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2015-2016 Atomic Automatic 109

Will Brown reviews the Atomic Automatic 109 for Blister Gear Review

15/16 Atomic Automatic 109

Ski: 2015-2016 Atomic Automatic 109, 189cm

MSRP: $600

Stated Dimensions (mm): 135-109-125

Stated Sidecut Radius: 19.5 meters

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2,116 & 2,139 grams

Boots / Bindings: Fischer RC4 130 / Marker Jester (DIN 10)

Mount Location: Factory Recommended

Test Locations: Broken River Ski Area, Mt Cheeseman Ski Area

Days Skied: 4

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 Automatic, which was not changed for 15/16, except for the graphics.]

 

The Atomic Automatic has been around for two full seasons now, and our review of the 186cm Automatic is one of the most popular on Blister. In short, the Automatic is a very easy, quick powder ski that remains surprisingly versatile in variable conditions. As such, it accommodates a wide range of skiers, from intermediates to experts.

For the 2014-2015 season, two narrower versions of the original Automatic have been introduced to Atomics’ line: the Automatic 102, and the Automatic 109.

We opted to take the wider of the two new skis down to New Zealand, since the Automatic 109 represents Atomic’s entrance into the popular (and stacked) class of lighter, playful, ~108mm-underfoot skis—like the Rossignol Soul 7, the Line Sir Francis Bacon, and the Salomon Rocker2 108.

I’ve now put four days on the Automatic 109 in some pretty demanding conditions, the sort that tend to make you dial your speed back on even decidedly stiffer, more directional skis made to excel in variable conditions (like the new DPS Wailer 105, Blizzard Cochise, and Armada Invictus, which we’re also testing on this trip).

So the conditions we’ve been skiing have been far from favorable for a ski like the Automatic 109, but so far, I’m pretty impressed by what I’ve found, and I’m definitely looking forward to putting more time on the 109 to tease out its strengths against others in its class.

Forgiveness / Maneuverability / Stability

Our first couple days on snow were spent at Canterbury’s Broken River Ski Area, which has a number of short but fairly steep chutes off of its highest rope tow. Conditions in the chutes were generally quite firm, but the snow in them hadn’t seen as much direct sunlight as other areas of the resort, so it was still chalky and provided some good edge hold. In the three days we spent skiing Broken River, this area was the most useful in getting a sense for both (a) how forgiving and maneuverable the Automatic 109 is at slower speeds and (b) its stability at speed.

Though the terrain presented some bumps to negotiate, they were small and spaced far enough apart to let me make short, quick turns wherever I liked, and allowed me to keep the skis on the snow rather than having to air from mogul to mogul or pivot the ski around on hard ridges in the snow.

The 109’s shovels and tails feel like they have a pretty middle-of-the-road, medium flex to them; they’re not soft, and they’re certainly not what I would call stiff, or even medium-stiff.

This forgiving, even flex, combined with the Automatic 109’s tip and tail rocker, make the ski relatively easy to bend through any turn. The ski will not snap from edge to edge as quickly as something that’s ~ 98mm underfoot (or narrower), but for its width, tipping the Automatic 109 on edge, engaging its sidecut, and driving it across the fall line does not require you to make a very strong, assertive turn.

Stance

The 109s are happy to be skied from a more upright, balanced stance, but don’t require it. By comparison, a ski like the 190cm Salomon Rocker2 108 (which is actually 111mm underfoot), practically demands that you ski with a more centered stance, or else its tails will wash out, especially in firm conditions on steeper terrain. That is less true of the Automatic 109s.

At both low and high speeds around the chutes off the top of Broken River, I felt like I could lean into the shovels of the 109 with a more forward stance and still get some decent stability from the ski.

Will Brown reviews the Atomic Automatic 109 for Blister Gear Review

Will Brown on the Atomic Automatic 109, Broken River Ski Area, New Zealand.

To be clear, you can’t drive the shovels of the 109 or rely on the support of its tails in the same way you can on a stiff, directional, all-mountain ski like the Moment Belafonte or Blizzard Cochise—the Automatic 109 sits in different class all together. But if you throw the ski sideways to scrub some speed, it will provide a decent amount of support—a little more than it seems like it should, in fact.

