Ski: 2019-2020 Atomic Bent Chetler, 184 cm
Available Lengths: 176, 184, 190 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 182.6 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1710 & 1744 grams
Stated Dimensions: 143-120-134 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 142.4-119.5-132.7 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius: 19 meters
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 61mm / 58 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~4 mm
Core: Karuba + Carbon Fiber Stringers + Fiberglass Laminate
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -2.9 cm from center; 88.4 cm from tail
Blister’s Recommended Mount Point: On the line
Boots / Bindings
Test Locations: Niseko, Japan; Front Range, CO; Teton Backcountry, WY; Sun Valley, ID
Days Skied (Total): ~45
[Editor’s Note: The brand-new Atomic Bent Chetler 120 is one of the most impressive new skis we got on last year, and is one of the only brand-new products for 18/19 that earned a “Best Of” award in our 18/19 Winter Buyer’s Guide. Since last season, we’ve continued to put more time on it and have included an update below on its durability and versatility. Also, our review was conducted on the 18/19 Bent Chetler 120, which remains unchanged for 19/20, apart from graphics.]
Chris Benchetler’s pro model has been a staple in Atomic’s ski line for years, and while it’s gone through many subtle changes in shape, rocker profile, and construction, the Bent Chetler has always been clearly designed as a playful ski for deep powder. For the 2018-2019 season, Atomic again tweaked the Bent Chetler, and as you’ll see further down, there are some interesting changes. It’s also worth noting that Atomic introduced a Bent Chetler 100 — a narrower, slightly more directional version of the 120, and you can check out the full review of that ski here.
Shape and Rocker Profile
If you’re familiar with the previous iterations of the Bent Chetler, there won’t be much surprise here. The rocker profile of the new Bent Chetler 120 looks very similar to the last version we tested (albeit with slightly less tip / tail splay).
In Front of Toe Piece: 9-9.5
Behind Heel Piece: 8-7
The Bent Chetler 120’s flex pattern seems to match it’s playful rocker profile. The tips are fairly soft, and rather surprisingly, the tails are even softer. Or perhaps that isn’t surprising, given how frequently Chris Benchetler and Nick McNutt land switch in deep pow. We’re eager to see how those softer tails deal with landings / getting knocked backseat.
Blister reviewer Sam Shaheen is heading to Japan this Tuesday, where the conditions have been pretty epic — even by Japan’s standards. He’s going to be taking two skis with him: the new Bent Chetler 120 and the 17/18 / 18/19 Blizzard Spur (yes this is incredibly cool, and yes, we all hate him right now). When comparing the two skis, we were very surprised by how similar their flex patterns feel. The most noticeable difference is in the tails, where the Spur is stiffer. In the past, it would have seemed pretty crazy to talk about comparisons between the Blizzard Spur and the Atomic Bent Chetler, but that seems less crazy now. So, we’re looking forward to comparing these in their ideal testing grounds, as well as many other playful pow skis.
At 2.9 cm from center, the Bent Chetler 120’s mount point is definitely on the playful side, and is in line with previous generations of the ski. This is one of the major differences between the Bent Chetler 120 and Blizzard Spur, who’s mount point is 7.8 cm from center.
This is the most noticeable change between the new Bent Chetler 120 and the previous versions of the ski. At around ~1730 grams for the 184 cm, the Bent Chetler 120 is very light, especially considering it’s ~120 mm wide. This is even more interesting since the older versions of the ski were not very light — our pair of 192 cm 2014-2015 Bent Chetler’s weighed in at around 2500 grams, which made it one of the heaviest skis we’ve ever reviewed. The current 17/18 version of the ski has a stated weight of 2100 grams for the 185 cm, which is still nearly 400 grams heavier than our pair of 18/19 Bent Chetler 120’s. So, the new Bent Chetler 120 continues the trend of the ski getting lighter, but this time it’s a much bigger leap.
