After four incredible years, my Fischer Atuas are nearing end of life. The camber is fading fast and when pressed together, the tips resemble a rocker-rocker ski despite originally having full camber and no rocker. One ski has a noticeably different profile.
My 2007 Atuas were demo skis that I purchased on the cheap. They extend the tape measure 186cm with a 129-96-119 sidecut and a 22m radius. Construction includes a full sandwich sidewall and a wood core without metal. They are my current natural snow and powder skis for the lifts. And I love them dearly, though I despise the non-turntable Look PX12 binding.
A suitable replacement would also be a non-metal wood core ski featuring similar sidecut and radius. A little fatter would be acceptable, a little skinnier would not. I wanted to give rocker a try but I was skeptical. Full tip to tail rocker is out of the question as skiing hard pack in between tree runs is a daily necessity. Thus, camber was also important. My first selection was Fischer’s Watea series but the son of the Atua was entirely different in design, style, and function with ski lengths inappropriate for my needs.
Enter the Atomic Theory in 186cm. With a 132-95-121 sidecut, 20m radius, and a non-metal wood core, this ski nearly matches the specs of the Atua give or take a millimeter or two here and there. The sidewall is a cap/sandwich hybrid (Atomic calls this “Step Down 3L Sidewall Construction”) similar to my Dynastar Legend 8000s with a sidewall underfoot and cap construction on the tip and tail. The ski has camber underfoot and “Adaptive Rocker” up front. Significantly lighter than my Fischer Atuas, I was concerned that my bulk might over power the ski.
Before beginning the review proper, I will preference my opinion with a description of myself, my skiing habits, and my preferences. I am 33 years old tipping the scales at 220lbs, and topping out at 6’1″. I’ve been skiing essentially all my life with a hack racing background in high school and college, where I occasionally scored a few points when not DNF’ing.
I got off the groomers post college and aggressively took to the bumps, natural snow, trees, and powder which remain my primary haunts. If conditions are frozen hard pack, I usually don’t ski or I break out the cheater skis to rip fast arcs. I take pride in my technical combination of brute force and gracefulness. I love short “turn on a dime style” nimble turns. However, opening up big arcs in untracked powder is a rare treat that I enjoy. Essentially, I can ski anything and enjoy technical and demanding lines, tight places, and trick-free air.
Aesthetically, I enjoy the Theory’s paint job which is reminiscent of an inverse Atua (red with black highlights instead of black with red highlights). The Atomic logo is well placed on the tip but the asymmetrical placement of the broken two line Atomic name is awkward, though clearly a 2012 lineup style. The yellow line along the bottom of the sidewall is out of place, distracting, and clashes with the top sheet and base.
The squared off tip and tail look goofy to my eye which prefers a very broad and round tip/tail design. The tail is a twin though not a full one and less pronounced than my Atuas. The rocker is hardly noticeable. Much like a tavern wench after two beers, I wasn’t in love but was still looking.
But how does it ski? My demo arena was Bretton Woods on a hard pack day following a rain/freeze cycle the day before. Terrain and conditions were limited to packed powder groomers though I found a few hard pack icy mini-bumps and low angle hard pack trees to get a read on the chatter. The demo bindings were decidedly forward (but not centered) which concerned me but I soon adjusted to the placement.
The lighter weight and less burly construction as compared to my Atuas was evident. But despite the differences in construction, I immediately noticed that the Theory performed way better than the Atuas on groomed snow. Stunningly, actually. I arced turns of varying shape and style and it handled everything with aplomb. Could this be a… nah, couldn’t be. It doesn’t exist, there is no such thing.
Having been skeptical of rocker technology, I was especially surprised at the turn initiation of the Theory. Especially for tight short turns. The rocker catches the snow faster than you expect and begins the arc with confidence and authority. The hook up when the rockered edge catches the snow is fast and delightful, a short turner’s dream.
But that means that wide arcs must suffer for the short turn performance, right? Not so! This ski has amazing pop when edged and weighted in a long GS turn. You can feel the energy build underfoot as you hold the edge and weight the ski. It begs to be released but you have control to let it ride as long as you want. The pop off into the turn transition is wildly fun.
Frozen bumps and icy snow skied about as poorly as you would expect. Torsional stiffness is definitely lacking but that is to be expected. This isn’t a race ski and it isn’t going to cut into ice. But if a ski’s only shortfall is for conditions you never ski, then it isn’t really a shortfall.
To sum up the ski in a few words, I would say the Theory is lively, energetic, and nimble. It has a fun personality and can make turns of all shapes, styles, and sizes eagerly responding to user input. I couldn’t sample natural snow and powder performance but based on its hard pack performance, it should excel in those conditions. And with a name like Atomic Theory, you can’t go wrong (the ski was originally named the “Code”, the new name was a massive improvement).
My last experience with Atomic and their skis was disappointing to say the least. All the Theory reviews sounded good but a $37 insurance policy via a demo was a must considering my last experience with the brand. Consider me converted, both to Atomic as a brand and to rocker as a game changing technology. It might make skiing easier for those learning. But for those already of technically proficiency, it makes skiing more fun. Groomers haven’t captured my attention this much in years.
The Atomic Theory captures all of the qualities I love in my all mountain mid-fat Dynastar Legend 8000 while being significantly fatter and more adept at powder and natural snow (as far as I can tell, at least. Frozen rock hard bumps and groomers make it difficult to extrapolate natural snow performance). I purchased the ski following the demo and will be mounting it with Look Pivot 14 binders.
Is the Atomic Theory truly the much sought after and ever hyped quiver of one? Has my seven year love affair with the Legend 8000s come to an end? Two new pairs, one used pair, one warranty pair, and one mis-matched broken pair later, will I reduce my lift service quiver to one pair of skis?
Nah. Now I just need a fatter powder board.