Atomic Backland Bent Chetler Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
Hands-On Review of the Backland Bent Chetler
Chris Benchetler and his Austrian cronies at Atomic have once again nailed it with the 2017 Backland Bent Chetler. This pro-model has utilized the same award-winning design since 2014 while changing only the topsheet graphics. As proved in years past, the Chetler is a stunty, pillow-slurping pow-tool that aims to redefine how you float in powder. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We tested this model in the 185 cm length. It's also offered at 178 and 192.
Once again, the boat-like underside of this ski give it an advantage for soft snow performance. Designed for playful pillow-bashing, the Chetler was our second-widest pair in the lineup at 120 mm underfoot. Coupled with a Powder Rocker profile, that footprint allows the skier to comfortably stand in a centered position while floating through light particle. The Chetler's more centered mounting point also provides an effortless swing weight in tip and tail, making them very maneuverable in the deep stuff.
Forward-leaning, aggressive skiers may need to adopt a more neutral stance to get the most floatation potential. When driven hard from the front seat, the tips had a tendency to get squirrelly and dive below the surface. But with a centered weight distribution, even our largest testers were able to glide atop deep snow. Pivoting and slashing pow turns with great agility, the Backland Bent Chetler lives up to its reputation for freeride floatation potential and took home a high score, beaten out only by the Blizzard Spur and Line Pescado.
Stability at Speed
We would normally suspect a dual-rockered, lightweight powder tool to have some trade-offs when it comes to ripping straight down the fall-line. Shorter effective edge and buttery shapes—both characteristics of this model—tend to have a distinct speed limit when skied in variable snow. We were surprised at how this ski performed in said conditions. Despite it's playful and jibby nature, the Backland Bent Chetler is capable of keeping its cool when you fire up the afterburners. Blended core materials of durable poplar and a carbon backbone help with shock absorption while also remaining steady through high-speed vibrations.
This ski didn't nuke quite as well as certain models that had more driving weight and/or less tail rocker than the Chetler. Mind you that this ski is designed to be fun but not necessarily fast. Some testers found it challenging to stay centered on the 'sweet spot' of the Chetler when traveling at speed. With more effective edge and added weight, this issue may be less noticeable in the longer 192 cm. Though, this ski will naturally prefer a centered-up stance due to dual-rocker construction. Bottom line, the Chetler is a lively, agile ski that can go fast when it really needs to. This Top Pick award winner scored well but was bested by the Moment Wildcat, Volkl Confession and Blizzard Spur.
When it came to on-piste carving performance, the *Bent Chetler fell a bit short of the mark. This may not surprise you when you consider the playful, jibby spirit built into these trick-sticks. With a moderate 19 m turn radius and step-down sidewall construction, the Chetler is perfectly capable of holding a decent edge on groomed snow. When the conditions are right, this ski can link turns just as easily as it slides out of them. But we found the rockered tips and tails slow to engage on hard surfaces and lacking the necessary back-end stiffness to accelerate through the finish of a turn. This may or may not bother you depending on how you ski.
Ultra-firm and icy snowpack is unforgiving regardless of what's on your feet. That being said, these skis are certainly not made for such conditions. The Chetler will have no problem maneuvering on manicured surfaces, but it doesn't perform with the same precision of some other models when it comes to full-on carving. This ski really shines when pivoting and slashing turns in fluffy crystal dust; not making wide arcs across the fall line and taking home an average score for this metric.
The rockered tip of this ski has increased surface area to bust through and bounce over variable snow. Much like the shaped hull of a boat, the Bent Chetler employs a patented HRZN Tech construction that provides rocker from edge-to-edge as well as tip-to-tail. In addition to a buttery playfulness, this duo-dimensional rocker profile tracks the tips over a variety of snow types without getting deflected. But the Chetler sometimes lacked the necessary force to crush through heavy chop, which earned it an above average finish.
Preferring soft snow, this ski was more comfortable busting through first-track trenches than it was gobbling up death cookies. The relative softness in tip and tail could get slapped around in firmer, refrozen chop but still managed to rock gs turns through avy debris. We liked how the Chetler would remain playful in crud, bouncing around between contours. But it wasn't quite forceful enough to blast through heavy snow and was bested by the Blizzard Spur and Volkl Confession.
This ski is an absolute riot. Across the board, our testers agreed that the Bent Chetler was an outrageously fun ride in virtually all snow types and across myriad terrain types. We found it to be soft and forgiving but poppy where it counted—earning descriptors like "shmear fest", "dream boards", and "sultan of slurp" from our testers. Along with the Moment Wildcat and Line Pescado, these powder skis were the only contenders in the fleet with a near perfect score.
Lateral rocker in tip and tail allows for effortless butters and surfy turn shapes in soft snow. Despite its weight in-hand, the Chetler remains agile underfoot for all kinds of jibs, hits, and raucous hot-dogging. Even our more directional, less steezy testers enjoyed romping around on this plaything. Being the brainchild and chosen tool of a pro freerider, of course the Bent Chetler is rambunctious. It was designed for backcountry booters and steep, pillowy gulches. But the Backland Bent Chetler was equally sporty on bumped-out bowls and other in-bounds playgrounds. Bottom line: this ski will never bore you, no matter where you point 'em.
By and large, the Bent Chetler was an above-average-performer in every rating metric aside from carving. This characteristic is, whether you like it or not, a lesser consideration when evaluating a powder ski. That said, we still found it to be a very reliable and solid ski regardless of the conditions we may have encountered. It's a versatile pow ski.
This ski feels most at home lost in the trees, popping over knuckles, or surfing wicked spines. It has a preference for soft snow and really performs best with a freeride oriented driver. Due to its weight, we felt the Chetler was better suited for inbounds shenanigans. Though, being a fruit of Atomic's "Backland" loins, it was obviously designed to work off the beaten path as well—maybe a better choice for slackcountry than backcountry.
The price of the Chetler is pretty much par for the course. For an average market price of $750, you're getting bomber construction, playful performance, and the guarantee of the Atomic pedigree. Not a bad deal if you ask us.
There's a distinct reason we chose this ski as the Top Pick for Freeride Powder. Beyond its bouncy floatation, the Chetler delivers an undeniable playful energy that begs to be driven with gusto. If you dream of getting first tracks in that bottomless snowfield and boosting off of every terrain feature you see, then this powder ski is for you.
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