Atomic attributes the weight savings to a new lightweight Karuba core, and a redesigned version of the brand’s “HRZN Tech” inserts, which are beveled near the tips and tails in order to create more surface area and better float in deep snow. Previous skis like the old Bent Chetler and Backland FR 109 used a solid plastic tip spacer that spanned the whole width of the ski, but the new version of this technology is much smaller and molded directly into the ski. With the forward mount point, overall low weight of the ski, and the lighter HRZN Tech tips / tails, we expect the new Bent Chetler 120 to feel very light in the air.
For reference, here are a few of our measured weights (per ski in grams) for a few other notable skis in this category.
1710 & 1744 Atomic Bent Chetler 120, 184 cm
1970 & 1979 Atomic Backland FR 109, 189 cm
2083 & 2097 Line Magnum Opus, 188 cm
2103 & 2100 Moment Bibby / Blister Pro, 184 cm
2183 & 2190 Black Crows Anima, 188.4 cm
2212 & 2215 Armada ARV 116 JJ, 185 cm
2228 & 2231 Blizzard Spur, 192 cm
2297 & 2317 K2 Catamaran, 184 cm
2408 & 2421 ON3P Kartel 116, 186 cm
So, the Bent Chetler 120 is very light, especially compared to other skis in the same category. It’s even significantly lighter than the narrower Atomic Backland FR 109, which is actually marketed as a touring ski, while the Bent Chetler had never been specifically aimed toward touring. We’ve mounted the Bent Chetler 120 with the new Atomic / Salomon Shift MNC binding, and will be commenting on how it performs in and outside the resort.
And by the way, given that we’ll be comparing the Bent Chetler 120 to the Blizzard Spur, it’s worth noting that while the Spur is much heavier on the scale, that ski felt incredibly light to us on snow, so we’ll definitely be reporting back on how similar or different these two skis feel.
Bottom Line (For Now)
The new Atomic Bent Chetler 120 looks like it will still be a playful and surfy pow ski, and we’re very interested to see how it’s low weight affects its on-snow performance. Again, Sam leaves Tuesday for Japan, so we’ll be getting the ski on snow very soon. Stay tuned…
Flash Review: Atomic Bent Chetler 120
Blister members can now read our initial on-snow impressions in our Flash Review of the Bent Chetler 120.
(Learn more about Blister Member benefits, and Become a Blister member)
Cy Whitling: After Sam spent time on the new Bent Chetler 120 in Japan (which you can read about in his flash review) and Colorado he sent the ski to me in the Tetons, where I was able to get it in a wide variety of conditions, and I came away very impressed. The original Bent Chetler was part of the playful powder ski revolution, but by this season, it had become just another jibby, playful pow ski in a market full of similar options. But the changes to the new 18/19 Bent Chetler 120 put it in a slowly-emerging category of playful powder skis that are comfortable both in and out of bounds.
Cy Whitling (6’1”, 180 lbs): The Bent Chetler 120 is (obviously) a powder ski, and while I started skiing it after the deepest days of the season were behind me, I still had the opportunity to get it out in some fresh stuff. And in fresh snow, this ski is a blast. It planes easily, is maneuverable at low speeds, and does so while being surprisingly stable at higher speeds. Sam noted that he experienced a bit of tip dive when he tried to ski it with too much of a forward stance, and I’d agree with him there. This isn’t the sort of ski that stays on top of the snow no matter what you’re doing. It planes well, and easily, but at my size and at the ski’s recommended, forward mount (-2.9 cm), I was able to bury the tips if I got too far forward on the ski. So if you’re a directional skier who doesn’t really spin and likes to drive the shovels of your skis, I’d recommend moving the mount back at least a cm or two from recommended — or checking out some more directional options in this class. But otherwise, I’d recommend mounting the Bent Chetler 120 on the line and appreciating this nearly-center-mounted pow ski for what it is: a pow ski designed for spinning, buttering, and all-around playful skiing in soft snow.