Again, for the sake of comparison, the Rocker2 108 is also surprisingly stable relative to how light and seriously playful it is, but I would say that the Automatic 109 is a little more stable and a little less playful—though it’s still quite playful in its own right. How much stability the Rocker2 108 will provide in firm, variable conditions depends, in part, on how balanced you can remain over the center of the ski, and how much of its drastically shortened effective edge you’re able to utilize.

The Automatic 109 isn’t quite as picky in this respect. If you stay light and balanced over the ski, you’ll get the most stability out of it at speed in variable snow while pressuring the edges heavily. However, if you do happen to lean over its shovels or get kicked back on the tails, it’s not set to fold up on you. Relative to how manageable the ski is at slow speeds, I’ve been a little surprised at how hard I’ve been able to ski it in such firm conditions.

Refrozen, Rough Hardpack

Apart from the firm, relatively smooth chalky snow we skied at Broken River, we worked our way through quite a bit that had seen some afternoon sun, but never really softened up (think bulletproof hardpack and with very shallow chunky, breakable coral fused to the top of it). Here, it was pretty easy to find the Automatic 109’s speed limit, though our reviewers who were on burlier skis like the Blizzard Cochise and DPS Wailer 105 weren’t steamrolling this stuff, either.

The Automatic 109’s shovels and tails aren’t stiff, so they began to flap around without too much speed, and when thrown on edge, the ski would get rattled and overwhelmed. Again, no ski feels wonderful in these conditions, but something with a stiffer overall flex and more effective edge in the tail would have been preferable.

Old, Sun-Softened Snow

While I’ve been surprised by how predictable and stable the Automatic 109 has been when going fast in firm, bumpy conditions (given how intuitive and easy it feels at slower speeds), I’ve also been pretty impressed by how well it’s done in some much softer but very sticky  snow.

After a quick hike from the top of Mt Cheeseman to the Tarn sidecountry, we looked down a long, pretty steep pitch with some heavily sun-affected snow that had softened up a bit throughout the afternoon.

Will Brown reviews the Atomic Automatic 109 for Blister Gear Review

Will Brown on the Atomic Automatic, Mt Cheeseman backcountry.

But the heavy, dense, snow hadn’t been warmed thoroughly enough to become uniformly soft and smooth, and it was beginning to freeze again at the surface. The Automatic 109’s tapered tips and tails did a really nice job of tracking through this grabby, sticky stuff as I cut turns down the face. Sometimes the tips of the skis would deflect or fold up a bit as I hit a denser area of snow, but in general, the skis held up better than I had expected. I was able to begin turns down the slope without the tips or tails hooking up too badly, and while I was careful to keep my speed under control, I felt comfortable enough to open things up quite a bit and make some fast, large turns down the face.

20 Comments

  1. James September 2, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the review, Will. I was waiting to see what you guys had to say about this ski as I’m looking for a ~110 underfoot ski for resort skiing in the front range. With that said, can you make any comparison to the Soul 7 based on your days so far? Thanks!

    • Will Brown September 10, 2014 Reply

      Hey James,

      Unfortunately I’ve yet to ski the Soul 7, but I’m going to asap this season in order to draw some comparisons to the 109. (I’m also curious how the 109 compares to the 190cm Line SFB.) Sorry I can’t be of more help right now.

      Will

  2. Blister Member
    Chuck September 13, 2014 Reply

    Will,
    My current quiver is:

    1) 2012 Kastle MX78 – 176
    2) 2012 Kastle LX82 – 172
    3) 2014 Blizzard Brahma – 173
    4) 2013 Kastle FX94 – 176
    5) 2014 Nordica Soul Rider – 177
    6) 2014 Blizzard Bonafide – 173
    7) 2013 Blizzard Cochise – 177
    8) 2013 Atomic Automatic – 179

