Featured Individual Review 2019 Atomic Backland 107 & Shift MNC 13

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews and Comparisons' started by FairToMiddlin, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. FairToMiddlin

    FairToMiddlin Getting on the lift Pugski Ski Tester

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    Atomic Backland 107
    Dimensions: 138-107-125
    Radius: [email protected]
    Size tested: 189
    Design: All New

    I wasn’t looking forward to testing this. I had a rough intro to Atomic’s revamped all-mountain Vantage series, and was concerned that that they had taken what was basically a descendant of the excellent Automatic, and dulled it somehow.

    Nope. All is well.

    I have had a few days on this lightweight, directional ski now, and mostly in the soft snow conditions for which it was made. In addition to the fresh tracks in 7-14 in. of medium-density pow at Loveland and Steamboat, I have been able to sample its behavior over groomers, bumps, crud, trees, and the lovely wind-blown coral that wants to rattle fillings loose above treeline at Loveland around the Chair 4 area, and above South Chutes off of Ptarmigan.

    The 107 has a few fairly average attributes. Stiffness? Well, not all that stiff, but stiff enough. You can get it to fold and deflect when introduced to bumps and crud, but the flex manages those things predictably, the 107 gives way in a manner that doesn’t unsettle. Stability? Well, it’s not at the top of the charts there, either, but it’s stable enough; it has a speed limit, yet not in a way that is irritating, or leaving you wanting all that badly.

    I’m not suggesting they rename this ski the Atomic Enough, because that’s not the Rest of the Story. The just-enough beef and stability is a big part of what makes this ski shine: massive float, and head-of-the-class quickness. The ski feels like Atomic spent a fair amount of time on it (or got improbably lucky), dialing in just enough strength, but not an ounce more than is needed to keep us content, while wowing with its playfulness. It’s not quick enough, it’s quick.

    It’s common to see an intermediate (and more than a few advanced) skier in pow leaning back, in an attempt keep the tips from diving, seeking to resist being sent over the handlebars. The 107 felt virtually immune to tip dive. Ski it in 3D like you’re on a groomer, nice and centered, athletic-neutral, ready to change direction anytime you like. I had to press forward more than I normally ever would to find the limit.Yes, it exists (and yes, my ski buddies enjoyed the moment I found the limit), but the 107 lets you relax, it encourages you out of a tail-riding, defensive posture, and into the aggressive fun zone.

    I believe it is the quickest pow-ish ski I have ever been on, even in the 189cm length. Quicker than the DPS Wailer 112RP, and Blizz’s old Peacemaker, quicker than the metal-free Nordica Vagabond. The Elan Ripstick 106 is about as quick (and it has a fantastic shape IMO), but Elan doesn’t imbue the Ripstick with as much planing ability, and didn’t solve the strength/playful equation as effectively as Atomic has (possibly why the Ripstick can now be had in a stronger ‘black’ edition).

    Elsewhere on the mountain, it is quick in trees, deflects in bumps and crud predictably, and its 19m radius (hard to find in 189cm) is satisfying enough on the way back to the lift. As far as wind-affected coral above tree line, well, no ski makes that exactly fun, but the 107 handles it well enough.

    Turns out, Enough can be Good.

    This test ski also came mounted with the Atomic/Salomon Shift MNC 13. It is the latest development of backcountry bindings seeking to provide solid performance on the downhill, while allowing the free heel motion that lets us skin up the mountain, free from the need for chair or surface lifts. I cannot comment on its performance on the Up (yet), but as far as Down, it is without equal compared to anything that uses tech inserts for skinning. The Shift is indistinguishable from alpine bindings vis a vis performance, apart from the fact that they are lighter (approx 150-200 grams lighter than popular alpine offerings). At a little under 900 grams, they are heavier than the ~650 gram Dynafit Radical ST that I currently use (mounted on first-gen Kastle FX94s, the best of the breed), but the Down performance is worlds apart between the two. One comment I would add about general use of the Shift is that for kicking snow off the bottom of the boots, I recommend avoiding the toe piece, and instead use the pointy tines of the heel piece to scrape snow off. the heel feels more burly/less susceptible to damage/less likely to get gummed up with snow and ice, and the pointiness of the edges of the alpine heel cup lends to removing snow.