At slower speeds and / or in tight terrain, I was really impressed by how easy and maneuverable the Bent Chetler 120 was. I felt like I was never having to muscle the ski around, but rather, it always responded immediately to even slight input (which was especially nice on a few ridiculously overgrown exits).
Usually, skis that are as intuitive and easy as the Bent Chetler 120 at lower speeds have a tendency to get squirrely when things open up. But so far, I’ve been surprised by how well this ski bucks that trend. I haven’t done any crazy straight lines on it, but when I did open things up, I didn’t feel like I was on a 1750 gram ski. The Bent Chetler 120 is confident at speed so long as the snow is consistent, and you stay pretty centered.
Sam Shaheen (5’10”, 140 lbs): I completely agree with Cy here. The Bent Chetler 120 really feels at home in powder. It prefers a neutral stance, but I think it still has a pretty large sweet spot. That said, in deeper snow, the 184 cm version doesn’t have all that much tip due to that more centered mount, so it was certainly possible to get the tips to dive if I drove the ski hard through the front of my boots.
But that’s not what this ski is about. I have the most fun skiing the Bent Chetler 120 from a neutral stance, breaking the tails free to slash and slarve around while looking for things to jump off. The Bent Chetler 120 is definitely not the strongest or most damp jibby pow ski out there, but it sure is fun (and way lighter than those more stable skis).
Cy: I actually started my time on the Bent Chetler 120 on a spring day at Sun Valley, ID, skiing baked corn and soft groomers. I originally intended to just take a lap or two on it and then swap to a more appropriate ski, but I was shocked by how much fun I had on the Bent Chetler 120 in these conditions, and ended up skiing the full day on it. In soft snow, the Bent Chetler 120 is a ton of fun. It’s easy to slash and slarve, it’s fun to pop off the tiniest lips, and it chatters surprisingly little at speed. It doesn’t have quite the chunder-absorbing suspension of a heavier ski (like the previous version of the Bent Chetler), but the Bent Chetler 120 punches above its weight when it comes to stability.
Sam: As long as the snow is a bit soft, whether that’s a few days after a storm or on a sunny corn / slush day, the Bent Chetler 120 still feels comfortable. It tracks surprisingly well and is super responsive, which makes for a really fun combo. It’s incredibly easy to ski while still being able to be pushed pretty hard — qualities that are shared by a lot of my favorite skis (e.g., the Rossignol Soul 7 HD and Blizzard Rustler 11).
Cy: Firm, inconsistent snow is the Bent Chetler 120’s weak point. It’s a powder ski, and it’s a very light powder ski, so it’s no surprise that it’s a handful when trying to ski fast through firm, inconsistent snow. I felt like my ankles and calves were getting a heck of a workout when I tried to go fast and make big turns on firm snow on the Bent Chetler 120. But at slower speeds, the ski felt totally manageable, and actually pretty fun. It’s not the kind of ski you’d want to use for hucking into a sketchy landing, but it is the kind of ski that makes popping off every ice chunk worthwhile / fun.
Sam: Yep, I think Cy is spot on here. This ski only weighs ~1750 g — it isn’t a firm- or variable-conditions tool. That said, I was extremely surprised by how hard I could push the Bent Chetler 120 on firm, consistent groomers. If for some reason you want to drive the ski hard through the shovels on firm, smooth, groomers, the Bent Chetler 120 feels quite precise with good edge hold — though it’s certainly not the most damp or stable ski out there.
Cy: If someone other than Atomic had released the Bent Chetler 120 this year, I would have called it serendipitous. However, it seems as though the launch of the new ski coinciding with the launch of the new Shift MNC binding was no accident — this is a match made in heaven.
I skied the Bent Chetler 120 with the Shift binding, and I’d be hard pressed to find a binding I’d rather have on it. This is a fun ski inbounds, but its light weight doesn’t really pay off there. It’s capable inbounds, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for a light, resort-only powder ski. But that does miss out on a lot of this ski’s potential.
