Ski: 2016-2017 Atomic Bent Chetler, 185cm
Available Lengths: 178, 185, 192 cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 182.8cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 142-120-134
Stated Sidecut Radius: 19 meters
Core Construction: Poplar + Carbon Fiber Stringers + Fiberglass Laminate
Mount Location: Factory Recommended line (-3cm from true center)
Boots / Bindings: Fischer Ranger Pro 13 / Atomic STH2 WTR 13 (DIN at 9)
Days Skied: 4
Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley, NM; Telluride, CO[Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 Bent Chetler, which remains unchanged for 15/16 or 16/17, except for the graphics.]
Jonathan Ellsworth wrote an initial review of the 192cm Bent Chetler during our test trip to Canterbury, New Zealand last August, and he’s going to be updating that review shortly.
As Jonathan said in his review, what we were most surprised to find was how much he (a decidedly directional skier) enjoyed the ski, even though it’s marketed and used by Chris Benchetler as a very playful, trick-friendly powder tool.
I’m a less directional, more playful skier that weighs around 160 lbs (~25 lbs less than Jonathan), and though I also found the 192cm Bent Chetler to be surprisingly stable given how playful its shape / design is, the ski also felt quite heavy to me, and seemed to take a lot more work to ski than I had expected. I was excited about the Bent Chetler as a highly playful powder ski, and the 192 just seemed like too much ski for me personally to use in that way.
(For what it’s worth, reviewer Jason Hutchins had a fairly different experience on the 13/14 version of the 192 Bent Chetler, so you may want to check out his review, too.)
I’ve now put four days on the 185cm Bent Chetler, including the deepest day of my season so far, and I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve found. The 185 feels like a different ski to me than the 192, and its performance feels much more in line with how Chris Benchetler (and guys like Tim Durtschi and Richard Permin) use it.
Fresh Powder & a Note on Mount Point
We’ll start with the fun stuff.
The Bent Chetler is made to excel in deep, fresh powder, with a surfy, pivoty, playful feel, and I’ve found all that to be true of the 185.
In ~20” of fresh snow, the skis tracked and floated really nicely, with a very even and balanced feel from tip to tail. I never felt as though I needed more float out of the skis, and it was very easy to slash them sideways; the Bent Chetler’s tails swung out from behind me quickly and easily, on command, while the shovels were always very willing to pivot accross the fall line.
Our test pair of 185s are mounted with a pair of regular Atomic STH2 WTR 13 bindings with fixed toe pieces. As such, I’ve only been able to ski them from Atomic’s Factory Recommended line: -3cm from true center, where Chris Benchetler mounts his.
Three centimeters behind center is about as far forward as I prefer to stand on any ski, and I thought the Bent Chetlers skied quite well from that point. They were plenty playful and turns were very easy to initiate; I personally never felt inclined to move any farther forward on the ski.
When skied at the factory mount point, the Bent Chetlers definitely prefered a balanced, more centered-up stance. At both slow and high speeds in fresh powder, I have had to be pretty careful not to get too far forward over the skis, otherwise the shovels can get bogged down in the snow, pitching me forward abruptly.
(At my height and weight, the 192cm Bent Chetler might not be as sensitive to stance in this way, but again, it doesn’t have as quick and maneuverable of a feel elsewhere, and that’s what I’m looking to get out of this ski, first and foremost.)
And while I noticed it far more in deep, chopped up conditions, the Bent Chetlers’ heavily rockered tails can wash out quickly if your weight gets pitched too far back on a landing or during a very hard turn.
Having said that, in fresh snow, I didn’t find that the ski’s “sweet spot” was too difficult to stay balanced over. Yes, the Bent is a very playful ski with a forward mount point that requires a more upright stance, but in untouched conditions, if I did ski with a more neutral posture, it wasn’t hard to stay centered over the ski and control it just as I wanted.
I think part of this is due to the fact that (a) the Bent Chetler’s dimensions are pretty symmetrical (the tail isn’t much narrower than the shovel), and (b) the tips and tails don’t have much early taper at all; they have a fat, blunt shape to them that floats well and provides a lot of support in fresh snow.
After that 20” of fresh snow got really tracked-up, skiing the Bent Chetlers fast and smooth became more of a balancing act.
In general, at slow speeds the skis are not difficult to handle. Again, in an inch (or 20 inches) of fresh snow, they have a nice, smooth, predictable feel, and turns are very easy to initiate. And with that maneuverability in mind, it shouldn’t be too surprising that I found that the deeper the chop was, and the faster I was trying to ski through it, the more work I had to do to stay balanced and stable on them by remaining light on my feet and keeping as much of the ski in contact with the snow as I could.
In that chopped-up, trenched-out powder, in this way I found that the Bent Chetlers felt most at home (and the skiing was generally easier for me to do well) when making more short, quick turns, popping from one soft pile of snow to the next, rather than trying to draw out longer, smearing turns, blasting through lots of piles and trenches.
When I did take that slower, more playful approach, the skis never felt too hooky, were always predictable, and I still had a lot of fun on them.
(The 185cm Bent Chetler is a good tree ski on a pow day, too, for the same reasons.)
I could push the skis faster through longer turns, but again, the bigger the turns were, the more work I had to do to make sure I stayed strong and balanced through the inconsistent snow. Get too far back when you’re skiing fast in chop, and the Bent’s tails don’t provide much support to push you upright again. Get too far over the shovels (which isn’t very hard to do, given the more forward mount), and the ski will hook / overturn if you hit something you’re not ready for.
Running close to bases flat, and when skiing more-or-less straight down the fall line through choppy, bumpy conditions, the Bent Chetler is decently damp, but not impressively so. Of the skis that have a similarly playful side, the 184 (and certainly the 190) Moment Bibby Pro is much more stable at speed in this way. (I’ll talk more about the Bibby vs the Bent below.)