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Atomic Backland Ultimate Review

Skimo race boots that are suitable for some all-around and fast-and-light ski mountaineering endeavors
atomic backland ultimate backcountry ski boots review
Credit: Atomic
Price:  $900 List
Manufacturer:   Atomic
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 2, 2022
54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 16
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 1.0
  • Uphill Performance - 20% 10.0
  • Weight - 20% 10.0
  • Comfort and Fit - 10% 6.0
  • Warmth - 10% 1.0
  • Ease of Use - 5% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Atomic Backland Ultimate is their entry to the skimo race boot category. It is also one of the few race-class boots that is suitable for use out "in the wild". The potential user group for something like this is very small. However, in that small cadre there is a great deal of passion. In recent years, this is the best true race boot that we have found that is actually usable in the backcountry. The main reason for this is the semi-effective snow sealing and full liner.
REASONS TO BUY
Wicked light
Close fitting
Fast transitions
REASONS TO AVOID
Only for skiing small skis
Slowly
Editor's Note: We tested the Backland Ultimate sprinkled throughout the entirety of the 2021-2023 ski season. We will continue to test it to refine our findings.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Wicked light, close fitting, fast transitionsLight, free-pivot cuff, appropriate stiffness and flexExcellent downhill performance, lightweight, proven styleBalanced up and down performance, wide/high volume fitLight, nimble, great range of motion, one move transition
Cons Only for skiing small skis, slowlyCold, finicky transitionsModerate insulation, hard to get in and out ofSki/walk mode prone to issues, recall to past versionsThin liner is cold, limited downhill ski performance, closure string degrades
Bottom Line Skimo race boots that are suitable for some all-around and fast-and-light ski mountaineering endeavorsBalanced, all-around ski touring boots that lean in the light-and-fast direction; these are optimized, probably, for what you like about the mountainsWhether a newcomer adjusting from the resort or a seasoned expert gunning for 100+ backcountry days a season, here is a top of the line shoe contenderProven ski boots with modern updates and an overall performance profile that is optimized for the majority of bc riders; if you have high volume feet, even betterThis is the "speed touring" boot that many have been looking for for a few years
Rating Categories Atomic Backland Ult... Scarpa F1 LT Tecnica Zero G Tour... Scarpa Maestrale RS Dynafit Mezzalama
Downhill Performance (35%)
1
6.0
8.0
8.0
4.0
Uphill Performance (20%)
10.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
9.0
Weight (20%)
10.0
9.0
5.0
5.0
9.0
Comfort and Fit (10%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Warmth (10%)
1
5.0
7.0
8.0
3.0
Ease of Use (5%)
6.0
5.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Atomic Backland Ult... Scarpa F1 LT Tecnica Zero G Tour... Scarpa Maestrale RS Dynafit Mezzalama
Weight size 26.5, pair 3 lbs 7 oz 4 lbs 7 oz 6 lbs 0 oz 6 lbs 5 oz 4 lbs 8 oz
Weight of one boot shell 0619 g 0809 g 1119 g 1180 g 0772 g
Weight of one stock liner, no footbed 166 g 214 g 204 g 252 g 244 g
Weight of one complete boot, no insole 0785 g 1023 g 1323 g 1432 g 1016 g
Range of Motion; degrees 65 72 55 60 65
Binding Compatibility? Tech only, or Tech and DIN AT standard, or Tech, DIN AT and DIN Alpine/WTR Tech only Tech only Tech and DIN AT Tech and DIN AT Tech only
Stated Flex Index Not reported 95 130 125 Not reported
Stated Last width 96 mm 102 mm 99 mm 101 mm 99 mm
Alpine wrap or Tongue Tongue Tongue Wrap Tongue Tongue
Shell material Grilamid Grilamid, Carbon Core Grilamid Carbon Grilamid Grilamid with carbon fibers

Our Analysis and Test Results

We include the Atomic Backland Ultimate here in this review for its unique positioning in the market. It is a rec-class skimo boot with a full liner. Pro and world cup skimo racers use full carbon boots that are way beyond, in terms of price and specialization, what most people can justify. Next in line are the "training" or recreation class race boots. That is what the Atomic Backland Ultimate is. In that class of boots there are very few that have a full coverage liner. For longer days and true wilderness skiing you really want a full liner. That's what gets the Backland Ultimate into our review. How does it hold up and compare? Read on to find out.