Where this ski really shines is on tours where you’re (a) looking for trouble (e.g., cliffs and booters) and / or (b) deep snow. The Bent Chetler 120 is a joy on the skin track thanks to its low weight, and paired with the Shift binding, it’s a great recipe for taking tricks you learned in the resort to the backcountry. The Bent Chetler 120 is light and easy to spin, and as long as the landing is reasonably fresh / soft, it feels stable and confident in mandatory-stomp situations.
The Bent Chetler 120’s surface area-to-weight ratio is outstanding, which makes it a really good option for touring on deep pow days. It’s also really easy to ski, especially in tight spaces, which is something I really appreciate in a touring ski. For me, the crux of a day often comes after we’ve skied the line and we’re headed back to the trailhead cold, hungry, and tired. I really appreciate it when touring skis are easy to keep headed in the right direction as I mow down aspens and try to avoid deadfall. The Bent Chetler 120 excels at this.
Sam: I 100% agree, the Shift binding + Bent Chetler 120 combo is incredible. The day I sent this ski and Shift binding to Cy was a very sad day for me.
Personally, I think this combo is a perfect 50/50 setup for mid-winter pow. For some resort pow days, I would probably want a bit more mass for the afternoon once all that pow got chopped up, but I definitely don’t want more mass on the way up for my touring days.
Cy Whitling: Since we published our review of the Bent Chetler 120, I’ve continued to ski it with Atomic’s Shift MNC binding as my primary touring setup. I really wasn’t planning on doing so initially, but after a few early season tours on this combo I was hooked and have been hard pressed to take anything else out with me. So, after spending more time on the ski in the full spectrum of conditions, here’s an update on the Bent Chetler 120’s durability, versatility, and what type of skiers I think will like it most.
Best Use & Binding Choices
This is a ~1720 gram ski, and I’d argue that anyone (short of Atomic athletes) who’s setting it up as a purely inbounds, alpine-only ski is not using the ski to its fullest potential. Sure, it does well in firm conditions, but only for its weight. It’s not a crud-busting charger, and it’s not meant to be. But it is a very light ski that’s a dream on long skin tracks and long descents with reasonably good snow.
I hate the word “synergy,” but the Bent Chetler 120 and the Shift binding could be a write-in for its dictionary definition. They work together perfectly. The Bent Chetler 120 is confidence inspiring during the big airs and high speeds that necessitate the consistent release and elasticity of an alpine binding, but it’s also light enough to take on long skin tracks where pin bindings make the most sense on the uphill. This setup is, in my opinion, the coolest thing the ski industry has come up with in the last four years.
So if you’re considering touring with the Bent Chetler 120, I highly recommend it. And if you’re considering just slapping an alpine binding on it for inbounds days, I’d urge you to take a second glance at other options. For most skiers, a slightly heavier ski like the Moment Wildcat / Blister Pro, ON3P Kartel 116, or even the old version of the Bent Chetler will offer more inbounds versatility and a more damp ride in poor conditions.
Here in the Tetons I’m used to skiing something in the 102-108 mm range as my backcountry daily driver. I love having a big ski for those deep days, but I’ve found that I tour less on super-deep days due to avalanche hazards anyway, so the increased versatility of a narrower ski suits me well. In addition, a lot of our tours have gnarly exits: creek beds full of downed trees, alders, and terrible snow. And in those conditions, I prefer the slow-speed maneuverability of a smaller ski. So knowing all of this, I didn’t expect to be grabbing the Bent Chetler 120 every time I headed out the door.
But this year I’ve toured on it almost exclusively — from big days in Grand Teton National Park to small jaunts in the side country. And I don’t regret a moment of those experiences. This ski is so maneuverable and predictable in bad snow and tight terrain. It’s incredibly easy to billy-goat your way out of almost any situation, and when the conditions are good, it’s awesome to have a ski that floats as well as the Bent Chetler 120.
