Cy Whitling: After Sam spent time on the new Bent Chetler 120 in Japan (which you can read about in his flash review) and Colorado he sent the ski to me in the Tetons, where I was able to get it in a wide variety of conditions, and I came away very impressed. The original Bent Chetler was part of the playful powder ski revolution, but by this season, it had become just another jibby, playful pow ski in a market full of similar options. But the changes to the new 18/19 Bent Chetler 120 put it in a slowly-emerging category of playful powder skis that are comfortable both in and out of bounds.
Cy Whitling (6’1”, 180 lbs): The Bent Chetler 120 is (obviously) a powder ski, and while I started skiing it after the deepest days of the season were behind me, I still had the opportunity to get it out in some fresh stuff. And in fresh snow, this ski is a blast. It planes easily, is maneuverable at low speeds, and does so while being surprisingly stable at higher speeds. Sam noted that he experienced a bit of tip dive when he tried to ski it with too much of a forward stance, and I’d agree with him there. This isn’t the sort of ski that stays on top of the snow no matter what you’re doing. It planes well, and easily, but at my size and at the ski’s recommended, forward mount (-2.9 cm), I was able to bury the tips if I got too far forward on the ski. So if you’re a directional skier who doesn’t really spin and likes to drive the shovels of your skis, I’d recommend moving the mount back at least a cm or two from recommended — or checking out some more directional options in this class. But otherwise, I’d recommend mounting the Bent Chetler 120 on the line and appreciating this nearly-center-mounted pow ski for what it is: a pow ski designed for spinning, buttering, and all-around playful skiing in soft snow.
At slower speeds and / or in tight terrain, I was really impressed by how easy and maneuverable the Bent Chetler 120 was. I felt like I was never having to muscle the ski around, but rather, it always responded immediately to even slight input (which was especially nice on a few ridiculously overgrown exits).
Usually, skis that are as intuitive and easy as the Bent Chetler 120 at lower speeds have a tendency to get squirrely when things open up. But so far, I’ve been surprised by how well this ski bucks that trend. I haven’t done any crazy straight lines on it, but when I did open things up, I didn’t feel like I was on a 1750 gram ski. The Bent Chetler 120 is confident at speed so long as the snow is consistent, and you stay pretty centered.
Sam Shaheen (5’10”, 140 lbs): I completely agree with Cy here. The Bent Chetler 120 really feels at home in powder. It prefers a neutral stance, but I think it still has a pretty large sweet spot. That said, in deeper snow, the 184 cm version doesn’t have all that much tip due to that more centered mount, so it was certainly possible to get the tips to dive if I drove the ski hard through the front of my boots.
But that’s not what this ski is about. I have the most fun skiing the Bent Chetler 120 from a neutral stance, breaking the tails free to slash and slarve around while looking for things to jump off. The Bent Chetler 120 is definitely not the strongest or most damp jibby pow ski out there, but it sure is fun (and way lighter than those more more stable skis).
Cy: I actually started my time on the Bent Chetler 120 on a spring day at Sun Valley, ID, skiing baked corn and soft groomers. I originally intended to just take a lap or two on it and then swap to a more appropriate ski, but I was shocked by how much fun I had on the Bent Chetler 120 in these conditions, and ended up skiing the full day on it. In soft snow, the Bent Chetler 120 is a ton of fun. It’s easy to slash and slarve, it’s fun to pop off the tiniest lips, and it chatters surprisingly little at speed. It doesn’t have quite the chunder-absorbing suspension of a heavier ski (like the previous version of the Bent Chetler), but the Bent Chetler 120 punches above its weight when it comes to stability.
Sam: As long as the snow is a bit soft, whether that’s a few days after a storm or on a sunny corn / slush day, the Bent Chetler 120 still feels comfortable. It tracks surprisingly well and is super responsive, which makes for a really fun combo. It’s incredibly easy to ski while still being able to be pushed pretty hard — qualities that are shared by a lot of my favorite skis (e.g., the Rossignol Soul 7 HD and Blizzard Rustler 11).
