2020 Atomic Vantage 90 Ti Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Skiers have a lot of options these days. It often feels more challenging to decide what your next ski will be than your next car. Luckily, however, manufacturers are doing a great job differentiating their skis from competitors. Gone are the days when everything was sandwich construction with a vertical sidewall (although there are still plenty of those skis). New materials and new construction techniques have resulted in a much bigger range of ski performance, allowing skiers to dial in which performance is right for them. This week's review is a perfect example. The Vantage 90 Ti from Atomic falls distinctly into the ~90 mm all-mountain category, and it has plenty of company there, but it sets itself apart thanks to its unique construction and lightweight feel.
For 2020, Atomic has tweaked their new Prolite construction resulting in slightly different performance out of the Vantage 90 Ti compared to 2019. Before we jump into performance, however, let's summarize that construction. Prolite construction starts from the group up to ensure lightness and zero waste. Atomic has essentially carved out central channels in the fore and aft body of the ski, leaving it extremely thin in those spots. You basically just get base material, the top sheet, and their Titanium Tank Mesh material, which runs the full length of the ski. Underfoot and along the edges, however, Atomic builds in a thicker beech and poplar wood core, which they refer to as Energy Backbone. The resulting ski is extremely light for this category, coming in at just 1750 g at the 176 cm length. For comparison, a 180 cm Blizzard Brahma 88 comes to around 2000 g. Being lightweight, however, does not mean it's a soft-flexing ski, which we'll talk more about in performance.
The profile and shape of the Vantage 90 Ti isn't quite as innovative as its construction, but that's not a bad thing. You get 85% camber and 15% rocker in the tip, with no tail rocker whatsoever. There's not much early taper in the tip or tail, although the sidecut doesn't extend all the way through to the ends of the ski like we've seen from some other designs. The 176 cm length has an 18.4 m turn radius. The shape is, well, pretty straight-forward. The ski's performance and how it differentiates itself relies much more on that unique construction rather than any kind of game-changing shape concepts.
The first thing you'll notice when you click into a pair of Vantage 90 Ti and start pushing or skating over to the lift is how light they are. It's one of those skis where you want to pick up a foot and pivot the ski around in the air as you're waiting in the lift line. You'll be so impressed with the low swing weight that people will be giving you funny looks as you go from one foot to another contemplating how they made it feel this light. If you happened to hand-flex the ski before clicking in, which a lot of us do whether it's at a demo, in a shop, or the first time we take a ski out of the box, you'll also notice it's pretty darn stiff.
Alright, alright, so how does it feel when you're actually skiing? Simply put, really good. Let's talk about that stiffness a little. When a ski is this light and very stiff, it's going to be exceptionally responsive. The 2019 Vantage 90 Ti was even stiffer than this 2020 version, most notably in the tail, which gave it somewhat of a twitchy feel. At times, it felt too responsive. If you made a mistake, it reacted so quickly that it felt like it accentuated that mistake. This new 2020 ski is still extremely responsive, but it's more forgiving than the 2019 version. Now, that responsiveness is 100% a performance benefit. This thing feels amazing when linking carving turns. Not only is it responsive and energetic, it also holds an edge really well. It doesn't, however, have the ultra-damp, tank-like feel that the heavier, 2-sheets-of-metal skis do, and we're happy about that. Going back to the start of this article, it's pointless to have a bunch of different skis that all feel the same. Skiers who value precision, edge grip, and responsiveness on groomers, but don't necessarily want or need a heavy, super-damp ski will love the Vantage 90 Ti. It's right up there with the best of the best in terms of its ability to hold an edge on firm snow, but because it's lighter, it's a little easier to ski and much less tiring over a long day.
The 2019 ski sometimes felt really locked into a carving turn, often to a fault. It can be unnerving when you're skiing fast and feel like you're stuck on edge. By softening up the tail of the ski, it's much easier to release your tail edge. It's also easier to play around with turn shape when holding that carve. How you weight the ski will change turn shape more easily than it did on the 2019 ski. Also, if you get into the backseat by accident, it's not going to punish you. That's the situation where we felt the previous version accentuated your mistake rather than helped compensate for it. The 2020 Vantage 90 Ti, instead of feeling like it's fighting you, just feels supportive. It's stiff enough that there's some stability back there and you can get your weight back to a forward and balanced position without washing out, but it's not so stiff that it huts your legs.
What about when you take it off the groomers? The biggest highlight in un-groomed terrain is its quickness. It's quick edge to edge and it's also quick when making sweeping, pivoting turns because of that low swing weight. Watch the video review that goes along with this article to see Bob picking his way down a steep, tight tree line by making a series of super-quick pivoting turns. The new flex pattern makes this easier than before as you can keep the ski on the snow and still get that tail edge to come around. On the previous version, there was a lot of un-weighting of your tail edge to get the ski to come around, but that feeling is pretty much gone entirely. No, it doesn't smear like a ski with tail rocker, but it does it pretty darn well for a cambered tail. Technical terrain is another application where the ski's responsiveness really shines. It gives the ski a rhythmic, balanced feel when maneuvering through trees and moguls. It lets you slide your turns, but not too much; the ski wants to snap you into the next turn sooner than later.
So, who's it best for? You want a performance carving ski in the 90 mm waist width, but you don't want a heavy ski. That's the simplest way to describe the ideal skier for the Vantage 90 Ti. Maybe you've had one of those heavier skis in the past and you just find it beats you up a little bit, especially on those after-lunch runs. You don't want to lose performance on firm snow, but you'd rather not be totally exhausted on the drive home from a full day of skiing. On the other hand, maybe you've skied one of those heavier skis and you felt like it was too boring. Those skis require a lot of speed to come alive, but the Vantage 90 Ti feels responsive and energetic even at slow speeds. It's arguably a more engaging experience, especially if you're skiing at moderate speeds. Maybe you're moving up from an intermediate-level ski, but those heavy expert skis seem like too much. The Vantage 90 Ti could fill that roll nicely too. All things considered, a lot of people will enjoy the Vantage 90 Ti. If you're in the market for a performance all-mountain ski in this width range, don't rule it out. Because it's different, take a closer look.