In terms of high-speed elegance and raw horsepower, names like Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini —and Ducati for gas-powered two-wheelers—are sugar plum fairies. For others, maybe lower on the consumer food chain, there’s elegance and functional dreaminess to behold in ATK ski bindings. Ski bindings and the fine art of Italian auto design share some common terroir, to snag a term from the viticulture realm. Both ATK bindings and the piston-driven gems noted are crafted in Fiorano Modenese: Italy’s “Motor Valley”.
Let’s assume that there’s no brain drain in the Fiorano Modenese or lack of CNC machining know-how. I also assume that Ferraris and Lambos hold up to lead-footing around the old or new country. Honestly, I don’t know, despite these legacy cars taking more frequent bows in a mountain town near you. Over the years, ATK bindings have become reputable considering lightweight ski bindings with sufficient retention across the spectrum of ski diets; racing, touring, ski mountaineering, and freeriding.
The first mention of ATK bindings on WildSnow was in 2010 when Lou spotted a La Sportiva branded binding, the RT, made by ATK. Seven years later, he covered a more comprehensive range of ATK offerings with this caveat: “ATK will continue to look for better distribution in all corners of the world, particularly in North America. Industry folks reading this, if you know of anyone with a skiing related and established importation/distribution business, it’s time to contact those guys about a ‘real’ distribution gig for ATK.”
Early on, purchasing ATK bindings meant small batches and working the interwebs through Europe, and crossing fingers there was no tax ding from customs for the trans-Atlantic binding contraband. But sure enough, around 2018, a larger entity stepped in to serve as a large-scale US distributor, Black Diamond Equipment. With BD, ATK bindings were more readily available to US consumers. BD rebranded the ATK goods, but the arrangement promised better customer service for warranties and spare parts than purchasing bindings directly through Europe.
I hopped on the BD Helio 200 bandwagon, a rebranded ATK binding. I later purchased an ATK rebrand from Hagan, similar but not identical to the Helio 200. This November I mounted a pair of Black Crow Mentis with another ATK rebrand, the BD Helio 200 LT. All I can say is, so far, across the board, very satisfied.
This winter, and spring, we’re digging a bit deeper into the ATK line of bindings. We’ll be testing and reviewing the following three bindings:
Freeraider 14: Bench test Lou Dawson, field test Louie Dawson. The Freeraider 14, as suggested is for the more aggro skiers among us.
Kuluar 12 LT: Field test from Gavin Hess. The Kuluar is marketed as a speed touring binding with a fixed vertical release (like a race binding) and adjustable lateral release.
Revolution World Cup 2021: Field test from Graham Zimmerman as he discovers the wonders of big tours on 65mm underfoot skis and his inaugural Grand Traverse on a way too light ski/binding setup: something like 755g binding/ski combined.
These bindings constitute a solid selection representative of the extensive ATK line. Which brings this to mind: As I became aware of the aluminum scarcity and the global supply chain predicament, I began doubling down on researching bindings to purchase for ski testing. I eyed the familiar, ATK. Early on, the Helio 200s were out of stock; I missed that window.
What then became apparent was the seemingly gagillion SKUs on the market for ATK, and their similar DNA’d, yet rebranded, cousins. I began making a spreadsheet of available ATK/rebrands to clarify some options for slimmed-down touring bindings. The spreadsheet ceased expansion when it hit something like 39 bindings. It was a dizzying experience trying to parse out the nomenclature with the subtle differences between models. Know this: some of these bindings are identical yet uniquely named bindings; some are nearly identical with minor tweaks and different names. The spreadsheet is not updated with things like ramp angles or other minutiae, or color options for that matter—ATK does offer sweet colors, though. The spreadsheet has been left dormant for a few months at this point. It is, however, evidence that if the market is not yet flooded with available ATK products, you’ve certainly got plenty of room to zero in on the ATK binding of your dreams.
More to come soon on ATK. Next up is Lou’s bench test of the Freeraider 14 followed by some first looks.
Jason Albert comes to WildSnow from Bend, Oregon. After growing up on the East Coast, he migrated from Montana to Colorado and settled in Oregon. Simple pleasures are quiet and long days touring. His gray hair might stem from his first Grand Traverse in 2000 when rented leather boots and 210cm skis were not the speed weapons he had hoped for. Jason survived the transition from free-heel kool-aid drinker to faster and lighter (think AT), and safer, are better.