Ski: 2017-2018 Atomic Backland FR 109, 189 cm
Available Lengths: 175, 182, 189 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 185.7 cm
Stated Weight per Ski (182 cm): 1850 grams
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski (189 cm): 1970 & 1979 grams
Stated Dimensions: 135-109-125 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 134-109-124
Stated Sidecut Radius: 19.5 meters
Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 76 mm / 45 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~5-6 mm
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -8.5 cm from center; 84.4 cm from tail
For the 15/16 season, the Atomic Backland FR 109 replaced the popular Automatic 109 and the ski received several updates — most notably, the addition of Atomic’s HRZN Tech in the tip (but not the tail).
HRZN has been present in the Atomic Bent Chetler for a few years, and it is also now featured in the Backland FR 117 and 109, but not in any of the narrower Backland skis.
So what is HRZN tech? It’s basically a boat-hulled section of “horizontal” rocker that is present at the edges of the tip of the ski, ahead of its widest point. Several companies are using similar technology; DPS does something similar with their “Spoon” skis, and Armada’s new ARV 116 features similar tips and tails. In theory, this sort of design is supposed to help the ski surf in soft snow more easily and reduce edge catch in the tip without sacrificing firm snow stability.
At 1970 grams per ski in the 189 cm length, the Backland FR 109 is light enough to be considered for 50/50 use, and Atomic acknowledges this. They state: “Mount some Tracker bindings and MultiFit Powder Rocker Skins on this low-weight powder performer and it works great as a Freeride Touring ski, too.”
I’d sum up the Backland FR 109’s flex pattern like this:
The tails are definitely stiffer than the tips, and the skis’ flex ramps up smoothly underfoot. That smoothness is a stark contrast to the 16/17 Rossignol Soul 7 HD which feels similar to the Backland FR 109 in the tips, but the Soul 7 HD gets very stiff very quickly underfoot.
The Backland’s shape looks very similar to the old Automatic 109. In fact, they have exactly the same stated dimensions. And that seems like a very good thing. The Automatic 109 was popular with a lot of skiers for good reason — it had a good blend of stability and maneuverability, and it was playful while still performing fairly in variable conditions. There was enough tip and tail taper to keep the ski from grabbing, but that taper didn’t feel overdone.
Atomic says the Backland 109 has “pronounced camber underfoot with….Powder Rocker that’s big in the tip and smaller in the tail” and that’s a pretty apt description, with emphasis on the “pronounced camber.” The Backland FR 109 has significantly more camber underfoot than the Icelantic Nomad 105 or Kitten Factory All Mountain, and has a similar amount to the Rossignol Soul 7 HD. The tip rocker also looks very similar to the Soul 7 HD’s.
The tail rocker of the Backland FR 109 is minimal; it looks almost more like a turned-up twin tail than a “rockered” tail.
A Few Questions
All of this combines to make what appears to be a fairly traditional recipe for a capable and versatile 50/50 ski, or a light all-mountain ski. But before we get it on snow, here are a few questions we’re looking to answer:
(1) Given that the Backland 109 is lighter than the Automatic 109 it replaces, how similar or different is the new ski’s performance in variable conditions?
(2) Does the HRZN Tech in the tips produce a noticeable difference in feel over the Automatic’s traditionally rockered tips?
(3) How does the Backland 109 compare to the current crop of intuitive and forgiving all-mountain skis?
(4) Is the Backland 109 more suited to inbounds use? Or 50/50 inbounds/touring use?
Bottom Line (For Now)
By the numbers, Atomic has created a ski with a lot of potential to be versatile and forgiving, that could appeal to a wide range of skiers. So we’re excited to get it on snow and report back on its performance.
NEXT: Rocker Profile Pictures