    • Who is it for? It would be too easy to say it’s great for advancing skiers who want a stick that enhances their confidence, and unfair to the ski itself. Its balanced approach to quick and floaty will have an awful lot of rather skilled folks giggling, too.
    • Who is it not for? Hard chargers and (perhaps) 11/10th-size folks will want more ski underneath them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
    dbq, Slim, James and 7 others like this.
  2. Drahtguy Kevin

    Drahtguy Kevin Après aficionado Pugski Ski Tester

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    My time on the Atomic Backland 107 has been in conditions the ski is meant for: pow pow, soft-snow trees, wind buff bumps and chowder. I agree with @FairToMiddlin in his assessment of the 107; it is pure joy to pilot in the intended environments. I find the 107 a willing and capable dance partner with even flex and excellent snow feel, especially in the bumps and trees. It is easy for me (a larger fella at 215 lbs) to overpower the ski unless I stay neutral and centered over my feet. I could feel the tips raising the white flag when I attempted to drive this ski hard like I can the Blizzard Cochise. Neutral and centered is fine by me. The Backland 107 is more of a playmate than a bully. The quickness of this ski is like no other in the 1-0-something class.

    I noticed the weight of the ski on the walk from the truck. I can’t recall wearing a ski so unnoticeable — granted these Backland’s have the Shift binder dropping the heft even more than with a conventional clamp. The float the Backland 107 provides is phenomenal and confidence inspiring in the superb early-season conditions. I didn’t once worry about the tips diving as I raced through fairly tight pines or between rocks. My reference ski in this category is the Völkl 100Eight, which has a slightly wider tip and tail and no camber. The 107 and Völkl are at home in the same conditions to be sure; but the Backland is more precise and quicker in almost all areas. The Backland 107 is a relaxing ski to ride. It willing handles the conditions underfoot without punishment for missteps or arguing when told what to do.

    More time on the Atomic Backland 107 is just what the doctor ordered.

    Who is it for: Skiers looking for a lighter but extremely capable soft snow ski. ThIs would make a fantastic touring and travel ski as well.

    Who is it not for: The overly aggressive skier who wants to strong arm his or her way around the mountain.
     
    dbq, Slim, neonorchid and 1 other person like this.
  3. Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two skis. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    What did you guys, @FairToMiddlin and @Drahtguy Kevin, think of the Shift binding when skiing it?

    For those looking for an Atomic that is a little stonger, they do offer the new Vantage in a 107. The Vantage, while a bit heavier, will handle that bigger skier.
     
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  4. Drahtguy Kevin

    Drahtguy Kevin Après aficionado Pugski Ski Tester

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    The Shift is an alpine binder in a touring disguise. Absolute true downhill performance that feels secure and responsive. Honestly, I didn’t think of the Shift at all after the first run. The Shift is the binder I will buy when the time comes to replace my 100Eights. It is the first touring-ready binding I would consider routinely using in the resort.
     
  5. tromano

    tromano Goin' the way they're pointed... Skier

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    Sounds like one to add to my demo list. Thanks for the detailed reviews!
     


  6. Drahtguy Kevin

    Drahtguy Kevin Après aficionado Pugski Ski Tester

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    I think you’d like this ski. Surly not as demanding as your El Capo and it’s weight and quickness would be nice for the places you ski. Be a fun ski to tinker around on with the wife and kids too.
     
    tromano likes this.
  7. Crank

    Crank Out on the slopes Skier

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    I skied the 107 Backlands on a Big Sky powder day and really liked them. They are exactly as the above reviewers describe and that is my kind of ski: Fun, light and good in powder. Like the OP I did not bond with the Atomic Vantage.
     
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  8. Philpug

    Philpug Enjoying being back on two skis. Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    This is the ski the Vagabond wanted to be.
     
  9. Ron

    Ron Don't judge a ski by its width underfoot! Pugski Ski Tester

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    I did not demo yet, but when skiing with @FairToMiddlin here in 6" of dense, grapaul (sp) over a foot of somewhat settled snow, the ski planed beautifully, the tip/shovel stay just above the snow allowing close enough contact that when needed, the ski can easily be worked (tipped, slarved, skidded) to obtain more contact. Our LSS folks love this ski as well for its stability in powder and the ability to drive it and not play U-boat commander :)
     
    SpikeDog likes this.
  10. Thread Starter
    TS
    FairToMiddlin

    FairToMiddlin Getting on the lift Pugski Ski Tester

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    @Philpug between you and @markojp (who mentioned the goodness of the Vantage 107 in a different thread), I am wondering if the biggest Vantage is the best adaptation of the Vantages' new construction. I'll put it on the list.

