Nordic Ultratune received the first 17 pairs of the Atomic S9 Gen-S Redster skate skis. I did some examining of the skis, a few measurements, and got a pair prepped and on snow. Here are some measurements, bits of information, and also initial impressions from today’s first outing on the snow.
For starters some real quick objective measurements:
The first pair of skis that I unwrapped weigh 1022 grams, with a thin layer of travel wax on the skis (no bindings). This is about the same as the 2020/21 Atomic S9 Carbon Redster skate ski in the 186 length, and about an ounce lighter than the 192cm version. Nothing groundbreaking here, but they’re light.
Dimensions of the ski are 47.4mm at the shovel, 39.7mm at the waist, and 47.7mm at the widest part of the tail, which is pretty close to the advertised 47/40/47 dimensions. And they’re 183cm long; just a tad shorter than this season’s 186cm ski. Note that this skate ski comes in only one length, with a pretty broad spectrum of flexes available to handle a large range of skiers. As an aside, this first group of skis at Ultratune will handle skiers from about 130 lbs up to about 200 lbs. Atomic offers a wider range of flexes than that, but for our first 20 pairs, I wanted to stay within that central zone of sizes so I requested the range of flexes to accommodate that.
Construction and finish. The skis are NOT the typical cap construction that we have seen from Atomic for the past 25 years. These are a box section laminated ski with straight ABS sidewalls, and no lip at the base/sidewall junction. Finish of the skis is immaculate. I consider Atomic to have the nicest out-of-the-carton finish in the industry, and these are outstanding even compared to the usual product from Atomic. With red, maroon and grey top sheets (with black lettering), along with red-orange ABS sidewalls, they’re super clean and look great on snow.
Bindings. The new skis have a bonded-on plate to accommodate the new Atomic Prolink Shift-In binding. This is compatible with boots using Prolink/NNN/Turnamic soles (i.e. all the new boots but not Pilot-soled boots). The new skis are sold with the bindings included, which is a little different, but makes sense since there are no other options to fit this ski. Yes, they adjust fore/aft with a twist of the knob. I think this quick-adjust is more useful on classic skis than on skaters, but it is convenient and works nicely. (UPDATE 2/28/21 – In soft snow it’s super handy to be able to move the bindings back a half-turn!) These bindings, in my opinion, are the nicest binding available. I would pick these over NNN and Turnamic bindings any day of the week. I personally don’t think bindings are a deal maker or deal breaker, but if they are for you, then check these out for sure.
All the pairs at Ultratune arrived with a thin travel wax over nicely prepared bases that have the Atomic AM-7 race room grind. No need to re-grind these for our local conditions. Just scrape off the travel wax and put on the wax of the day. For me, being in a hurry, I used Vauhti Pure Pro Cold which is easy and quick to apply, and performs well.
Time to put these on snow! For me, the short on-snow test, to get initial impressions, was done on the Bitterbrush and Barnsley loops that are adjacent to my house and part of the Methow Trails network. They’re a perfect spot for testing skis, timed laps, or any other sort of messing about. They’re very familiar to me, as they are my “out-the-door” trails that I use more often than any other. Temps were 20F, and well-used but not unreasonable track condition (a local master-blaster hammer-fest group had done interval laps on this loop in the morning). A short spur from the trailhead to the main loop was immaculate untracked corduroy, to get things started, which was very nice. Thanks groomers!
The Biggest Impressions: Very quickly I noticed that when you ski with strong legs and full follow-through, you get more edge engagement, in the front part of the ski, at the end of the push-off. It’s really noticeable and not just some marketing pipe-dream. With strong 1:1 skating (aka V2 or “one skate”), these skis are at their best and reward the skier for their efforts. They are stable, and the sidecut brings the ski back in toward the skier a bit at the end of the push, instead of scrubbing outward at the end of the stroke. Similarly, 2:1 skating (aka V2-alt, “open field skate”, or 2-skate) with a long stride is very comfortable and the sidecut lets the skier do a rollover (outside edge to inside edge) with the ski helping out by driving back toward the centerline.
Climbing with a standard offset (or V1) technique, to me, felt the most conventional. Sure the skis felt a little more nimble, being a 183 instead of my typical 192cm (I’m 6’3″). They don’t feel short to me, but I will admit that I test quite a few 186 cm skis and feel comfortable on them. They climb well on steep “V1” hills.
Descending. Stable, and quick, and fantastic in turns and tight trails. If you are skiing narrow and twisty trails with turns, then these are for you. Here in the Methow Valley of Washington State, we have a lot of wide trails in wide-open terrain, where nimble skis seem unnecessary, but we also have a fair portion of narrower trails through the woods or on undulating, curvy terrain (Sun Mountain area, McCabe race trails, Barnsley/Bitterbrush/PowersPlunge, etc). This is the terrain where the easy handling and stability of these skis will shine.
So, in tight terrain the nimbleness works for you. In open, fast terrain, the terrific high-speed power-phase response will impress you.
Where is it not the best choice? My initial guess is that wet sloppy snow might not be best for this ski. Depending on the size of the skier, the Gen-S skater might perform well (or less well) in particularly soft snow or very, very, cold dry snow. I haven’t tested in those conditions, so I’m making an educated guess. Also if you are a small, light skier, who is used to skiing on a length of 177cm or less, then these skis might feel big for you. For tall skiers, I think the length is not an issue at all – they feel stable, but light and nimble compared to the 190+ lengths from any brand.
In summary, the new 2021/22 Atomic S9 Gen-S Redster skate ski is a stable, quick, and nimble ski that rewards skaters with good, full-leg-motion technique in fast terrain and V2 (1-skate) climbs. Likewise they are a blast on turns and tighter trails. The new Shift-In bindings are fantastic. Whether a recreational skier with aspirations, or a citizen racer with flawless technique, these are a fun and rewarding ski.
Availability and price. Skis are available now at Nordic Ultratune to fit skiers in the 130-200 lb range, with more flexes available later. The price for the skis with bindings, fully prepped, is $800/pr.