When Chris Benchetler and Atomic released the very first Bent Chetler, his pro model ski, the year was 2007 and he was 21 years old. The ski featured Benchetler's original artwork of a chaotic Japanese subway on the topsheet, and a colorful tie-dye base. For Atomic, an Austrian ski company, the ski (with girthy dimensions of 142-123-134) was a radical departure from anything it had ever done and signaled the brand's full embrace of progressive freeride skiing in North America.
Today, Benchetler is 31 years old, married, and expecting his first child this winter. A lot has changed in his life and in the sport, but what remains the same is his love for surfing across untouched fields of powder. His pro model has seen numerous design variations and graphics, but 10 years in the ski maintains its focus for playful skiing on soft snow.
Benchetler, who lives in Mammoth with his pro-snowboarding wife, Kimmy Fasani, says that being involved in the production and design of his ski has been "the most fulfilling aspect of my career." Which is saying a lot, given his influence on the world stage as a professional skier.
Like Chris's family, for the first time, the Bent Chetler family of skis grows, with Atomic bringing to market a new 100-milimeter-wide Bent Chetler (to go along with the 120-milimeter big brother) for next season. Both Bent Chetlers--as well as numerous other new models from Atomic, including a new Backland and Vantage series, the Shift binding (which Atomic shares with Salomon), new Hawx boots, helmets, and goggles--were on display last week during an Atomic product launch event at Snowbasin, Utah.
POWDER was invited along with key retailers, media, and reps to get a first look at the new items. For the new Vantage series, Atomic uses ProLite construction, which emphasizes weight savings while providing torsional strength and stability.
Bent Chetler 100: 130.5-100-121mm; poplar core; HRZN Tech in the tip and tail; full sidewall with direction shape; subtle tip rocker with camber and minimal tail rocker. $600
This is the money ski, and will no doubt be on many skiers' radar come Fall 2018. Whereas the 120 is built for soft snow and powder, the 100 is an all-mountain machine. At Snowbasin, it held up on firm corduroy and felt right at home dropping into steep, chalky chutes. The profile is such that you can feather the tips and tails in tight spots, but immediately grab an edge for stability. The directional shape means you probably won't be skiing backwards that often.
Bent Chetler 120: 144-120-135mm; karuba core; carbon backbone with HRZN Tech in the tip and tail; full sidewall; generous tip and tail rocker; minimal camber underfoot. $900
A powder surfing machine not exactly suitable for the conditions we had at Snowbasin.
Vantage 107 Ti/97 Ti/90 Ti: 138-107-125mm; poplar and ash core; "tank mesh" of titanium to boost strength without adding weight; slight tip rocker with camber underfoot. $900/$850/$725
The revamped Vantage Ti series is where you'll find the muscle. The new 107 Ti demolishes anything in its path, and won't deflect in chunder or hard snow while still offering flotation in powder. However, it is a heavy ski that requires a capable and strong driver. The 97 Ti is a quicker, more nimble version built for mostly hard snow and skiing fast.
Vantage W's 107 C: 136-107-123mm; light wood core, Prolite, Carbon Tank Mesh, HRZN Tech Tip, Energy Backbone, Full Sidewall, lightweight karuba core. $775
After skiing the 107 Ti, I was hoping that Atomic had the carbon version in longer lengths. Alas, 175 centimeters is tops and is being sold as a women's ski. Even Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, eyeing the lightweight construction and purple and red graphic, was calling for a longer ski. For those skiers in the 175 ballpark, my guess is you're going to like this ski for its ability to handle all conditions.
Backland 117, 107, 95: 138-107-125mm (in the 107); HRZN Tech in the tip and tail, full sidewall in the 107 (the 95 has cap sidewall); ultralight karuba core, carbon backbone. $850/$850/$725
For those fans of the 109, Atomic ceases construction of that model. A backcountry line, the Backland's lightweight construction prioritizes soft snow.
Vantage 97 C, 86 C (for carbon): 133-97-122mm; poplar core; carbon tank mesh, full sidewall. $600/$475
The 97 C surprised me with its ability to handle all conditions. While the burly construction of the 97 Ti gave it superior control on groomers, it was limited off-piste. That's where the 97 C excelled, even as it offered adequate edgehold for bombing groomers down to the gondola.
Hawx Prime 130: The new Hawx Prime incorporates the lightweight construction of the Ultra in a medium, 100-milimeter last fit. With Atomic's customizable Memory Fit, the Hawx Prime is intended fit aggressive skiers who can't quite get into a narrow last. $850
Atomic Shift: The Shift binding is a DIN-certified downhill clamp that doubles as a touring binding with a tech-compatible toepiece. The radical design was developed in conjunction with Salomon, which launched the binding last month. $650
All told, the lineup represents the biggest product launch for Atomic in 10 years, bringing the original Bent Chetler full circle.