    Also, I am not sure how much the Shift contributed to the quickness of the Backland; yeah, it's under 900 grams (from what I can google), but an Attack is only about another ~150 grams more (again, per Google). Regardless, I agree with @Drahtguy Kevin, the Shift skis like a legit Alpine binding, no discernible compromise underfoot.
     
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  11. coskigirl

    coskigirl Making fresh tracks Skier

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    Have any of you who have skied this also skied the Backland 109 from a couple seasons ago? If so, how do they compare in both feel and technical details?
     
  12. markojp

    markojp mtn rep for the gear on my feet Industry Insider Instructor

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    The shift binding skis downhill very well! Didn't even think about it after the first 7-800' of vertical. No idea what the 'up's is like, but imho, the shift is going to be a frame touring binding and king pin killer.
     
  13. James

    James Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    Great review. Sounds like this ski should come in a "Steamboat" topsheet for sale at the 'boat.
     
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  14. neonorchid

    neonorchid Out on the slopes Skier

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    How does Backland 107 compare to 100eight on the groom and hardpack when getting back to the lift?
    @Drahtguy Kevin, Had it been available to demo/buy when you purchased the 100eight, which would you have went with?

    Any of you with time on Backland 107 have the opportunity to demo the 2018-2019 Black Crows Corvus, and can you give us a comparison?
     
  15. Thread Starter
    TS
    FairToMiddlin

    FairToMiddlin Getting on the lift Pugski Ski Tester

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    I'm not Kevin, but I have been on his whatever-the-long-ones-are 100Eights. On a softish groomer, the Backland is better; it has a nice shape for rolling into a carve, even if the tail is not super strong to give you a satisfying impulse out of the belly of the turn. If the conditions are less ideal (e.g., refreeze or sunbaked), the 100Eight is a stronger ski, and less likely to fold laterally.

    I don't know what Kevin would have bought if both were available, but I do know he would have applied Gold Bond before clicking into either.
     
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  16. coskigirl

    coskigirl Making fresh tracks Skier

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    You owe me bourbon for what just went all over my computer.
     
    neonorchid likes this.
  17. Drahtguy Kevin

    Drahtguy Kevin Après aficionado Pugski Ski Tester

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    The Backland is a better ski for a mild to moderate groomer without a lot of push piles. It is an easy ski to get from edge to edge to flows from one turn to the next without much effort. When things get a little dicier or steep I’d take the 100Eight because it’s a tad stronger and stiffer.

    I’d still buy the 100Eight at this point. More time with the Backland may change my mind. I know exactly how the 100Eight will respond and what it’s capable of in every condition. I’m not to that point yet with the Backland 107. More time will flesh this out.

    And @FairToMiddlin is correct about the Gold Bond.
     
    neonorchid likes this.
  18. ScottB

    ScottB Getting off the lift Skier

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    I can add my thoughts on how the shift skis uphill. I had my new AT setup out last week for "resort" touring. Basically, it skis up hill very well. It skis up hill as well as any "tech" or "touring binding". It has pins and a free heel, and acts just like any other tech binding when going up hill. I think more experienced back country skiers will comment it does not transition as easily as more dedicated tech bindings. There are more levers and actions required to go from uphill to downhill, but it is by no means difficult, just not as simple as some tech bindings. It does weigh about 300-400 grams more than the lightest tech bindings, but I also think it is more like 300-500 grams lighter than typical down hill bindings. Just slightly heavier than the Marker Kingpin binding. I can't tell the difference between a downhill binding and a shift when skiing down hill, and I am 240 lbs, .

    The question I would ask is will this be my binding choice on all new ski purchases in the future?

    My answer: Yes on touring skis and 50/50 skis. No on downhill skis. Currently, the cost is about double a typical downhill binding. You cannot move the toe like you can on a demo Attack binding. The heel on the shift does slide for different boot sole lengths. If weight was really important to me, I would not hesitate to choose this binding for a dedicated downhill ski. About the only critical thing I can say is the overall ruggedness of the binding does not match a dedicated downhill binding, but that is kind of expected since they had to get the weight out of it somehow.

    I put the shift on a Blizzard Zero G 108, 185cm and I couldn't be happier with both the bind and the ski. It works perfect for me as a 50/50 setup and a touring setup.
     

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