This is a preliminary review of the 186 Atomic Automatic. I’m using the Atomic Tracker mounted at the factory line and my boot is the Salomon XC 130. I’ve only used these for two days at Sunshine. The conditions have been variable, including: steeps in the dive, soft groomers, chop, powder, soft bumps, windswept crud, and wind-effected powder with break-thru crust. I’ve used some comparisons to the Bones and JJs to help illustrate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Automatics. My ski shop put the 130 brake on the Tracker, which I think was a mistake. The brakes hang out to the side and got caught on stuff (branches) and on each other. I think that affected my skiing a bit as I was more tentative when skiing tighter areas. I will change to the 115 brake ASAP.
I’m a five foot ten, 175 Pound 54 year old aggressive skier who skis 80 to 90 days per year. My current quiver includes the Bones, JJ, MX88, Scott Mission, Rossi WC GS, Atomic SL12, and Manaslu. My home area is the Canadian Rockies. I prefer to ski bumps, off-piste, trees, chutes and especially big open bowls.
Initial impressions: I felt confident on these skis from the first turn on, even though the first turns were on windswept bumps in limited visibility. Once I got down to the Tee Pee/School Marm, the visibility cleared and I could open the skis up and they continued to feel solid. The visibility during the first day on these continued to suck, so I never really had a chance to fully let the skis run. That changed on the second day.
Soft Groomers: I was pleasantly surprised at how well these skis performed on soft groomers (when I could see). They held nicely for short-ish GS turns and I felt that I could vary the turn radius. Some (but not a lot) speed is required to get these to carve. They seemed to carve best with a slightly forward stance to get the tips to engage and, for a fat ski, there was reasonable quickness edge to edge. I have to say that I did not spend much time groomers, so my observations are very preliminary. Compared to the JJs, the Automatics ski much better in this category, but the Bones give a more solid feel.
Powder: The powder was variable and somewhat wind effected – so it was not always smooth and even. In spite of this, these skis are excellent! I had a lot of fun playing with different turns. Want to do tight heli-skiing style turns – no problem. These skis also excelled at cranking out high-speed wide arcs. Skiing powder in trees was also excellent – great control, can easily sluff off speed, can alternate between carving and slarving. Flotation was never an issue. Compared to the JJs, the Automatics seemed to have a higher speed limit. The JJs are more turney, and perhaps more playful. Choosing between the two for a powder day would be hard and probably mood dependent. If I wanted to charge, it would be an Automatic day. If I wanted to play in tight places, the edge might go to the JJs, but only by a hair. The Automatics would be my choice over the Bones in powder, which is no surprise considering the width.
Steeps: Excellent (other than skier error). This was my first time in the Dive this year (this area typically opens in January) and the visibility was not good, so I was wary of rock bands. There was also hugely variable snow, including: crusted, break-thru snow; soft crud; thin areas; and deep powder, so I tended to ski (mostly) tentatively. In spite of that, the Automatics worked quite well and I had no issues at all. I had too little time in the steeps, considering the conditions, to say much more about the skis.
Soft Bumps: It is a little early in the season for bumps – they are there, but not really that big. My initial impression is that the Automatics did well in what was there. The rocker helps in the bumps. Not much to say here yet.
Soft Chop: These skis did quite well in the soft chop. Not much deflection, solid feeling with good control and little speed limit. My ranking for performance in soft chop would be Bones first, very closely followed by the Automatics, then followed by the JJs.
Windswept hard crud: What can one say about this type of snow, it is never as fun as anything soft and has challenges for any ski. I never felt that the Automatics were not up to the crud, although I felt that they were bounced about a bit more than the Bones would have been. The JJs are weakest in these conditions, relative to the Bones and Autos.
Playfulness: I bought these skis hoping to have a playful, yet hard charging ski. The Automatics absolutely met that goal. I had much fun in big open areas and could ski a variety of styles, ranging from big high speed turns to shorter radius turns. The skis transitioned nicely from more of a carve to slarve and back again as I wanted. I sought out tight areas, and felt excellent control. Nonetheless, I would give playfulness top marks to the JJs, followed closely by the Automatics. Having said that, I only have two-days on the Automatics and two-years on the JJs and I think that once I learn to ski these better, the playful factor will improve. The Bones, while fun, are not as playful.
Charging: On soft groomers, steeps, soft crud and powder, the Automatics felt great. They are an excellent ski for pushing the speed limit and providing a stable platform. I’d give the edge to the Bones for hard charging in every condition except powder, where the Automatics win.
All around ski/daily driver: At this point, I’ll probably keep the Bones as my daily driver. They work better in a wider variety of conditions. Again, this is still a preliminary conclusion as I only have two days on the Automatics and have not skied them as much as the Bones. On dump days, the Automatics will be the ski of the day, and it would also make a good ski even during dry spells if I didn’t also have the Bones. I don’t think that the Automatics will do as well as the Bones in crusty – no-snow-for-two-weeks conditions. I’m starting to consider selling the JJs.