We’re officially in a new year, not to mention a new decade, yet ironically this review will likely be rounding out our 2020 model year reviews. There may be some exceptions, but from here on we’ll be focusing mostly on new 2021 models as the month of January is home to industry tradeshows, on-snow demos, and the release of information regarding next year’s skis. That said, we thought it fitting to have one of our last 2020 reviews focus on one of the most popular skis over the past two seasons, the Bent Chetler 100 from Atomic.
This ski is the narrower in a two-ski collection developed and inspired by Chris Bentchetler. Chris has been leaving his mark on the ski industry for quite a long time now, the better part of this millennia. His freestyle background is now blended into backcountry adventures and lot of powder skiing. That freestyle background is obvious when looking at the Bent Chetler 100. At its core is lightweight wood, and that’s about it. It’s put together with classic sandwich construction and a vertical sidewall that tapers ever so slightly as it reaches the tip and tail of the ski. Its simplistic build is part of its appeal, and part of why so many skiers enjoy its performance. The Bent Chetler 100 shows you don’t need a ton of additives or space age materials to make a good ski. A wood core and a good design goes a long way. And another benefit? It’s only 1700 g in the 180 cm length.
The shape of the Bent Chetler 100 gets a little more complicated, but it’s still relatively straight-forward. Camber underfoot is paired with tip and tail rocker, 20% in the tip and 10% in the tail. It is, of course, also a twin tip, and you can actually differentiate between the actual tips and tail of the ski and the tip and tail rocker. Those tips and tails also use Atomic’s HRZN Tech. This design mimics the concept and resulting performance of water displacement by a boat hull. By giving the ski this hull-like shape in the tips and tails, Atomic is greatly increasing the ski’s flotation and playfulness in powder. There also aren’t any edges in the tip and tail portions of the ski and they are softer flexing than the rest of the ski.
What’s the resulting performance of all these design elements? It’s a tremendously playful ski. The Bent Chetler releases its tail edge quickly and easily. The relatively soft flex, but energetic feel, loves to play anywhere on the mountain. In the trees, its quickness is outstanding. Even when there’s no soft snow, the HRZN tips and tails release extremely easily and the ski has a very predictable, intuitive feel. While the flex is relatively soft, it’s consistent throughout the whole ski (with the exception of the actual tips and tails), and it’s more than enough to give the ski a relatively stable feel despite being so lightweight. In other words, it’s not a complete noodle. With its quickness and maneuverability, it’s one of the best mogul skis you’re ever going to find in this width range. It feels particularly nimble for a ski that’s 100 mm underfoot.
On groomers, the Bent Chetler 100 will carve a turn just fine, although that’s not its highlighting characteristic in our opinion. Carving enthusiasts and/or those that like to ski really fast might not find it has the vibration damping, stability, or power that they’re looking for. That’s perfectly okay in our opinion. There are plenty of skis out there to fill that role (think Enforcer 100, Bonafide, Ranger 99 Ti, Mindbender 99Ti, etc). The Bent Chetler is more of a modern freeride/freestyle-all-mountain ski than anything else. It prefers slashing and smearing as opposed to making clean, round turns. It will do both, yes, but if you’re the type of skier that likes to point your skis down the fall line, then make quick, abrupt movements to shed speed like a big slash in the middle of a tight line, you’ll love it.
It’s also impossible to talk about the Bent Chetler 100 without at least mentioning park skiing. There is a huge range of mount points on this ski. The traditional line is about 7 cm back from true center, and there are even marks going 4 cm back from traditional too. Yes, there is an 11 cm range in recommended mount point. That’s huge. When interviewing Chris Bentchetler about his two skis, he mentioned the 100 basically just fills the role of his park ski, and we know a lot of younger skiers are choosing it for the same application. Mount the bindings a little closer to center and all of a sudden you have a perfect all-mountain park ski. For those that spend the majority of their time in the park, you can even mount it true center and have what I would consider a modern, buttery, smeary park ski. Not a competition park ski by any means, but perfect for the new era of park skiing tricks.
Versatility may be the most impressive thing about the Bent Chetler 100. We don’t, however, just mean versatility in the sense that it can handle different terrain and snow conditions. It does that very well, but it’s also versatile in the sense that it can be a lot of different things for a lot of different skiers. There’s no single type of skier that’s going to enjoy the Bent Chetler 100, which is why it has become so popular. A 14-year old could center mount it, ski it in the park all day, and absolutely love it. A 44-year old could put a Shift binding on it and use it as a dedicated touring ski. A 74-year old could mount it a little further back and use it as a dedicated resort powder ski. I’m not trying to pigeonhole those ages to what they’re allowed to do on the mountain, rather pointing out that the Bent Chetler 100 appeals to a wide audience and can be customized to work for you depending on mount point, terrain, and binding selection.
Without a doubt, it’s a fantastic ski, and we are psyched to see it gain so much popularity. Skiers are often drawn to the newest, most innovative construction or skis that chase superlatives like “Most Powerful” or “Best Edge Grip.” Those titles are great, and the increased technology and innovation in ski construction is hands-down important, but it’s refreshing to have a ski as simple as the Bent Chetler 100 be so well-loved.