Cy: Firm, inconsistent snow is the Bent Chetler 120’s weak point. It’s a powder ski, and it’s a very light powder ski, so it’s no surprise that it’s a handful when trying to ski fast through firm, inconsistent snow. I felt like my ankles and calves were getting a heck of a workout when I tried to go fast and make big turns on firm snow on the Bent Chetler 120. But at slower speeds, the ski felt totally manageable, and actually pretty fun. It’s not the kind of ski you’d want to use for hucking into a sketchy landing, but it is the kind of ski that makes popping off every ice chunk worthwhile / fun.
Sam: Yep, I think Cy is spot on here. This ski only weighs ~1750 g — it isn’t a firm- or variable-conditions tool. That said, I was extremely surprised by how hard I could push the Bent Chetler 120 on firm, consistent groomers. If for some reason you want to drive the ski hard through the shovels on firm, smooth, groomers, the Bent Chetler 120 feels quite precise with good edge hold — though it’s certainly not the most damp or stable ski out there.
Cy: If someone other than Atomic had released the Bent Chetler 120 this year, I would have called it serendipitous. However, it seems as though the launch of the new ski coinciding with the launch of the new Shift MNC binding was no accident — this is a match made in heaven.
I skied the Bent Chetler 120 with the Shift binding, and I’d be hard pressed to find a binding I’d rather have on it. This is a fun ski inbounds, but its light weight doesn’t really pay off there. It’s capable inbounds, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for a light, resort-only powder ski. But that does miss out on a lot of this ski’s potential.
Where this ski really shines is on tours where you’re (a) looking for trouble (e.g., cliffs and booters) and / or (b) deep snow. The Bent Chetler 120 is a joy on the skin track thanks to its low weight, and paired with the Shift binding, it’s a great recipe for taking tricks you learned in the resort to the backcountry. The Bent Chetler 120 is light and easy to spin, and as long as the landing is reasonably fresh / soft, it feels stable and confident in mandatory-stomp situations.
The Bent Chetler 120’s surface area-to-weight ratio is outstanding, which makes it a really good option for touring on deep pow days. It’s also really easy to ski, especially in tight spaces, which is something I really appreciate in a touring ski. For me, the crux of a day often comes after we’ve skied the line and we’re headed back to the trailhead cold, hungry, and tired. I really appreciate it when touring skis are easy to keep headed in the right direction as I mow down aspens and try to avoid deadfall. The Bent Chetler 120 excels at this.
Sam: I 100% agree, the Shift binding + Bent Chetler 120 combo is incredible. The day I sent this ski and Shift binding to Cy was a very sad day for me.
Personally, I think this combo is a perfect 50/50 setup for mid-winter pow. For some resort pow days, I would probably want a bit more mass for the afternoon once all that pow got chopped up, but I definitely don’t want more mass on the way up for my touring days.
Who’s It For?
Cy: The Bent Chetler 120 is fine as an inbounds-only powder ski for lighter skiers or those accustomed to skiing pow on more center-mounted skis. And it’s capable enough in mixed conditions that I wouldn’t fault anyone for mounting a pair of alpine bindings on it (just keep in mind its low weight), but I do feel that anyone who does that is seriously missing out. There are plenty of pow skis that are about as fun as the Bent Chetler 120 inbounds (and many that will do better in heavy chop / and firm conditions). But there are very few pow skis that are this great on the skin track.
The Bent Chetler 120 is a seriously light ski for its width, and it becomes even more unique when you consider how many skis with this playful of a shape and rocker profile weigh this little. So it’s the perfect tool for anyone looking to take their inbounds jibbing outside the resort. If you’re looking for a playful powder touring ski, the Bent Chetler 120 is worth a serious look, and if you’re looking for a playful 50/50 ski, we think it’s the ski to beat in this category.
Chris Bentchetler’s skis have long been the go-to choice for skiers who want to ski like the Nimbus crew (e.g., lots of butters, slashes, spins, etc.). But most of that sort of skiing happened inbounds. Over the last few years, that generation has been growing up and discovering the backcountry, moving to lighter and more uphill-capable gear. The new Atomic Bent Chetler 120 perfectly reflects that movement.
Not all of us have sleds or helicopters to drop us at the top of our lines, but many people still want to huck, spin, and butter in untracked ski-porn pow. The Bent Chetler 120 is, for now at least, the best tool available for that task, and it comes in at a weight that makes skinning for that fresh snow a realistic endeavor.
Very well done, Atomic.
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