ATK ski bindings are known worldwide for their beautiful metal work, not to mention distinctly Italian approach to colorization through various shades of aluminum anodize. They’re a favorite stop for me at ISPO.
(Note: ATK Race fans out there please correct me if I’m wrong about the “what’s new” below. Due to the language barrier and my intermittent attention to ATK, I lose track of their product offerings.)
ATK’s not having a booth at the OR show is reason enough to visit them at ISPO, but fun and ever-interesting conversation with owner Giovanni Indulti and his son Davide is a bonus. Indeed, I’ve been invited to a lot of factory visits and press trips, but never with the carrot of driving a loaner Ferrari to and from the hotel. Seriously, I need to go there and do a classic “WildSnow factory visit,” as apparently they’ve got a truly green production facility that’s second to none, what with a huge PV array on-site providing their electricity, and a methane powered 3 cylinder Toyota engine behind their HVAC. Sounds like the factory compensates for the Ferrari fuel economy? Visit is on the calendar.
On to the ski touring bindings. A couple of new ATK pushes for 2017-2018:
Firstly, ATK will continue to look for better distribution in all corners of the world but particularly in North America. Industry folks reading this, if you know of anyone with a skiing related and established importation/distribution business, it’s time to contact those guys about a “real” distribution gig for ATK.
ATK’s other initiative is to bring their somewhat astronomical prices down a bit, with a couple of offerings in their “Race” and “Speed Touring” categories (“Speed” gear groupo is just above full-on racing in terms of weight). To that end, look at their new Trofeo race binding that’ll go for 279.00 euro here in the old country. This is a fully functional “price point” race binding that only weighs 145 grams! The weight magic happens because everything is compact and simplified. Release values are fixed, as a customer you’ll pick between 4,6,8,10 when you buy the binding. After that you’ll need to purchase additional heel units if you want to change the release tension. The toe is simplified as well, with springs on only one side of the toe wings.
Trofeo is repurposed as the SLR Logic, sold with rear boot-length adjustment plate, leash and crampon mount. Coming in at 180 grams at 379.00 euros. This is a sweet spot worth looking at if you want a “race” type touring binding.
If Trofeo is too heavy and you don’t like the fixed release (we most definitely do not), ATK’s other new binding is the SLR Release. Using the same toe machinery as Trofeo, SLR adds adjustable side release at heel and swaps U-springs for vertical release tuning. The binding is sold with Kevlar leash and crampon mounts included. The 135 gram weight is impressive, but know this binding is sold without rear boot-length adjustment plate. You could add the optional accessory adjustment plate, at 20 grams. Thus you’d end up at 155 grams.
Other than their race products, ATK’s best known binding is probably the RT. This is the ski touring grabber with adjustable toe lock strength for the uphill. That’s a feature we like, but most people find to be mysterious. ATK calls this their “U.H.V. Up-hill Hardness Variator” in their English catalog translation. After you quit chuckling, yeah, you can tighten a screw that changes how hard the toe wings grab your boot – ONLY IN UPHILL MODE AFTER LOCKING THE BINDING.
While they understand the need for heel lifters, my noob ski touring friends Bill and Virginia asked why would they need the ATK Up-Hill Hardness Variator? I’m actually not sure, since none of the literally hundreds of other tech bindings on the market have this feature. But it could be considered a safety adjustment, as you can tune how easily your boot releases from the binding while locked in touring mode — something useful in the event of an avalanche taking you while you’re on the uphill portion of a tour.
New for 2017-2018, RT gets a facelift to a 2.0 version. New features are flip lifters at the heel, full range of brakes (75,86,91,97), included boot length adjustment plates, “Hardness Variator” operated with 5 sided device instead of threaded fastener. All for 290 grams.
Oh, and lest I forget sweet Virginia while basking in my male delusions of grandeur, the new RT 2.0 Lightweight is an RT 2.0 with lower release value settings, 4 through 8. Anodized in a nice blue as well that wouldn’t bother me on my own feet, though I’d prefer the men’s model in black with gold accents. Better matches my race suit.
An industry trend in bindings continues to be ease of use. With mixed results regarding tech bindings, as we all know. ATK’s nod to this is a rework of the trigger zone in most binding toes, so it responds more firmly to the step-in. They call this their “Easy Entry System.” With some boots it’ll probably be terrific. Yet, in my opinion the annoyance of worn out boot soles not triggering closure of tech bindings doesn’t show any sign of ceasing, not with ATK or anyone else. (As always, someone needs to step up to the plate with Tech 2.0, but don’t hold your breath.)
In a world where it seems every company’s goal seems to be to “go vertical” with everything from boots to socks, I like how ATK has kept their focus on bindings. The only significant deviations are their workstation ski vise system (that functions sweetly specific to tech bindings), some ski poles, and one model of carbon shovel designed for racing (appears too weak for touring, but might be worth a torture test).
More, as far as I can tell no other company making tech bindings has ATK’s range of add-ons and accessories. Examples: The only “universal” ski brake you can add to virtually any ski binding; numerous adjustment and swap plates; stomp blocks; titanium screws that’ll up your weight weenie rating by 16 points.
What with an outfit such as ATK as a competitor in the tech binding world, I’m optimistic that what’s been a tiresome drone of durability and design problems is quieting down to a dull murmur. In other words, we’re seeing mature states of design cropping up everywhere. Including ATK.
Translation note to Giovanni and Davide: I hope you don’t mind me joking about the “U.H.V. Up-hill Hardness Variator,” which in English does elicit a chuckle. If you’d like a possibly better English term, perhaps “Touring Lock Tension Adjustment,” or “Uphill Lock Tension Adjustment.”
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.