Posted on August 25 2018
Salomon MTN/Atomic Backland: Setting the benchmark for lightweight ski touring bindings
These days tech bindings are getting so light and strong that unless you plan on skiing your touring setup on the resort day in and day out, you can really opt for a lightweight binding without sacrificing confidence. At 297 grams (no brake), the Solomon MTN/Atomic Backland is one of those ‘mountaineering’ category bindings that has thoroughly impressed. As a big guy and aggressive skier, I will take whatever weight penalty necessary to ensure I won’t pre-release. However, after extensive use (and abuse), i’ve come to the conclusion that the MTN/Backland can handle whatever the backcountry throws at it. With Marker and Black Diamond both offering sub 300-gram bindings for the 2019 season, it is only natural that I will be comparing them to the Atomic Backland/Salomon MTN. And I must say, they have some high standards to live up to.
Vail employee Tom, going DEEP on the Atomic Backlands
The name of the game with this binding is simplicity. The toe piece features a classic tech toe design with minimal moving parts and with the exception of the lock lever, a full metal construction. When stepping into the binding, a metal bar acts as a guide to align your boot with relative ease. On the spectrum of toes, we would put its ease of use somewhere in the middle of the spectrum (think G3 Ion for easiest, Marker Kingpin hardest). Overall the toe piece is simplistic with few moving parts, almost completely metal, and relatively easy to use.
The lock lever is the only non-metal component in the toe
Again, the heel design is consistent with the bindings theme of simplistic and mostly metal, but comes with a number of likeable features. Even at this light weight, the heel tower offers three different climbing aids and since they are separate from the pins, you only need to rotate the tower 90 degrees to enjoy. If you know you won’t be needing the flat touring mode, or if you would like a quicker transition, the climbing aids can be lowered right on top of the pins. With 30mm of travel in the heel this unit comes with all the features you want in need, in that lightweight/durable package.
No need for flat? Lower the riser directly over the pins for quicker transitions
One of my favorite things about the MTN/Backland is the metal on metal connection between binding and ski. Both the heel and toe feature a rectangular hole pattern with a minimum distance of 30mm between screws. Because of the distance and symmetry of the hole pattern, it would take an incredible amount of force to see any sort of screw pullout. Additionally, all of the bindings functional components are metal. Blowing up the adjustment track or breaking any of the components would be hard to do. The MTN/Backland is durable and once you drill it onto your ski, it’s not going anywhere. All the more impressive when you consider it’s sub 300 gram weight.
The MTN/Backland comes with three different fixed U-Springs which equate to three different release values (which just for the record are a bit sexist). The Women’s spring roughly equates to a 6-7 release value, the Men’s an 8-9, and the Expert a 12-13. I am 6’5, 205 lbs and ski on the expert spring. I have skied everything from bullet proof in Whistler to bottomless snow in the Colorado backcountry. The only times I feel like I am really pushing the limits of what this binding can handle are if I am jumping off of things when the snow isn’t the softest, or if the ski surface is extremely hard/uneven. Other than those extreme cases, I have found this binding to release when, and only when I need them to.
Something to take into account when skiing a fixed U-Spring heel is that there is less ability to ‘fine tune’ the release of the binding. Because the heel spring is a fixed shape, the vertical release is pre-determined by the characteristics of the heel. And in the case of the MTN/Backland, the lateral release is also dictated by the shape of the spring (as opposed to a heel piece like the Dynafit Superlite, for instance).
(Left -> right) Women's, Men's, and Expert Springs
I have 50+ days on my pair of Atomic Backlands and they have stood up to the test thus far. Thanks to the simplistic design, minimal moving parts, and predominantly metal components, I have high hopes for the future as well. So in terms of durability: so far, SO good. To be continued...
I have really enjoyed this binding. It’s light yet still gives you three riser heights and 30mm of adjustability in the heel. It’s really a great option for big guys who want a lightweight touring binding, or someone that wants to run multiple boots on a lightweight ski. This ‘mountaineering’ category of touring binding has seen significant industry investment in the past few years, so it will be exciting to see how this binding holds up to new competition. With the Marker Alpinist and Black Diamond Helio 200 both weighing less, the question will be can they match the durability of the (almost) all metal MTN