Skimo Co

Atomic Backland UL 85 Ski - 2018/19


Notice: Atomic released a new ski under the name "Atomic Backland UL 85", which you can find here.

Still the widest platform in Atomic’s high-end backcountry lineup, the Backland UL 85 is the ticket for all-season usage. From deep powder in the winter to those spring corn harvests, the 85mm waist will perform. Atomic redesigned the tip from the Ultimate version to make it slice through soft and variable snow. Otherwise, the Backland UL remains the same reliable platform with a double-carbon wrap around a light wood core. The sidewalls are still lined with a Step-down ABS sidewall to make the ride relatively damp and offer some rock-impact resistance. The 85 is a workhorse that will make great companion in the mountains.

  • AT 2.0 tip is streamlined to cut through powder, chop, and other variables.
  • Step Down sidewall construction offers a mix of lightness and durability.
  • Poplar and Karuba Paulownia wood are combined into a robust core.
  • Carbon Powered inserts create stability and improve downhill performance.
  • All-mountain rocker is an uplifted tip for the first 15% of the ski.
Lengths (cm) 163, 169, 175
convert to ounces
1090g [163]
1160g [169]
1220g [175]
Weight (pair) 2180g [163]
2320g [169]
2440g [175]
Sidecut   119-85-109 [163]
120-85-110 [169]
121-85-111 [175]
Turn Radius   16m [163]
17m [169]
18m [175]
Skin Fix   Tip notch, flat recessed tail
Specs Verified Yes
Profile   15% rocker, 85% camber
Shape   Round tip, steep-ish sidecut, flat tail
Construction   Step down sidewall w/ carbon laminates
Core   Caruba + Poplar
Skimo Co Says
Usage Long touring days, mixed conditions
Notes New tip shape for better slicing performance
Bottom Line All-season daily driver
Compare to other Low-fat Skis

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Questions & Reviews

Jeremy G (downright abused product)
First off, I'm reviewing an older version of this ski, the Ultimate 85. And a bit about me, I'm 6' 170 lbs and consider myself an enthusiastic but mediocre skier. I purchased this ski in 170cm to supplement my wider powder ski for fitness resort laps, spring skiing and ski days with long approaches. I ski them with TLT7s and OG superlite binders. And I couldn't be happier. They are so predictable and comfortable to ski. And so light they're like wearing tennis shoes. Anyone who is used to skiing light skis won't be surprised that they get tossed around in hard, rough snow. But again, they are as predictable and forgiving as possible in those conditions. In firm, consistent snow like groomers or ripening corn they are a dream. If the powder is steep enough they even do well there. I would definitely buy them again and am always happy with my decision to take them out. Cheers!
Reply from Jacob L
Hey Jeremy!! The naming progression that Atomic chose to use with these skis certainly leaves some room for confusion. I went ahead and moved this comment to the original Atomic Backland UL 85 listing, where it seems to belong. Let us know if this isn't the product you meant to review!
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Question from Ruth
What is the difference between the ul 85 and 85 atomic backhand ski?
Do you think this comparable to movement alp tracks 89? What are differences in flex, forgiveness if an, crud busting, playfulness etc with all 3 skiis. Looking at 163 and 161 5 4 233 lbs advanced skier thanks
Answer from eric
Ruth-The UL 85 and backland 85 difference is the UL is made out of lighter materials. The alp tracks 89 is a different ski where the alp tracks 85 would be the similar ski to the UL 85. The Ul 85 is probably the most forgiving ski but still has good edge hold and medium flex. The alp tracks skis are all going to be stiffer and less forgiving. The alp tracks skis also will have a bit more sidecut.
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thomc (used product regularly)
This review is on behalf of my 11 year old. He's about 5'4" and 155 lbs. The 161 are a little long, but I like to get several seasons out of his gear, and he has not had any trouble handling them. They have done well in and out of bounds, and the heaviest thing about them is the fritschi daimir binders. He skied everywhere from Mad River to Jay Peak to Solitude to Alta bc. It all went well. The weight was as much as he can handle for 1000-1500' vertical on the up, and they are plenty of ski for the down and inbounds. He seems to turn very well on them on even very hard snow, steep double black diamond. They are sturdy enough to hit a few rocks without breaking down in tears. Overall they are consistent with the 3 other pairs of 'tomics we've owned: rock solid, skis very well.
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Question from Scott
Hi, I’m 6ft 1 - looking at these for light fast touring rig - would you go 179 or 172 length as does the rocker make them ski short? Thanks
Answer from Trace Leches
Hey Scott! Not sure where you're finding that info, but this ski doesn't come in either of those lengths. That being said, at 6' 1" I would definitely recommend the 175cm length.
Answer from TSB
Sounds like next year's model of this ski (with a slightly tweaked layup) will be offered in 172 and 179... And (total personal opinion here) I'm 6'3" and prefer something closer to 170cm for most touring, especially if you're on friendly terms with your race skis otherwise. I just got a pair of the current-model Backlands in 169cm and they have a bit more effective edge/running length than the Voile Objective in 171 (~1cm) and almost the exact same amount as Movement SessionX in 169 (which does super well on firm descents).
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Question from Jared Nelson
How would you guys compare the BL85UL and BL85? Obviously one is a bit heavier than the other, but what other material difference could you speak to?

