My Black Crows Atris Birdies remind me a lot of Elle Woods. First of all, I’ve got one of the older topsheets that’s covered in pink. Second, they got me hooked with the bend and snap. The mid-100s width class is chock full of sameness: moderate flex, middle-of-the-road mount point and turn radius. It’s not a sales category that boasts the strongest sales, so brands largely take a vanilla approach that appeals to the masses.
The Atris Birdie has a bit more of a distinct feel. Black Crows made it more flexy than its peers, but not in the “soft and mushy” kind of way. They’re easy to bend, but they have a lot of elasticity and develop a nice *pop* when you release the turn. That characteristic makes it super easy to get those bouncing, bounding turns in fresh powder, and makes it easy to vary the size of your turn shapes, which I love in the trees. But they get the job done on the rest of the mountain and match well to advanced to expert skiers.
Construction (size 169)
To really appreciate how the Atris Birdie handles, it helps to understand it’s made and how it’s different from its peers before connecting those features to its on snow performance.
Atris Birdie & Ability Level
The hallmark of this ski is the 20m turn radius for all sizes (women’s 160 up to the men’s 189) and that easy, poppy flex. The turn radius shortens as you flex the ski, so the harder you drive it, the nimbler it becomes. But the corollary is also true. If you’re picking your way through challenging terrain one broken turn at a time, you feel the full length of the turn radius. It doesn’t need tons of speed, but it needs connected, fluid turns in order to have enough momentum to flex the ski.
The Atris Birdie also likes a somewhat forward and traditional stance, despite being packaged with a twin tip and playful flex. It took me almost a season to get up to speed on them. I was in a flat touring boot with a Warden 13 MNC binding and had trouble getting far enough forward to stay in control. If I really reared into the backseat, the soft tails would fold on me, and I’d take hit the deck. I’ve now skied two different traditional inbound boots, and both fix the problem, but the model with the most ramp definitely felt the best.
With that in mind, I definitely think the Atris Birdie fits for advanced to expert skiers. Some heavier skiers or ex-racer types may find them a little soft, especially if they prioritize stability over agility. I also wouldn’t rule intermediates out. If your resort affords intermediates options like low angle pow runs and open bowls, it could be a good fit. That’s especially true for intermediates with good form. I spent my intermediate days survival skiing steep, tight tree runs, and we would not have made a great match.
Next, we’ll get into the Atris Birdie’s performance in various types of terrain and snow conditions, from best to worst:
Powder: The Atris Birdie might not be a dedicated powder ski (the 115mm Anima Birdie holds that spot in the quiver), but it thrives in off piste, soft snow conditions. Most 100-something “freeride” skis have soft tips and get stiffer and stiffer as you work down through the shovels and mid-section of the ski. The Atris Birdie stays fairly soft through both the tips and shovels, and only then stiffens up behind that. This works incredibly well for powder skiing because the tips need to plane on top of the snow in order to provide float. Stiffer tips sometimes dive if you’re skiing too slowly or hit inconsistencies in the snow. With flexible ones, they bend up and above the snow surface, even at slow speeds. In comparison, on the Ripstick 102 W, I have to be very mindful of my stance and balance staying forward enough to stay out of the backseat, yet not so far forward that I bury a tip. Meanwhile, I’ve never had issues taking on water on the Atris.
The poppy flex also makes those bouncing, bounding pow turns extremely intuitive. Stiffer skis are hard to flex deeply in powder since low density snow doesn’t provide as much leverage. But the springy Atris Birdie is easy to load. When you release the turn, the camber snaps back and pops you up out of the snow. Bend and snap, works every time.
As I mentioned, the turn radius on the Atris shortens as you flex it, which makes it easy to change between different turn shapes and sizes. I like having these on my feet to play a game of “can I shoot that gap or not?” Given the ski’s accessible flex, it’ll make just about any turn you’ve really committed to.
The Atris Birdie does an admirable job on groomers, especially considering it’s a hybrid cap/sidewall construction and doesn’t have any carbon or metal laminates to increase torsional stability. The tips and tails aren’t as tapered as some skis in this width class, and there’s ample camber underfoot, so overall, the Atris is reliable on piste. The “bend and snap” characteristic also comes into play on groomers, where you can put a deep bend in the ski once it’s on edge and it provides a lot of pop as you exit the turn.
The Atris Birdie is on the lighter end of the weight spectrum, so sometimes it feels less grounded and connected than its heavier peers. But it’s solid enough to perform for a few afternoon groomer laps to round out a pow day and keep you entertained during low tide dry spells. For big piste fans, I’d recommend the Atris Birdie as a +1 to a skinnier ski in the quiver.
The Atris Birdie isn’t a stiff, heavy charger, so it’s not the best in the wet, chunky snow that seems to clump up every pow day afternoon in the PNW. I much prefer my (pre-2021) Santa Ana that carries an extra pound of weight and mutes out vibrations.
The Atris’s soft tips absorb vibrations and deflect relatively easily. The midsection of the ski is stiff and heavy enough, though, to keep the skis tracking where you want them to go. But I find I use my legs a fair bit to absorb the snow’s inconsistency. And this is also where the Atris’s preference for a slightly forward stance comes into play. The last thing I want to do in feta-cheese-like snow is lean forward on a light and flexible ski, but it’s the only way to stay in control.
I like the Atris Birdie in consistent bumps with a mellow to moderate pitch. I can get enough speed to put a solid bend in the skis and make tight radius turns. But bumps in the PNW tend to be steep and inconsistent, and I tend to slow down. Less speed means less force and flex on the ski, and I end up feeling every inch of that 20 meter turn radius. It’s possible to slarve and slide them down, but their width still makes them feel clumsy and I still feel like the skis are working against me.
Atris vs. Atris Birdie
How different are the men’s and women’s Atris? Fuck if I know. Every piece of merchandising calls them slightly softer versions of their men’s skis. Yet there are 2 podcasts where 2 separate Black Crows employees confirm that they’re the same ski with different topsheets. MAKE IT MAKE SENSE.
- They Black Crows size chart has updated since I got my setup and I think they sandbag women. At the time I purchased, 5’2” to 5’4” recommended 160cm for relaxed and 169 for aggressive. For 5’4” to 5’6”, 169cm was labeled as relaxed and 178 for aggressive. At 5’4”, I definitely found that the 169cm size was a happy medium between relaxed and aggressive. They feel much longer than a 166 ON3P Jessie 108 and a 168 DPS Yvette 112 Alchemist. They feel in line with a 169 Nordica Santa Ana 110 and 172 Blizzard Sheeva 10. Go in-line with what you buy for a freeride ski or add 2-4cm to your preferred length of all-mountain ski.
- The Atris would make an excellent choice for a 50/50 ski. Their soft snow specialty and ability to make variable turn shapes are a potent combo for backcountry skiing, and they provide enough stability to make the ski out tolerable if conditions are crummy down low. I’d personally favor a GripWalk boot given my experience with an ISO 9523 sole when I first got the Atris Birdies.
- On the spectrum of options for 100-something skis, these fall somewhere close to the middle in terms of how demanding they are. Burlier options like the Nordica Santa Ana and Salomon Stella are more demanding. The DPS Yvette Alchemist 112, Pandora 110, Jessie 108, and Blizzard Sheeva 10 are more maneuverable. The Line Pandora 104 and Elan Ripstick 102 W are similarly demanding but give up some powder performance for a more well-rounded model that does better on piste and in bumps.
- These absolutely need to be tested against the Faction Prodigy 3.0X and Armada ARW 106 UL, which look the most similar on paper, so stay tuned!