Performance Comparison



atomic backland ultimate backcountry ski boots review - the atomic backland ultimate deep in the center of the tetons in the...
The Atomic Backland Ultimate deep in the center of the Tetons in the middle of January. This was a stretch on this piece of equipment.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Downhill Performance


You don't pick these for optimum downhill performance. And you won't get optimum downhill performance. If you have been skeptical of lightweight ski gear, however, you might be surprised at how you can adapt to lightweight ski boots. You won't ever shred with these like you can on beefier boots. But you can definitely ski serious, challenging, and fun conditions with the Atomic Backland Ultimate, provided you adjust your technique and match them with suitable skis and bindings.
atomic backland ultimate backcountry ski boots review - backland ultimate ski boot buckle configuration. the lower shell...
Backland Ultimate ski boot buckle configuration. The lower shell closes with a downsized version of a traditional ski boot buckle. The upper closes with a velcro strap connected to string, in turn actuated by the big rear lever.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Uphill Performance


These go uphill like a dream. Of all the boots we have ever reviewed here, the Backland Ultimate has the most freedom of motion within its cuff hinge range. Nothing else in the test roster comes close. The sole is very short for a given size. In order to make them work downhill you will fit them close, even further increasing the uphill nimble feeling. If ski boots can ever feel close to hiking shoes, the Backland Ultimate gets closest.
atomic backland ultimate backcountry ski boots review - spring touring in the atomic backland ultimate, when paired with a...
Spring touring in the Atomic Backland Ultimate, when paired with a suitably light set of other equipment, is a free wheeling dream.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


On our calibrated digital postal scale we found a single Atomic Backland Ultimate boot to weigh 785 grams. That's 1570 grams for the pair. Or 3 lbs 7 ounces. Of that mass, 619 grams per boot is in the shell and one liner weighs 166 grams. Nothing else in our review competes with the Ultimate. In fact, the heaviest boots in our test are more than twice the mass of this model. In ski boots there is no direct or indirect advantage of weight itself (as opposed to skis. The mass of a ski contributes a great deal of its performance, directly). Of course, the materials that lend stiffness, warmth, and workable flexion all have mass. Heavier boots, indirectly, will ski better than light weight ones. Read on to the downhill performance section to see the cost you pay for incredible low weight and efficient touring mode.
atomic backland ultimate backcountry ski boots review - save these boots, at least in the backcountry, for long tours on...
Save these boots, at least in the backcountry, for long tours on good snow on small skis. As in this tour across most of Teton Pass, in April.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Comfort and Fit


The Atomic Backland Ultimate fits narrow and should be sized close. To get the aforementioned acceptable downhill performance from the light and thin shell that shell must be close to your foot. We downsized considerably. For our lead test editor we took advantage of Atomic's readily molded shell and had professional boot fitting done to optimize the fit. That process of customizing the fit made a big difference. Before the fitting the big toe on his larger foot would end a trip tender and rubbed raw. After the fitting — that didn't involve any specific "punching" — that toe has been free and happy.
atomic backland ultimate backcountry ski boots review - one lever in the rear of the backland ultimate serves to lock the...
One lever in the rear of the Backland Ultimate serves to lock the hinge and tighten around the cuff. That requires the dangling string. That string has held up so far for us.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Warmth


Close fitting boots made of thin, lightweight materials are not going to insulate very well. After fit (looser fitting boots are warmer) the biggest correlation with ski boot insulation is ski boot weight. Beefier boots are warmer. The Backland Ultimate is not a very insulating boot. Practitioners rely on high tempo travel to keep their feet warm in cold conditions. If you fit these as they are intended to be fit, they aren't the boots you should use for extended avalanche snow pit time, sub zero slow ski tours, or multi-day ski camping outside of the warmest of spring trips.

Ease of Use


We like the "one move" transitions of race style boots. You can now get one move transitions in ski boots that ski a little better than the Backland Ultimate, but we wish that functionality would trickle down further into the range of backcountry ski boots. The buckles of the Backland Ultimate are small and fiddly, but not so much that they really compromise usage. The Backland Ultimate is compatible with automatic crampons but you must use tech bindings only on your skis. The sole provides adequate bare-boot traction, but the lugs are shallow and small, ostensibly to save weight.
atomic backland ultimate backcountry ski boots review - the backland ultimate sole is low profile, but not as minimalistic...
The Backland Ultimate sole is low profile, but not as minimalistic as on some race boots.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Should you buy the Atomic Backland Ultimate?


Only buy these if you know exactly what you are getting into. For skimo racing, they are a great choice and should be compared to other skimo race boots. For true backcountry skiing, these aren't the sort of boots you acquire as your second set of touring boots ever. You likely started in "4 buckle" touring boots. Then maybe you tried out "1 kilo" boots and liked the freedom they allow. If you want even more efficiency than the "1-kilo" boots provide, then you start looking at race class boots. When you are at that point in your search, the Atomic Backland Ultimate is a great choice.

What Other Backcountry Ski Boots Should You Consider?


Commentary on choosing boots for true skimo racing is beyond the scope of what we do here. Consult other sources for that. For light and fast wilderness skiing, the Atomic Backland Ultimate is the lightest thing we recommend. You can reap many of the same advantages by stepping up just a little to the Top Pick Dynafit Mezzalama. The Mezzalama provides the same "one move" transition but is considerably warmer and better for skiing downhill. It is a little heavier and compromises touring efficiency a bit. Another step up in skiing ability from the Mezzalama (and commensurate step down in touring efficiency) is the Editors Choice Scarpa F1 LT. The F1 LT is the lightest boot we recommend people consider for their "quiver of one" selection.

Jediah Porter
 
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