As is often the case in the skimo world, we get excited about the little things. So when we heard that the redesigned Atomic Backland UL 85 was 10% lighter and made in hard-to-find lengths, we got pretty excited. Integrating several of their proprietary technologies, the witches and warlocks at Atomic were able to shave grams from an already light model. This while maintaining the intuitive, stable feel that the Backland series is known for. In its second generation, this version of the Backland UL 85 has the Atomic HRZN spoon-shaped tip that was first introduced on the Bent Chetler and has now spread to the farthest corners of the Atomic freeride line. This improves steering and float simultaneously. The tips of course still have a race-notch to streamline skin attachment, which is a huge plus for efficient transitions. Carbon fiber sheets sit above and below the Ultra Light Woodcore, making a sandwich that offers a snappy ride without compromising on stability. We used the word 'workhorse' to describe the previous model of this ski, and it still applies. Now, the Backland UL 85 is just a slightly leaner workhorse that skis even better.
- Atomic's Cap Sidewall transfers power to the edge, while keeping things light for long approaches and big days.
- The Carbon Powered laminates and Ultra Light Woodcore combine for a powerful downhill ride, especially for a ski this light.
- True to typical Backland UL form, this updated 85 is stable and predictable, providing a reliable ride across the board.
- The 15% rocker, 117mm-wide tip [172cm] provide a stable, steady ride even in heavy, choppy, or just plain bad snow.
- The Tech Tips make for seamless skin attachment, perfect for tight transitions and windy peaks.
- HRZN spoon-shaped tip slices right through snow and won’t hook up on crust.
Update 2019/20: Atomic has updated the topsheet for a sleek look.
Update 2022/23: Updated top sheet for your viewing pleasure, same construction for your skiing pleasure.
|Lengths (cm)||158, 165, 172, 179|
|Weight (pair)||1850g 
||Tip notch, flat notched tail|
||15% rocker, 85% camber|
||Directional Shape with HRZN Tech Tips|
||Ultra Light Woodcore|
|Skimo Co Says|
|Usage||Backcountry touring, ski mountaineering|
|Notes||Stable and reliable; comes in hard-to-find lengths|
|Bottom Line||A versatile, compliant, reference point for classic ski touring|
|Compare to other Low-fat Skis|
Questions & Reviews
I'm 5'5", male, inexperienced, and anticipate skiing pretty conservatively with a focus on longer travel with heavier packs. What length would make sense?
In the case of the 86 vs 85, the 86 has a bit wider tip and tail and a corresponding shorter turn radius. It also has the squared-off "Horizon 3D" tip (also found on the new 95) which I can't say makes any difference.
While I spend the vast majority of my time on the 65UL, I now break these out for big powder days in the backcountry, heinous mixed snow conditions, and recovery skiing. What I love about them is their poppy maneuverability, playfulness, and light weight all while remaining highly durable.
In fact, at only a handful of grams heavier than the 78UL, the amount of skiability afforded by this ski at such low weight cost means you can still manage huge days even if you're used to the weightlessness of a race setup. Recommended!
In our navy days we had a beers cheers that went something like, Tops to Bottoms in the Butts no Babies. I hear ya on the conundrum of hanging the skis too low you're scraping and too high you're catching. What would be the downfall on a shorter ski?
6'2 170-180 lbs, experienced, lower expert skier maybe (there are better skiers), 50 days a year. Currently on a do-it-all rig (Käste TX103 in a 181 w / Tectons) for lift served off piste and touring. Works to a point. Looking for something complementary for super long days, late spring/early summer, night tours on trails during winter, hut to hut. For kick turns, I top out at approx. 180 due to bad flexibility and short legs. I need something that climbs great and skis safely/ in style. How would the Backland 85 in a 172 sound fit my bill? Enough ski? Thanks in advance!
I am 6’5”, 175 lbs, intermediate, slow skier.
Since these are my shortest skis, and I am a bit taller than you, I find them super easy to kickturn (helped by their very low weight).
I would not want to go shorter. In variable, grabby spring snow, there just isn’t that much ski out in front if you hit a slow patch, that stops you in your tracks (and I keep them well waxed).
Similarly, if I get backseat, it is easy to start loosing grip in the tails. This is totally a technique issue on my part, but I feel the shorter size would have an even smaller ‘sweet spot’ for balance.
The Backland 85 ULs are a hair softer, and less damp than the Backland 95s. I'd say these are also similar stiffness and less damp/more energetic than the Carbon Aspects.
Drilling into brand new skis is always stressful and I don't want to assume anything. Thanks.
A few people here at the shop have mounted them +1 and think they are a really fun ski with that mount point!
6'3" 200lbs and often carrying a heavy pack. Wondering if the 179 would be the right length or if you'd have any other ski recommendations in the same category?
Appreciate the help!
A stiffer, more powerful ski would maybe be better. In Related products right above, the Blacklight Pro or Zero G 85 would be two.
Also, I saw the Voile Objective on your site, which are in between (82mm) and softer. Do you think they are a good option for me? Do the Voile have a discernible advantage in soft snow, or a discernible disadvantage in hard snow, in real life i.e. not just in theory? Do the ca. 100g additional weight of the Voile over the Atomic Backlands give me anything in return? Tough decisions. Thanks for your help.
Comparing the UL 85 to the Objective, both skies are a lot of fun in soft snow, with the Objective giving you a nice "pop back" between turns that translates to a more surfy feeling in loose snow. On hardpack, the Objective will be damper but the Backland will deliver better edge hold and power transmission thanks to the partial sidewall (particularly on steeper terrain). For your usage, I would lean towards the Backland but I think you would be very happy with either ski.
In short, these skis feel exactly like you'd think they would based on paper. Like other Atomic skis, they are good skis, but they don't have the special dampness of Ski Trab, Movement, or Aski (which is totally fine!!). Like other thin Backland skis, they are easy to ski, make a variety of turn shapes, have a huge sweet spot, etc. They are softer & less demanding than a Zero G or Trab ski but also probably not as uber-high-performing as those skis on the top end/when ripping. On my 78, I found that the HRZN tip was real tech and not just marketing material - it actually does help in soft snow (unfortunately I had no such snow during my demo).
Overall, such a fun ski. They are just so easy to ski while also being kg-weight. I think for any intermediate skier, or even expert skiers who don't want to always "be on," these are absolute dynamite. Can't go wrong.
The one thing I would prefer Atomic would be to increase the turn radii of their skis to a consistent 18m or so. 17 is a bit short for my preferences; I would absolutely get a 163 length in the 85 or 78, but at a 15-16m radius it's unskiable at high speeds.
I picked these skis up as a spring ski and have surprised myself with how often they come out throughout the entire winter. They handle everything from hardpack to powder with ease. I’m 145lbs and ski the 172’s, but have also skied the 179’s and would say the longer skis handle high speeds and deep snow a bit better. That said, having the shorter length is nice for kick-turns, tight spots and putting them on my pack.
Do you have any information how these skis compare to BD cirque 84?
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