Let me start by saying that I'm not a ski racer and that these boots aren't for everyone, but if we share a similar history, these may just be as perfect for you as they are for me. I learned to ski everything from bottomless powder to first Teton ski descents in Jackson Hole using lace-up leather telemark boots, no buckles, no plastic, just soft, comfortable, well broken in Asolo Snowpines. I'd lace them up in the morning while sitting on my bed, drive to Nora's for a big breakfast and then on to the day's trailhead or ski area parking lot. After skiing hard, up and down all day, I'd drive to dinner and then back home. At bedtime, I'd sit on my bed again and unlace my boots after 12 or even 20 hours of non-stop going, never once having thought about them being cumbersome or uncomfortable.
I just loved the sublime purity of that experience, but alas, I gave it all up for buckles and plastic and power and control. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed imposing my will on previously unskiable snow conditions, and I enjoyed being able to ski harder and longer before my muscles screamed for relief. I did find, however, that even in the buckles and plastic world, I skied my best on the most flexible versions of those boots because lace-up, leather boots require you to ski out of your ankles, not your knees or hips, to maximize performance. As the terrain got steeper, and the snow got more challenging, I simply needed to focus on my ankles to ski my best. Stiffer, taller boots virtually paralyze your ankles making my preferred and honed ski technique nearly impossible to deploy. I learned to aggressively detune these boots with soft liners and tongue modifications so that I could get as close as possible to my preferred flexed-ankle power position.
With that long, drawn-out trip down memory lane, I can now get to the Atomic Backland Ultimate Ski Mountaineering Racing Boots that this review is about. I ordered these sight unseen, as no ski shop in my area was stocking the...
If you're looking for a pair of skimo race boots I'd highly recommend these. They're as light or lighter than the competition, they ski surprisingly well thanks to their carbon cuffs, ankle mobility is excellent, ski/walk transitions are easy, and they're competitively priced. Out of the box the shells are quite narrow, but Atomic's MemoryFit technology makes it easy to mold them to awkwardly-shaped feet like mine - the shells just go in the oven for a few minutes as if they're liners. (Don't try this at home! You'll need to go to a fitter who's familiar with the process).
The BSL is within a mm of the previous-generation Dynafit PDG/DyNA Evo, so you won't have to re-mount your bindings if those were your previous boots.
I've been using them with Palau liners that are as light as the stock liners, but a bit thicker and more supportive.
The only reason I don't give them five stars is because the cuff cord has been wearing prematurely where it passes through the ski/walk lever. I've now replaced it with Samson "Amsteel Blue" 7/64" Dyneema cord. So far that seems to be working.