Answer from Nate
Hi Jared, we haven't carried the BL85 so my knowledge is a bit limited. In terms of material difference, the core construction in the UL version of the ski is different than the regular BL85. This is where much of the weight savings is derived. I've skied the UL85 a bit, and it's an excellent ski that delivers in all conditions. Since we don't carry the BL85 I don't have any time on that to give you a comparison.
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Dan C (downright abused product)
These have become my favorite spring skimo style ski. I find them more forgiving and yet more capable than the Blizzard ZG85. They can handle pretty much any conditions, whether it be firm or soft, steep or narrow. They have great edge hold and be skied pretty damn hard for their size. The tip notch is excellent and makes transitions lightening quick at the top. I've got the 169, but wouldn't hesitate to size up if I were buying again, as the subtle tail upturn makes releasing the edges a breeze.

Aside: If you do buy the Atomic skins, be aware the glue is pretty ordinary. I'd just buy a Colltex or Pomoco from skimo next time.
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Question from meta
I want to buy a light ski for skimo purpose, mostly in Front range and Pacific Northwest. My weight 115lb, height 5'3. I am debating between ATOMIC BACKLAND UL 85 SKI, Blizzard Zero G 85 Ski and Black Diamond Helio 88 Ski. First question, which one can serve my purpose the best, handling variable snow conditions (steep, wind crust, corn, probably some powder). Is there other ski I should consider? The second question, what is the best length I should go with? After reading all the materials, I like the atomic best, but the shortest is 163cm. Is that a concern?
Was hoping to hear any thoughts you’d have. Thanks so much!
Answer from Nate
Hi Meta, I think of the skis you are considering, the Backland UL 85 fits the bill the best, provided you are comfortable with the 163cm length which doesn't seem overly long for someone of your size. If you feel like the 163cm is a touch long, I think you next best bet would be the Helio 88 in a 158cm.
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Question from audhage
So, a while ago I bought the Dynafit Carbonio by PG (Pierre Gignoux Black) boots to pair my SkiTrab Maestro 171 skis and race bindings. I absolutely love this combo, especially for typical spring skiing. I would however also like a more powder and winter oriented ski for these boots. Something with a bit more flotation that's a bit more forgiving in deep snow.
Do you guys think the UL 85 (169) would be a good fit? Or would you rather recommend something different?

PS, i have demoed the volkl BMT 90 (170) with radical st's and found them acceptable, but on the limit terms of size and weight for these boots.

