photo distorts things a bit. If the U-spring did ride on aluminum you are correct in that it wouldn’t last very long, to say the least!

    I was actually hoping I’d find a way to easily modify the binding to reduce lateral (side) release, but no such luck.


  18. Lou Dawson 2 March 29th, 2017 7:27 am

    PaulB, yeah, the Backland-MTN toe screws are on a 40 mm wide pattern, industry standard, and they fit nicely on the Volkl “H” mounting reinforcement pattern. The heel screw pattern is a bit narrow but falls just to the good side of the pattern on my VTA 88s, but not on my earlier BMTs. There are two different Volkl reinforcement patterns, the one on the VTAs is a bit more forgiving of narrower heel screw pattern.

    Confusing. I wish Volkl would just get past this and put a normal binding reinforcement area in their skis. If I had a nickle for every time I’ve gotten up from this desk and fiddled around with a given binding, matching it up to the Volkl mount pattern, I’d be rich (smile).


  19. SteveR March 29th, 2017 7:54 am

    I believe that Kreuzspitze have set their non-adjustable race binding up to have a higher release value for vertical release than for lateral release. Maybe Atomic have done the same with this binding?

  20. justin March 29th, 2017 7:55 am

    What’s the expected MSRP on these babies?

  21. slcpunk March 29th, 2017 7:58 am

    I was actually looking at these from one of the euro web sites (telemark-pyrenees, and at a good price too) but since then, they have been sold out. Now I can’t find them anywhere. Any info on availability state-side?

  22. See March 29th, 2017 9:06 am

    If Atomic chose to provide more options for lateral and vertical release values without adding weight and complexity, they could make two versions of the toe with different spring rates. That seems like what G3 and Marker have done with the Ion and the Kingpin.

  23. Lou Dawson 2 March 29th, 2017 9:09 am

    See, yeah, all they have to do is increase toe spring rate and can thus end up with higher lateral release value while keeping vertical the same. Thing is, there is a practical limit on how strong the toe springs can be, and Atomic’s are already very strong and perhaps near that limit. I usually uphill without locking them, as a test. Lou

  24. Dan March 29th, 2017 9:25 am

    @slcpunk: Check out Mountain Equipment Coop in Vancouver, BC.

  25. See March 29th, 2017 10:45 am

    In my opinion, Wildsnow would be providing a very valuable service by doing quantitive release tests of all bindings reviewed. Is the vertical rv approximately the same as horizontal for fixed release models? What is the approximate rv of the various springs available for such bindings? Are bindings performing anywhere near their rated rv’s? Are boot fittings getting more standardized and yielding more consistent release performance? This sort of data seems of obvious interest but not widely available (although Skialper seems to be giving it a shot).

  26. Lou2 March 29th, 2017 11:58 am

    See I’m leaving that to Skialper for now. Bear in mind that to be fair to the binding company we’d need to test a half dozen pair of bindings as well as dealing with the issue of standardizing boot fittings. Much better is for each user to have their boot binding combo tested at a shop. How many times have i written that? (Smile)

  27. Matus March 29th, 2017 12:28 pm

    What about just trusting that normal combinations work. And they do.

  28. See March 29th, 2017 1:19 pm

    Matus, I have some bindings that I don’t consider entirely trustworthy. I think others have had similar experiences.

    Lou, I wonder how often people actually take that advice?

  29. Lou Dawson 2 March 29th, 2017 1:27 pm

    The entire DIN/ISO standards for both touring and alpine bindings are based on the bindings being individually tested and certified by a trained testing machine operator. Whether people take advice or not is their choice. Just because the majority of people do not doesn’t make it somehow ok… but sure, there might eventually be a better way. Indeed, testing _every_ binding combo is in one sense an onerous concept. It would be like asking us to somehow test every car tire we buy before driving the car… So in that sense it’s a rather immature and impractical system that appears to have been conceived by a bunch of people who had little sense of how real-life works. Better would have been to require higher manufacturing standards for ski bindings — that’s why you can buy tires and they usually work fine, and don’t need to be tested individually, they’re made to adequate standards that probably make them more expensive… Lou.

  30. Lou Dawson 2 March 29th, 2017 1:29 pm

    BTW, if car tires failed as often as tech bindings have over the past twenty years, there would be people in jail. Lou

  31. VT skier March 31st, 2017 6:01 am

    justin, slcpunk
    I just picked up a set of the Salomon MTN version in Val d’Isere at the end of a week of skiing . Price was 315 Euros, at end of season. Still hoping to get the 12% VAT refund back, which would drop the price to about $277 US. Mine do not have the ski brake but came with a set of (heavy ) leashes..

    I bought mine at Intersport in Val.
    You could also try the MountainProshop in Val.

  32. See March 31st, 2017 9:06 am

    I’m all for higher manufacturing standards, Lou, and (maybe more important) providing consumers with information about the limitations and proper use of their equipment. I think too many newcomers don’t appreciate that touring bindings are not just light alpine bindings with a walk mode. So where is the pressure to raise standards and provide better consumer information going to come from?