    I know it is a lot of skis but I enjoy owning gear. I am 5’6″ and weigh 165 lbs. I take 2 to 3 trips a year to Alta/Snowbird and am going to try and get to Jackson Hole this year. I am an advanced skier who spends most of my time on steeps and in chutes. I also like skiing bumps. I obviously don’t need a new ski but have decided to get myself one new ski this year. It is between the Atomic Automatic 109’s or the Line Supernatural 108’s. Now my Atomic Auto 117 is my alltime favorite ski. I love it in any conditions and anywhere on the mountain. However I have wished for a thinner version. Am I correct in thinking that the 109 will fill that void? Also I have a concern of skiing the 182. I almost feel like the Automatic 117 in size 179 is about as much as I want to handle. Am I right in thinking that since the 109’s are a tad narrower that I’ll be fine in the 182 or should I look at the 175? Or should I forget the 109’s and look at the Supernatural 108’s in 179? Thanks for your input and advice. Your site has helped me in purchasing all of my skis.

    • Will Brown September 28, 2014 Reply

      Hi Chuck,

      If you’re looking for an all-mountain ski with similar qualities to the 117 Automatic, the 109 would be it, so I think you’re on the right path there. As for 182vs 175, I guess I would lean towards the 175 if your 179 Autos feel like they’re about as much ski as you want. The 109s will feel quicker edge to edge in any length, but the 182cm 109s will present you with more material to swing around than what you’re used to. Unless your 177 Soul Riders (which I consider a pretty quick, nimble ski) feel like they’re almost too short for you, I think you’ll be ok with the 109s in a 175.

      Best,

      Will

  3. Timbo September 26, 2014 Reply

    How does this match up in terms of playful ness against Volkl Shiro? I have Shiros in 193 and to be honest I hate them unless I am going in a straight line I think the turn radius is something like 30m. This year I would like a softer more playful ski that I can do short 3/4 hr tours on. I bought Atomic Theory’s in 177 two seasons ago an love them but they are just too small now I’m advanced(and fatter) so I do like the Atomic line. Do you foresee a big difference between the 117s and the 109s?

    Thanks

    • Will Brown September 28, 2014 Reply

      Hi Timbo,

      I haven’t skied the Shiro yet myself, but other Blister reviewers have had similar impressions about their stability, specifically in chopped up snow.

      I hadn’t really thought about the 109 as a touring ski for day trips, but if you are looking for something with a predominantly playful feel that maintains decent stability in variable snow (which you may encounter in the backcountry), the they could work well. As I say in the review, I haven’t set skied the Rossi Soul 7 yet, but it might be a good option as well, as it’s pretty light – I would ask Jason Hutchins what he thinks of it as a touring ski in his review.

      Hope this helps!

      Will

    • Blister Member
      Jack November 30, 2014 Reply

      Soul 7 would make a great touring ski. Light … quick … easy to ski. Can’t comment on the auto 109. It’s a bit heavier, but from this review I would say it might hold up a bit better in rougher / variable conditions.

  4. Adrian Walther October 14, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for the test. I miss only a profile picture ;-)
    I am also interested in a comparison with the line sick day 110.
    Flex comparison?

    Thank you .., your site is really unique in the world!
    Adrian

  5. Bob Olinger November 6, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the excellent review, and forthright answers to the posted questions.
    Thinking of the 109 as mostly resort based and slackcountry ski. Japan, for example…
    Don’t mind a bit of weight for short distances/times, but I’m coming from a pure backcountry (read Dynafit) background….
    How would I contact Jason?
    Thanks!

  6. Blister Member
    Mike January 21, 2015 Reply

    Any 2nd Look on this ski coming? Or a review of the Automatic 102?

  7. Dean Justice January 23, 2015 Reply

    Wondering how these automatic 109’s compare to the Fischer Big Stix 110’s? I’ve been looking around for a ski in this twin tip category, and I’ve been playing with both of these skis at my local ski shop. I have to say, they kind of appear to be very similar in profile, and flex. I’m wondering if anyone can chime in and let me know if there are any big differences in skiing these two skis. I’m leaning toward the Fischer’s at the moment due to great deals on them, but would like to know if the automatic’s are worth the extra money. I guess I should tell you what i”m after in a ski. Basically, something easy and fun to run in and out of the trees. I own stiffer flat tail skis, so now interest in something easier on the legs and very maneuverable in the trees. Any help would be appreciated.