I’ve recently been putting in some bigger couloir days on this ski in variable conditions, and I keep coming home impressed with its performance while making small, powerful, high-consequence turns, in bad snow. I much prefer the Bent Chetler 120 over the skis I’ve used for this in the past, including the ON3P Steeple 102, Atomic Backland FR 109, and Sego Big Horn 106. So, if you’re considering the Bent Chetler 120 but usually tour on something slightly narrower (e.g., 105-110 mm), I’d recommend keeping the Bent Chetler 120 on your radar.
If you, like me, tour because you want to ski good snow but you might ski some bad snow to get to it, this ski does the job very well. Based on my previous preferences for touring, I should be on its little sibling, the Bent Chetler 100, but even after spending a fair amount of time on that ski, I don’t think it will make it into my truck as often as the 120. This ski is much more versatile than its weight and width suggest.
Since this ski is so light, I was worried that I was going to tear it apart quickly. My touring skis get beat up — we have plenty of rocks and trees here, and I don’t always do the best job of not skiing over them. However, so far I’ve been really impressed with the Bent Chetler 120’s durability.
I’ve had at least five days where I’ve come home convinced I must have core-shotted the ski, and have yet to find anything other than surface scratches. A couple days ago we put in a slog fest in GTNP and ended up skiing almost a thousand feet of fully faceted snow over a boulder field on the way out. I scraped over more rocks than I can count, and have no real damage to show for it — the BC 120’s bases and edges are still in great shape.
I did manage to delaminate one of the Bent Chetler 120’s tips in a small segment about 1.5 cm wide, by 0.5 cm deep. I epoxied and clamped this and have had no issues since. This was the result of skiing directly into a downed tree, going pretty fast. I think the impact that caused that small delamination would have damaged pretty much any ski.
All in all, the Bent Chetler 120 has held up well over 30+ backcountry days, in the hands of a skier who is not kind to his gear.
Who’s It For?
Cy: The Bent Chetler 120 is fine as an inbounds-only powder ski for lighter skiers or those accustomed to skiing pow on more center-mounted skis. And it’s capable enough in mixed conditions that I wouldn’t fault anyone for mounting a pair of alpine bindings on it (just keep in mind its low weight), but I do feel that anyone who does that is seriously missing out. There are plenty of pow skis that are about as fun as the Bent Chetler 120 inbounds (and many that will do better in heavy chop / and firm conditions). But there are very few pow skis that are this great on the skin track.
The Bent Chetler 120 is a seriously light ski for its width, and it stands out even more when you consider how many skis with this playful of a shape and rocker profile weigh this little. So it’s the perfect tool for anyone looking to take their inbounds jibbing outside the resort. If you’re looking for a playful powder touring ski, the Bent Chetler 120 is worth a serious look, and if you’re looking for a playful 50/50 ski, we think it’s the ski to beat in this category.
Chris Benchetler’s skis have long been the go-to choice for skiers who want to ski like the Nimbus crew (e.g., lots of butters, slashes, spins, etc.). But most of that sort of skiing happened inbounds. Over the last few years, that generation has been growing up and discovering the backcountry, moving to lighter and more uphill-capable gear. The new Atomic Bent Chetler 120 perfectly reflects that movement.
Not all of us have sleds or helicopters to drop us at the top of our lines, but many people still want to huck, spin, and butter in untracked ski-porn pow. The Bent Chetler 120 is, for now at least, the best tool available for that task, and it comes in at a weight that makes skinning for that fresh snow a realistic endeavor.
Very well done, Atomic.
Deep Dive Comparisons
Become a Blister Member or Deep Dive subscriber to check out our Deep Dive of the Bent Chetler 120 to see how it stacks up against the Moment Wildcat & Wildcat Tour, Armada ARV 116 JJ, ON3P Kartel 116, previous Atomic Bent Chetler, Bent Chetler 100, Folsom Trophy Carbon, Faction Candide 4.0, and more…