Super Fun, Directional Ski
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
I am 5'11" and 185lbs - a relatively aggressive skier who spends most winters at Alta. I bought the 186 and think it is the perfect size. I enjoy skiing Atomics and for reference, I have owned and skied the Atomic Bentchetler 120s in 185cm (2018 version though), and also have the Backland 107 in 182cm as a touring ski. I absolutely love the Backland 117 and here is why.
These are definitely more directional than the Bentchetler - they do have a twin tip tail, but the actual recommended mount is considerably further back than the Benchetler 120. They're stiffer as a whole and ski like it - just more of a ski that you feel that you can charge on. They still can make some big smearing pow turns and absolutely rip when it gets deep, pretty much to be expected on that. They still ski really well even a few inches and bounce around, just are super fun to ski. They don't have quite the same pop as Bentchetlers do, but hold their particularly line and can put in some high speed turns and not worry about any chatter. With the recommended mounting position, there is considerably more ski in front of you (and less tail behind) and gives a fun, predictable stability to the ski. With that said, its still a playful ski - no dead or too damp feeling. The shorter tail makes it feel quicker turning in deep snow - it would be interesting to mount up Bents in a less of a freestyle mount and move it more into a freeride mount and see how they square up next to each other.
What they don't do well is ski on hardpack. My Bentchetlers skied on hardpacked runs surprisingly well, but the Backland does take a bit more effort to get on edge. This point is almost moot as we are comparing powder skis on hardpack, but they don't feel quite as snappy or fun as the Bents, especially when lacing up some turns on groomers.
I know they market this as a touring ski... I cannot imagine they excel touring. They aren't exactly light at 9lbs, unlike the revised & lightweight Backland 107, which I do use as my daily driver of a touring ski. I mounted mine up with Atomic Wardens. They feel rock solid and are a great combo of ski & binding. I'd take a solid look at the Backland 117 if you're looking for a super fun and playful ski that gives a sense of stability skiing on any sort of soft snow,!