A Skier’s Fancy — Atomic Backland 95 Ski Review

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 25, 2017      

Blase Reardon

Atomic Backland

Atomic Backland 95. Click images to enlarge.

“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” claimed Tennyson*. This no-longer-young skier, however, fancies light gear and turns on big peaks and steep lines in variable snow conditions. And this past spring, WildSnow stepped in with some light gear — Atomic Backland 95 skis (177 cm) with Atomic Backland Tour Bindings (with brakes) and Hybrid Prefit skins — so I could pursue my modified Tennysonian fancies.

First, a word about my skiing style and preferences. My skiing relies on balance more than strength or power, in large part because I learned to ski in leather boots on double cambered Nordic skis. I’ve been on true alpine skis and boots less than half dozen times in my life, and those were all cheap rentals. Lou has called my skiing “smooth.” Doesn’t always feel that way, but I’ll take it.

Despite, or because of, learning on narrow skis, I like mid-fat skis. Better term: boards. Any skis with less than a 100 mm waist feel like twigs waving in the wind. For boots, I split my time between SCARPA Maestrales and SCARPA F1, the first light touring boot whose flex fits my style. I skied the Atomics with the SCARPA F1.

With the setup, I lapped Colorado corn at Independence Pass, wandered around the west side of Snowmass Peak, and as a final exam, skied them on a three-day climb and descent of Mount Rainier (Kautz Glacier). This was a nearly full range of conditions, especially on Rainier: ripe and over-ripe corn, faux corn, islands of wind-drifted cream of wheat, and very loud refrozen crust. The only conditions missing were fresh snow and hot pow.

My favorable first impressions quickly turned to love. The skis were perfect for classic spring-time shenanigans. They initiated turns easily, did not chatter or hook on firm snow, and landed solidly on hop turns. They were sooo smooth on the corn. Most importantly, they were light enough to haul up over 10,000 vertical feet, yet didn’t leave me wanting a wider, beefier ski on the descent. The combination of a full-length carbon insert, moderate rocker, sidewall, and a traditional camber seems well-suited to spring-time conditions.

I did not ski the Backland in deep winter powder, but did use them on plenty of soft snow and they felt fine. Considering their rocker and reasonable width, I see no reason why they wouldn’t be acceptable if not exceptional in the fluff. While these skis flex in a nice looking curve, they’re not particularly soft. I’d call it a “medium” flex. In other words, your body weight could be a factor in how the Backland skis; scrawny speedsters might find them too stiff.

Backland tails have what could be called 'average' rocker. It's definitely there.

Backland tails have what could be called ‘average’ rocker. It’s definitely there.

Effective tip rocker makes for a smooth ride on thawing corn snow.

Effective tip rocker makes for a smooth ride on thawing corn snow.

While I’ve used tech bindings almost exclusively since 2002, the Atomic Backland Tours were the first race or minimalist style tech binding I’ve tried. It was sometimes tricky to get my boots in the toe fittings. I’m used to the Dynafit roll; a straight toe-in works better with these, though Atomic’s “patented step-in aid” isn’t foolproof, even with practice. I’m 185 pounds, used the medium spring/pin, and never had the bindings come off. Dynafit ski crampons worked well; the cut-out on my B and D ski crampons proved too narrow.

The climbing aids (heel lifters) and brakes are the features that sold me on these bindings. Though I’m not usually a fan of flip-up risers, I found the version on these bindings to be straightforward. Perhaps it’s because the entire heel unit rotates in either direction and the risers work regardless of heel position.

The brake system was light enough that it didn’t feel superfluous on a long, multi-day trip. I grew to love having the brakes in high consequences terrain; so much less worry of losing a ski when I took it off my pack and set it down on frozen snow. The brakes lock out of the way in the up position for a flat touring position but must be unlocked to ski. That’s easy, though I don’t remember if I figured out a way to do it without taking off a ski or bending over.

I ditched the PreFit skins after my first tour with them, and switched to another set with conventional glue. The adhesive just didn’t hold in wet conditions. The skins are made by Contour, please note I use a pair of their skins with my daily drivers in mid winter, when Contour’s idiosyncratic adhesive works well. Everything in its time.

When I was done with my testing, I told Lou the airlines had lost the skis and bindings. He’s too smart to buy that line. He’s probably tried it himself. But I’m definitely looking to add the setup to my limited quiver (three skis total) for next spring.

Tips have optionally used skin notches, worked fine for me. Red edges are a thinner profile area that's labeled 'hrzn tech."

Tips have optionally used skin notches, worked fine for me. Red edges are a thinner profile area that’s canted up from the plane of the running surface, idea being easily initiated turns and less catching of the tip edges in difficult snow. This configuration is labeled ‘hrzn tech. Apparently it worked, though I didn’t notice any specific, easily identified effect.”

*Note: SCARPA F1 boots were a great match with these skis. The Atomic Backland Carbon, which I’ve also skied regularly, would work as well.

(WildSnow guest blogger Blase Reardon works as an avalanche forecaster in Colorado. He spends most winter days outside — on skis. Somehow, after months of that, he’s still up for Mount Rainier.)

*”Locksley Hall,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Shop for Atomic backcountry skis here.


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10 Responses to “A Skier’s Fancy — Atomic Backland 95 Ski Review”

  1. bfredlund September 25th, 2017 8:03 pm

    Great writing and review Blase. Those look like an enjoyable set of boards! You can almost see how fun and forgiving they would be from a mile away. 177 seems like an awesome length too! Cheers

  2. NT September 26th, 2017 11:04 am

    Hey Blase, how do these compare with your Vectors?

  3. VT skier September 26th, 2017 7:31 pm

    Glad to hear an on-the-snow review of the Salomon MTN/Atomic binding. I picked up a set in France, in March on sale, without the ski brakes. I now have them mounted on last years Atomic Backland 95s, 182 cm length..

    With a few runs I took on resort snow , the ski felt really solid in all conditions. This earlier Backland ski I have has been a winner in the Skialper Buyers Guide for the last 2 years.
    Just wondering, what does your 177 setup weigh? My longer pair of Backland 95s, with same Salomon binding (no brake or leash) weigh 1990 gms each.

  4. blase reardon September 26th, 2017 7:43 pm

    bredlund – Thanks. Yes, the 177 was a fun ski!

  5. blase reardon September 26th, 2017 7:44 pm

    Nick – Wanna buy a pair of Vectors? 🙂

  6. blase reardon September 26th, 2017 7:52 pm

    VT Skier – Sadly, I returned the setup to Lou, so I can’t weigh it for you. Lou?

  7. Lou 2 September 27th, 2017 6:50 am

    A Wildsnow review without weights, totally my fault, l will get that in today! Lou

  8. NT September 27th, 2017 10:04 am

    Tempting, but that you’d get rid of them for the Atomics says it all!

  9. Lou Dawson 2 September 27th, 2017 11:17 am

    The setup, Backland 177 cm ski and binding, weighs 1710 grams per ski & binding.

    I’ve got to run out of my studio for a while, when I get back I’ll pull a binding, weigh a ski, and add to our weight/surface chart.


  10. Al March 19th, 2018 9:13 pm

    Hi- I’m currently on volkl bmt 94s, 176, with tlt6 boots. Really like them. My question to lou and blase. Can you compare/contrast the atomic set up with what I’m on? The atomic back land binding (haven’t heard much beyond this review about the skis) has gotten rave reviews and if they ski well I’d be inclined to look at what may be a lighter set up. I ski in central Idaho/Wasatch/wy but of coarse all that means is that the snow can be almost anything now a days. Thanks

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