  8. Timbo January 24, 2015 Reply

    Just to revisit this. I bought the Atomic Automatic 117s with Dynafit beats in 186. Tried the 109 in the 190 and just didn’t see the point in it compared to the bigger ones. Best skis iv ever had :)

  9. Adrian January 26, 2015 Reply

    @ Timbo
    you mean the 109 is better or just as good as the 117mm? Even in deep snow?
    I ride the 117 with G3 (model 14/15). Unfortunately, the ski is relatively heavy.., but great!

  10. Timbo January 26, 2015 Reply

    I thought the 109 was just average at everything, there is nothing the bigger 117 can’t do just as well if not better. In powder its a dream for me 109 was ok but a bit more hard work as you would expect. I am at least 200lb bollock naked so when I add avi bag, rope, axe crampons etc I’m probably closer to 250 never noticed the weight to be honest feels lighter and more nimble than my old Shiro’s. 117 is just awesome :)

  11. smadge February 9, 2015 Reply

    Hiya

    Cheers for review. Pondering between automatic 109 in 182cm or century in 175cm. Looking for an all rounder (lready have shiros and lightweight touring skis) to stick on dynafits to use for everday use and lift assisted touring. am female 5’9″ and 75kg (dunno what this is in pounds). any opinion which size to go for? or indeed difference between century and automatic, apart from century being a tad lighter? in shop the weight difference between the two skis was 120grams.

    cheers

    • Timbo February 9, 2015 Reply

      Smadge obviously I am fair bit bigger than you but I came off Shiros 193s and wanted the same as what you are describing. In the end I tried the 109 and the 117 and couldn’t notice any difference uphill so decided to get the better down hill option which was the 117. I have beasts on mine the 117s and they rock. You could easily skis 186s with zero problems.

  12. Myashkov May 21, 2015 Reply

    Dear friends!
    Thanks for the another great review!
    I have got Atomic Automatic117, 186 (happy owner) and feel good on them off the trails!
    Now i think about Automatic 102 (combined with Marker EPF 12 tour) for all other conditions except deep days. Advanced (not expert) freerider, 180 pounds/81 kg, 6 feet/183 cm. About 30 days in Alps and South Eastern Europe. Wanting these babies for all mountain needs and touring to the peaks.
    BUT, I cannot choose between 180 and 188 cm! I know- every asks the same question, sorry about the spam, but I’m helpless and stuck in the middle! Thank you in advance!
    P.P. I have now Salomon Shogun 100 11/12 184/measured 182 cm, and need replacement of them.

  13. Mark June 9, 2015 Reply

    Hey how would you compare the 109 to the Soul 7 and Sick Day 110? I am looking for a new ski for this season at the Canterbury club fields here in NZ. Good intermediate skier. Prefer to do more turns, slower speed, popping off lots of little features, ollies, butters etc instead of going fast and straight lining. Had the 192cm Armada TST last season and found them a bit too chargy. Also the tails felt quite long and seemed to get caught up a bit in turns. Looking for something easy and fun to ski that can still handle all the variation of club fields here.

    Cheers for your thoughts!
    Mark

  14. Steve Bennett February 17, 2016 Reply

    Thanks to Blister reviews I have settled on my all mountain front ski, 180 cm Blizzard Brahmas. I love how hard I can drive them in a variety of turn shapes. Now I’m looking for my all mountain back skis to use at Wolf Creek, Mary Jane trees, Eagle Wind at Winter Park, Copper Bowl, and so on. I am considering the Volkl 100Eights, the Rossi Soul 7s, and the Atomic Automatic 109s. I have only skied the Soul 7s and loved how well they turn in the trees, but didn’t like them as much back on the skied up groomers. Any advice? I’m 47 yrs, 6’1″, 175 lbs, aggressive, old school skier.

  15. Blister Member
    Slim February 19, 2016 Reply

    Steve,

    I ski the190 cm 14/15 Sir Francis Bacon, tried the ~190 cm Soul7 the other day. Souls pivot far easier (in moguls) and larger tip rocker helps it ride up over bumps much easier than the Bacons.
    Bacons have much less chatter at speed and longer sidecut radius for a calmer feel in big radius high speed turns.

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