Expert Review: Atomic N Shift MNC 10 Ski BindingsPublished on 09/10/2022 · 6 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the bindings, which I purchased with my own money in October of 2020.
Shift in action getting to the powder on Atomic Bent Chetlers. All photos courtesy of Gen Kaneko
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the bindings, which I purchased with my own money in October of 2020.
The Atomic N Shift MNC 10 Ski Bindings are great for interchanging between backcountry/slack country and resort skiing in one package instead of using multiple sets of skis. The Shifts are meant for advanced- to expert-level skiers with backcountry experience who want versatility in one package or are newer to alpine touring.
About the bindings I own
- Model: 2020 Atomic Shift MNC 10 White/Black
- Height: 5’7” (170 cm)
- Weight: 140lbs
- Preferred DIN range: 9–12
- Experience: 21 years of skiing
- When I bought these: October 2020
- Days tested: 40
- Boots: Nordica Stryder 130 Pro
- Boot Size: 24.5 mondo (BSL 285)
- Skis: Atomic Bent Chetler 120 (176cm)
- Where I’ve used it: Hakuba, Hokkaido, Nozawa, Japan, and Pacific Northwest USA: Hood, Crystal, Bachelor, St. Helens
- Terrain: Powder, groomers, trees, terrain park, moguls, chopped up, corn, wind effected, wet, heavy snow
How they perform
What I was looking for
I needed a touring powder ski before I went to instruct in Japan. So to pair with my 120 Bent Chetlers, I was looking at AT (alpine touring) bindings with pins. But I also wanted the added safety net of a consistently releasable binding. I had a few options that fit the bill, however my need for resort skiing along with hunting for pow in the backcountry made it easy to choose the Shifts.
Why I chose this gear
I bought the shifts so that I could tour with my AT/resort boots while getting good downhill performance, as I usually go up to ski down. The relatively lightweight, sleeker looks and ease of use made it a great option. There were other options that were lighter, more performance oriented, and easier to use, but combining all of those is incredibly hard and no binding puts them all together like the Shifts do. The other options I looked at were the Fritschi Tecton 12, Marker Duke PT 12, and the Marker Kingpin 12. All of those bindings are great but are either heavier, missing the DIN certification, or are more difficult to use.
What I love about it
- Release Reliability: The Shifts releasability is one of the safest and most reliable out of the resort/touring binding category, as it has the downhill heel and reconstructed toe. The Shifts I have go up to a DIN of 10. However there is a higher option, which I would probably buy next time—as I like to ski harder and drop cliffs. I would say the release reliability, which can come out sometimes but very rarely, is mostly dependable. On the other hand, the locked-in reliability when touring can be fidgety and annoying when the pins come out on occasion.
- Downhill Performance: The downhill performance is adequate compared to a downhill binding as it has all the features with the toe and heel. The power transfer can be lacking minutely as I will discuss later however. Otherwise, I would say they perform just like a good downhill binding and do everything I need them to do. Again, since this binding does a lot in one package it is still a great binding.
- Durability: I’ve had no issues with parts breaking, even the plastic ones, and the bindings have held up after two years of use. Even icing isn’t too bad, which affects almost all AT bindings.
- Weight: The Atomic Shift MNC 10 has a weight of 880 grams—higher than most tech-toe AT bindings—but with its versatility and overall use it is not incredibly heavy.
- Other: The Shift’s heel can be a little problematic when touring; the brakes can go down out of nowhere and the heel can be released back into alpine mode. This is more of a product-design issue and not necessarily something that can be fixed. Overall it hasn’t happened too often and is easily fixable by just stepping down to put the brakes back up.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Uphill Performance: The uphill performance is definitely not as good as traditional pins that keep me locked in, but in that case I wouldn’t be using the Shifts for more technical touring. The main lacking feature of the Shifts is the lack of a higher-angled riser on the heel for steeper terrain. The Shifts only have one riser, which needs to be fixed, as another riser would make this binding much better and allow for more access to other terrain. The biggest problem with the Shifts is the pins coming out when touring. The good thing is that if one gets caught in an avalanche or situation where they need to get the skis up while touring, they will come off. However, if on a steep slope or putting a lot of pressure on one of the pins in a sketchy area, it can be scary as they could slide off. Also, getting into the pins can be a little fidgety and annoying—especially in tight areas or a lot of snow.
- Power Transfer: The power transfer of the Shifts is good enough for everything I was doing, such as skiing chest deep powder, dropping cliffs, tricks in the park, 3s and backflips in the backcountry, laying down turns on groomers, and hitting the moguls. The only noticeable times where I wished I had my normal skis was when ripping groomers on the way back from a tour or on slopes in between the powder and trees. The power transfer was a little lacking when turning hard and trying to push the edges of the skis, but that is not what the bindings are meant for.
Favorite moment with this gear
My favorite moment with my Shifts is definitely touring Mt. Obinata in Hakuba and getting fresh, knee-deep powder. The Shifts gave me the ability to get there and ski down with ease, and the best part is that I could just enjoy the snow and terrain instead of thinking about my gear. The best gear is that which allows the mind to just focus on the fun part and not worry about it failing or causing problems.
Value for the money vs. other options
The Shifts now have to compete with other similar models as well as traditional frame bindings which allow for the use of normal alpine boots to be used for touring. The $549.99 price point is a little high, however there are older models on sale which are almost identical to the current 2023 model. But if one knows they’ll be touring consistently, I believe they are the best value.
The other products within the same category are the Marker Kingpins and the Marker Duke PT, which are more expensive and offer different attributes. The traditional frame binding is cheaper by $100–200, but it is much heavier and an upgrade will be wanted after going on a couple of tours.
The Atomic Shift MNC 10s are a master-of-none and jack-of-all-trades binding that is the most versatile in the resort/AT binding market because of its DIN safety certification, relatively light weight, ease of use, and sleeker looks. The Shifts open up the entire mountain now with one ski instead of having to have multiple.