Atomic can’t help being obsessed with speed. They’re Austrian down to their toes, thereby making it a patriotic obligation to assist Austrian natives in winning World Cup titles. They’ve been very good at meeting expectations, delivering a horde of gold to Austrian athletes. An interesting side development occurred on the way to the podium: non-racers discovered the amazing tranquility at speed that Atomic’s race-room skis exude. At one ski area we frequent, hardly a racing hotbed, there is a knot of very fast, talented skiers who crush the groomers on Atomic GS sticks, and every one of them said “aloha” to their 50th birthday several seasons ago.
Point being, if you understand when and how to tip a ski, if you realize “ski” is an active verb, you may decide to pass over the entire flotilla of Atomic all-mountain skis and attach yourself to their nearest race model. We don’t review true (FIS) race skis here because it lies outside the scope of our expertise and we have too much respect for the coach-racer relationship to pretend we ought in any way to intervene; but, if we did delude ourselves into declaiming on the subject, we’d tell you to try an Atomic.
All that said, gold medal lust is hardly unique to Atomic. The competitive flame burns no less brightly at Head or Fischer. All brands also compete for shelf space at retail and mind space among skiers. In the struggle for sales supremacy, Atomic strives for manufacturing efficiencies that will allow it to compete on price up and down the recreational ski market.
After Atomic’s parent company, the Finnish conglomerate Amer, acquired Salomon in 2005, it adopted some of the French brand’s savvy manufacturing methods. Cost/value relationship and price advantage at retail remain a brand focus that’s most evident in the entry-level and mid-level price points. Atomic offered exceptional value to price-conscious skiers with models like the Vantage 75 C system ski, the all-mountain Vantage 86 C and women’s Vantage 86 C W, all of which retailed at $399.99 in the U.S. market.
While Atomic enjoys a competitive advantage at the either end of the price/performance hierarchy, the majority of retail activity takes place between these extremes, where Atomic’s success has been driven as much by price as performance. For the 2018/19 season, Atomic launched a slew of new models based on a new, Lighter-Is-Better technology called Prolite. The Prolite concept began with the most skeletal ski Atomic can concoct, then added just enough mass and damping to match the skier’s expectations for performance. The principal damping elements Atomic deployed were Carbon Tank Mesh and Titanium Tank Mesh, alternating between the two to hit different key price points across the Vantage and Vantage W lines.
On the race course, precision is paramount and compromise is unthinkable. In the freeride world of buttered turns, imprecision is built into the program, and some compromises better be made or the skier is in for a very rough ride. The proof that Atomic is as adept at making buttery off-trail skis as race rockets lies in the Bent Chetler 120, a monster than moves with balletic grace through terrain that would torpedo a technical ski. Three years ago, Atomic created the Bent Chetler 100, like its big bro adorned with Horizon Tech, tips and tails that are rockered on both axes for maximum swivel-ability. It’s a total gas to ski, with much better technical chops than you’d expect, and at $599, it’s still a steal.
The 2022 Season
Atomic’s devotion to racing runs so deep that it renews its Redster technology at a faster clip than any of its other product families, even though the development costs are higher. All the attention lavished on racing pays dividends for non-racers who wants a taste of the real deal, embodied this year in a new tech called Revoshock. A series of spring steel rectangles that ride on a cushion of shock-snuffing elastomer adorn the forebody, converting disruptive vibrations into propulsive energy as they travel down the loosely linked chain. Revoshock will be standard issue with the Redster G9 Revo, S9 Revo, X9i Revo and X9i WB Revo.
More importantly for mainstream American skiers, the top end of the previous Pro Lite Vantage series has been shown the door to make room for a new series, Maverick for men and Maven for women. Atomic isn’t abandoning the principle of minimalism, just shifting it to an elemental, poplar, glass and Titanal sandwich that any mainstream ski manufacturer could concoct in its sleep. What sets the Mavericks and Mavens apart is a new version of Atomic’s unique, multi-axis HRZN Tech Tip that isn’t perturbed by choppy terrain.
While there’s little doubt the Mavericks that use Titanal are better all-terrain skis than the Vantage models they replace, the surprise of the series is the Maverick 86 C, a $499 mid-market marvel that punches well above its weight. The Maverick 86 C continues a tradition of stellar skis that use carbon stringers as their primary structural element. All it’s missing is stability at speeds its intended pilot as little interest in reaching.
To give you an idea of what a steal the Bent Chetler 100 was when it was introduced four years ago, Atomic understandably raised its retail price by $100 a year later, and it was still the best value in the category. But the Bent Chetler 100 is more than just a good deal; it’s a wonderfully versatile ski that’s as easy to ski in off-trail conditions as any AMW model at any price. The …READ MORE
In the 2018/19 season, Atomic dove into the deep end of the Lighter is Better pool, emerging with Pro Lite, a skeletal construction that sought to trim mass using all the means at the R&D department’s disposal. Launched just last year, Atomic’s Maverick and Maven (for women) series have bid aloha to Pro Lite, returning to a classic, elementary construction that Atomic could build in its sleep: an all-poplar core encased in top and bottom …READ MORE
Depending on where and how you ski, the Maverick 88 Ti may be the best of the top 3 models in the latest all-mountain series from Atomic, despite residing on the lowest rung of the pricing ladder. It arcs the best short-radius turns of the bunch despite a mid-radius sidecut that’s equally comfortable when allowed to run for the barn. Its tail is supportive without being flashy, gradually releasing its grip as it crosses the …READ MORE