Thanks in advance.
Answer from Nate
Hi Audhage, that sounds like a great combo! I don't know that I would want to go much heavier or bigger with that specific boot so this ski is likely ideal for what you're trying to accomplish.
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Question from Mathew
Hey. So i’m loooking for a ski mountaineering ski for the volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest. Weight is very important but conditions out here vary from bulletproof ice to powder. I was looking at these atomics but also considering the carbonios and TX90. Was hoping to hear any thoughts you’d have. Thanks so much!
Answer from Trace Leches
Hey Mathew, it's tough to not like these skis, especially in a mountaineering application. Atomic's skis seem to be the goldilocks skis for everybody and rarely do we hear of anybody disliking them (that statement includes the 65, 78, 95, etc). The Carbonio is a touch stiffer so if you are looking for a light but fairly stiff ski that has a long turn shape and likes to go fast then that's your ticket. If you can stay on top of it then the Carbonio is a sweet ski and few will rival the performance vs weight ratio, but if you are looking for a fun ski that's fairly forgiving in challenging terrain but still fun in easier conditions then the UL85 is probably my first choice. I wish I could comment on the TX90 though, I haven't spent enough time around them to really figure them out.
Answer from Mathew G
Awesome. Thanks for your response. The other ski was hoping to your opinion on was the blizzard 0G 85... unless there was another clear favorite. Most people here in the pacific northwest are trying to convince me to get something wider and beefier for ski alpinism out here. I'm just trying to stay weight conscience and optimize my uphilling- especially for mountaineering objectives. Thanks so much again for your thoughts.
Answer from Trace Leches
Hey Mathew, the Zero G 85 is an awesome ski as well, but for very different reasons than the UL85. It's closer to the Carbonio in terms of performance than it is to the UL85. To give you an idea of who likes it, it's one of the most common mountaineering skis among the powerful east coast skiers, former ski racers, and west coast skiers that know how to use their edges! Edge hold is unwavering and it's a bit more aggressive than the UL85, so you have to stay in the sweet spot of the ski, otherwise you'll really get taken for a ride. That being said, if you can stay in the middle of the ski, there are few skis that rival it in terms of performance.

Not sure what the wider/beefier mentality is that the PNW seems to be all about, especially for steep skiing purposes. Skinny skis really start to make a TON of sense with steep skiing, mountaineering, and similar skiing styles because they edge so well, especially because those lines are typically lower speed and more technical so the brute strength built into wider skis typically isn't necessary and the finesse built into the skinnier skis will be pretty nice. There are a few reasons why this exists, but the basic rule of thumb is that we never go wider than about 85mm for pure mountaineering skis, so I think you're on the right track.
Answer from Mathew G
Awesome thanks. I'm leaning towards the backland ul 85. Just wondering which size you'd recommend. I'm 5'8" and 160lbs. I like to ski fast and make long turns when the terrain allows but will be using the ski mainly for ski mountaineering. Again, I live in the PNW, so I'll need something good for ice and crust in addition to corn.
Answer from jbo
Hi Matthew, for mountaineering usage I'd go with the 169. The longer version would be fun for ripping around on smooth surfaces, but the nimbleness of the shorter length will be very welcome for that application. You won't have any fore/aft stability issues as the tail is solid and you'll get the full length out of it.
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Question from Trevor
Backland 85 (175 length) Weight:1220 per ski
Backland 78 (175 length) Weight:1130 per ski
Only a 90 gram difference per ski.
any comments on how the two compare on the way down, especially on hard snow? Does the 78 have any skiing advantages other than the weight?
Answer from Trace Leches
Hey Trevor, thanks for reaching out. The skis are so close to each other in so many ways (dimension, shape, weight, profile, core) that I think your intended usage and boot selection should probably make this choice for you. If you're in race boots, definitely get the 78. If you're in slightly heavier boots (think Dynafit TLT6/7, Atomic Backland Carbon, Scarpa F1, etc), you could pick either one and be happy. If it's going to be your only ski, the 85 makes more sense. If it's going to be strictly a mountaineering or spring ski, the 78 makes more sense because of the edging prowess and weight savings. One way or another though, you can't really lose because both skis are really awesome.
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Model: Backland UL 85

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