TGR Tested: Atomic Backland 117
This is a pow ski designed for people that tour often, but care about the down more than the up. - Pete Connolly
When Atomic introduced the Backland series a few seasons back, skiers were expecting the hard-charging performance they were used to from the brand’s alpine skis in a lighter, touring-focused package. In a nutshell, that’s exactly what happened. Combining expertise from producing lively yet powerful big-mountain skis like the Bent Chetler and the older Automatic with lighter materials and an eye for human-powered lines, the Backland 117 proves to be one of the best skis for climbing up and charging down big lines in deep snow. It nicely complements the Backland 107 in the Atomic lineup. Slap on a pair of freeride touring bindings, like the Atomic Shift, and you’ll have yourself a pair of truly versatile deep-snow fun machines.
The secret of the Backland 117 lies in its core construction, using a classic but lightweight poplar wood core, reinforced with a carbon backbone. This should provide a familiar downhill feel for aggressive skiers looking to occasionally tour. At 117mm underfoot, these should provide enough float for everything from AK spines to classic Jackson Hole pow days. As a directional freeride ski, the tips feature Atomic’s boat-hull-like HRZN Tech to allow the tips to float more while turning. The ski features a healthy amount of rocker in the tip and tail, combined with camber underfoot, which proves to be a tried-and-true combination. The 186 cm length weighs 2050 grams, heavy for true touring ski, but not bad given how stable it feels.
The Backland 117s are a big ski, but testers were impressed by how predictable and easy to maneuver they were on the mountain. Tester Pete Connolly sums it up: “Out of the gate this looked a lot like the Bent Chetler, but upon closer inspection, there are some subtle differences that turn this into a much more touring-specific ski. This is a pow ski designed for people that tour often, but care about the down more than the up. The tip and tail boat hull design makes for a forgiving pow ski. The ample tip rocker will additionally help with the float. It still has enough camber underfoot to be a truly stable ski in pretty much everything. This is an easy ski to ride, but can still charge and stomp when necessary.”
Who's it for?
Atomic bills the Backland 117 as a ski for advanced to expert riders looking to charge deep snow and big lines, especially accessing them on foot. Given that Sage Cattabriga-Alosa rides these in terrain like Alaska or BC, that certainly seems true. For us mere mortals, the Backland 117 would be a perfect ski to add to a quiver for someone looking to venture beyond the resort gates in search of cliff hucks or deep tree skiing. At 117 underfoot, it’s a bit too wide for everyday use in our opinion, but save it for the deep days and you’ll end up with a smile on your face.