  33. Lou Dawson 2 March 31st, 2017 9:45 am

    See, the pressure will come from economics. For certain, consumers will gradually shift to buying bindings that historically don’t have a reputation of breakage. During or after that, if for example here in the U.S the CPSC actually goes after a binding company for selling something defective, that’ll be huge economically. And so on. it’s a gradual shift that’s probably already happening, but slowed by there really being no clear winner in terms of reliability, as well as some of the binding systems making efforts to do things that consumers simply don’t understand or get frustrated by, examples being G3 brakes occasionally popping open, or the Radical 2 rotating toe unit being inconvenient in various ways, not to mention adding weight. The G3 brake issues are probably due to the user not clearing ice or snow, and the Dynafit toe has good reasons for existing. But that doesn’t prevent consumers from getting frustrated and considering other products. The results of all this will continue to manifest over coming months and years. Lou

  34. See March 31st, 2017 10:48 am

    The basic point I’m trying to make is that the lack of good data makes the establishment of widespread, accurate understanding of a given model’s reputation so gradual and anecdotal as to be less than helpful, given the rapid introduction of “new” models and the potential for bad things to happen to uninformed consumers in the mean time. And I’m not just talking about breakage. I think Skialper put it best: “The manufacturers still don’t have any regulation they can refer to, neither precise answers for the clients asking how the binding they are about to buy will fare in case of an accident or a fall. Amid all this, some users are happy about the situation considering the binding something which should never open in the typical ski touring situations in the open mountain.” And: “The clear message which emerges is that, when you mount a pin-system binding, you should not think that your are buying a safety binding (apart from rare exceptions).”

  35. Lou Dawson 2 March 31st, 2017 11:03 am

    Aint gonna change anytime soon, Jimmy.

  36. See March 31st, 2017 11:06 am

    Who’s Jimmy? Friend of Virginia’s?

  37. Lou Dawson 2 March 31st, 2017 11:41 am

    So he says.

  38. Nick April 14th, 2017 11:31 am

    Thanks for the great article Lou.
    I love these bindings but still I’m puzzled with the lack of information around which U spring to use. The guy who mounted it for me had no real clue either.
    I’m a light skier (64kg 171cm) but I ski big fat skis and quite aggressive (type 2 I guess), how does that compare to my buddy who is 185cm and 90+ kg… This men, women thing is just ridiculous…
    I decided to mount them as women and see if I can trigger them at all… There must be a better way to do this…

  39. Nick April 18th, 2017 2:58 pm

    OK finally heard back from Salomon
    “MEN”: between 59kg and 85kg including equipment
    “W”: under 60kg body weight

  40. Ansel January 2nd, 2018 9:27 pm

    In reply to Eric Steig,

    The plastic housing does indeed blow apart, as mine did during a heel only release. When the heel piece and my boot returned to centre, the pins must have come out of the heel insert, as my boot heel forced the U-spring rearward through the housing. Heel gap was tested that morning and was within spec. Toe was not locked.

    I’m 5’11” 200lbs/90kg and not an aggressive skier, and was skiing on the MENs spring. I guess according to the Salomon chart, I should be using the EXPERT springs, which I’m now using, but they were so stiff I couldn’t turn them by hand initially, and I wonder if they will ever release.

  41. Eric Steig January 3rd, 2018 7:15 am

    Ansel: Yikes. Did anything break? Have. you given Salomon a call?

  42. See January 3rd, 2018 8:44 am

    Yeah. In particular, did the plastic housing around the U portion of the spring break? Was the screw that secures the U spring to the housing damaged or missing? Was the tab on the housing that the screw threads into damaged? (Do I just not understand how this binding is constructed/works?) Seems to me that using a heavier spring isn’t a great solution if the binding can jam up in such a way as to cause failure during a near release. It would just reduce the likelihood of releases or near releases.

  43. Ansel January 3rd, 2018 8:52 am


    I guess the benefit of the plastic housing is that it’s designed to fail to protect the heel piece from damage, so everything else was intact.

    Full disclosure, this happened when I was night skiing at a resort after a day of touring on a pair of very soft DPS Wailer 99 Tour1s. Didn’t hit any jumps or anything, and was on freshly groomed corduroy. Only noticed as my ski was flopping around on the lift up. Have put in a warranty claim, but either way I’m guessing/hoping replacement springs are cheap.

  44. Ansel January 3rd, 2018 9:03 am

    That is exactly what happened. Rear half of the bottom part of the housing exploded (it is a clamshell that snaps together). The top half and remaining bottom half were held in place by the screw. No damage to the screw or the tab on the heel post it was screwed into. In fact they could just me the plastic housing for the MENs spring, but I assume they don’t have a SKU for just that.

  45. Lou Dawson 2 January 3rd, 2018 9:07 am

    Guys, I think a possible failure mode for any tech binding heel would be the boot somehow coming out to the side then re-centering only with the heel pins not inserting in their corresponding holes, thus placing a huge amount of longitudinal force on both the binding toe and heel. A soft ski could make this more likely to occur. Regarding the Backland-MTN this is honestly the first time I’ve heard of this, so I don’t think it’s a worry, but definitely something we should all be paying attention to.

    What I’d like to see, and have been asking about for years, is when someone will come up with tech 2.0 and change the heel design to still use the pins, only slightly thicker pins and a wider tech gap, and so forth. This could possibly be done using a different boot heel fitting that could be retrofit to existing boots.


  46. Garrett February 10th, 2018 3:04 pm

    Any of you radsters breaking these things? Ansel’s lament above is all I’ve heard. The silence is deafening.

    No news is good news?

  47. Lou Dawson 2 February 10th, 2018 4:53 pm

    This binding has been a sigh of relief, I think I’ve heard of some breakage but nothing that made me think it might have problems. As Ansel describes, perhaps it would be good to see slightly more beef in one area, but again, I’m just not hearing any more about this. Lou

  48. Chris February 11th, 2018 9:39 am

    I have around 30 days on both the Salomon and Atomic versions of this binding. I rarely get excited about bindings but I love these things. Light, user friendly, good durability so far. I’m about 190 pounds FWIW. A friend has around another 20-30 days on his with similar feelings.

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