Review: Black Diamond ATK Raider 12 FTB STD Ski Bindings · 2023

Published on 07/24/2023 · 3 min readCurated Ski Experts share their experience with using the 2023 Black Diamond ATK Raider 12 FTB STD Ski Bindings. Note that experts are not sponsored by any brands; these are their honest opinions.
Luke Hinz, Ski Expert
Emilie R., Ski Expert
By Curated Experts Luke Hinz and Emilie R.
8 photos
Photo by Luke Hinz & Emilie R.

The Curated Take

4.5/5

The ATK Raider ski bindings excel in power transfer and snow performance due to features like the "freeride spacer," which allows for improved driving power through the skis. They offer reliable DIN settings for dependable release, ensuring safety during downhill skiing. The bindings are durable, made from high-quality aluminum alloys and stainless steel, and they feature user-friendly design elements like magnets in the risers. They are versatile for touring but not recommended for resort skiing. Despite a high price tag, their quality construction, durability, and enhanced skiing performance make them a worthwhile investment for dedicated skiers.

Ideal for
  • Premium lightweight touring binding for skiers who want the best downhill performance
  • Light weight great for long uphill travels
  • Secure binding; doesn't release easily
  • Multiple heel lifter modes and is incredibly user friendly
  • Can be modified with a "freeride spacer," which creates loads more power transfer than other tech bindings
Not ideal for
  • Heavier touring binding than other lightweight options
Power Transfer
Luke Hinz, Curated Expert
The ATK Raider has an aftermarket piece called the "freeride spacer," and this is the biggest draw of this binding. In most tech bindings, the boot heel simply floats on...Read more
Release Reliability
Luke Hinz, Curated Expert
The fact that the Raider has a release DIN at all says quite a lot about this binding. More and more touring bindings, such as the Salomon MTN, are skipping...Read more
Durability
Luke Hinz, Curated Expert
Wow, these bindings rock. Many touring bindings shed too many features to lighten the binding for uphill ease. Other bindings use a lot of gadgets that usually end up not...Read more
Versatility
Luke Hinz, Curated Expert
It's hard to give a tech binding full marks for versatility, mainly because the day is yet to come when a tech binding can compete with a downhill binding in...Read more

Expert Reviews of the Black Diamond ATK Raider 12 FTB STD Ski Bindings

Emilie R. Don't let the tiny binding fool you. It's lightweight but powerful and secure. The first time I skinned uphill, I didn't snap the front part of the binding up the second time to lock it into walk mode. I felt secure enough to skin, but it's even better once I'm locked in. The back piece adjusts so I can climb steeper uphill portions. I got the same security coming downhill through cut-up, unforgiving, variable terrain in spring conditions on Shasta.
 ATK is relatively new to the tech binding scene, having launched their first branded bindings in 2007, but they have been taking the touring binding world by storm. The Raider is their most downhill-focused tech binding, with a burlier heel plate and a DIN of up to 12. I've used the Raider for the past winter as my daily binding for backcountry, and they have surpassed all expectations. There are certainly lighter binding options if someone is deadset on shaving off every gram, but at just 350 grams per binding, the Raider is shockingly light for a 12 DIN binding. The Raider also offers various heel lifter options, much more so than any similar brand with such a light binding. Overall, the Raider is very user-friendly and is light enough for the vast majority of backcountry skiers. The Raider shines with the "freeride spacer," an optional add-on to the heel piece. With most tech bindings, the boot heel simply floats on the rear pins, eliminating much of the contact between the boot and the ski, resulting in a loss of power to the ski. The freeride spacer eliminates this gap, allowing the skier to drive power to the ski like an alpine binding. The ATK Raider is a phenomenal touring binding that makes no sacrifices for either the up or downhill.

Product Specs

GenderUnisex
Model year2023
Ski binding typeTech
Skill levelAdvanced, Expert
Din release - low value5
Din release - high value12

Review Ratings

Power Transfer

5/5
 gave 5 of 5 stars. The ATK Raider has an aftermarket piece called the "freeride spacer," and this is the biggest draw of this binding. In most tech bindings, the boot heel simply floats on the rear pins; this makes it hard to drive power through the ski. ATK aimed to fix this with the freeride spacer, which is a plastic piece that rests under the boot where the brake piece would normally be. It sustains contact between my boot heel and the binding, giving me way more ability to drive power through the ski. The difference in this design was noticeable immediately; I can drive power much more efficiently through the middle of my skis than other tech bindings. This feature alone hurdles the Raider past its competition.

Release Reliability

5/5
 gave 5 of 5 stars. The fact that the Raider has a release DIN at all says quite a lot about this binding. More and more touring bindings, such as the Salomon MTN, are skipping reliable DIN settings altogether to simplify the binding. I once thought this satisfactory considering the vastly different make-up of tech touring bindings. Still, ATK has shown me I can have the best of both worlds: a well-constructed and light touring binding with a reliable release mechanism. I can feel the difference between this binding and other touring bindings whenever I click my heel in for the downhill. Some touring bindings require me to stomp down violently to engage the binding. In contrast, I can step in with the ATK, which easily clicks into my boot.

Durability

5/5
 gave 5 of 5 stars. Wow, these bindings rock. Many touring bindings shed too many features to lighten the binding for uphill ease. Other bindings use a lot of gadgets that usually end up not working and making the binding heavier. The ATK has successfully done both, building a lightweight binding with plenty of heel risers, easy rotation, and even providing a freeride spacer that increases ski performance. ATK didn't skimp on materials here, going all in with aluminum alloys and stainless steel to build a binding that will last winters of abuse. I put my ATKs through the wringer this past season, and they kept on trucking. My favorite part of the ATKs is using magnets in the risers to keep them in place; days of my heel riser flopping in between levels as I hike are a thing of the past.

Versatility

3/5
 gave 3 of 5 stars. It's hard to give a tech binding full marks for versatility, mainly because the day is yet to come when a tech binding can compete with a downhill binding in a resort setting. Tech bindings don't offer the same elasticity and stability of a downhill binding, and the same goes for the ATK; if someone wants a binding for resort skiing only or even something for 50/50 resort/backcountry skiing, there are better options. However, as a touring binding only, the ATK is very versatile. It sports a high DIN setting, making it a great option for a wide range of skiers, from casual tourers to big mountain freeriders. It has much more elasticity than most touring bindings and is still lightweight. This is a very well-rounded tech binding for touring.

FAQs

What was your favorite moment with this gear?

I've had more good times on this binding than I can count. I happened to purchase the ATK Raiders during what would become Utah's snowiest winter on record, and I hiked up a lot of deep powder while strapped to these bindings. There is nothing quite like breaking trail through deep snow on a cloudy morning as the snow falls silently around me, knowing I am about to be embraced in powder on the descent. No matter the conditions, my ATKs were always incredibly easy to use, and I trusted them completely on the descent. On one memorable morning, we started hiking uphill at 4 AM and summited a large peak just as the sun rose. Then we arced high speed turns down a beautiful chute all the way back to the road. My Raiders made the ascent fast and (relatively) painless, and they made the descent an absolute ball.

Why did you choose this product?

I had heard about ATK bindings through other backcountry skiers who touted their versatility and great construction, so I was eager to get a pair. I'd been using the same touring bindings for a good six years. Though they worked great, the heel risers had worn out, and they would flop back and forth as I hiked uphill, so I constantly changed heel levels without wanting to do so. It was annoying, to say the least, and absolutely infuriating at worst. I wanted a pair of bindings that were just as lightweight but better built so the heel risers would not wear out. Then, I learned about ATK's freeride spacer, which was supposed to provide better power transfer to the ski than other touring bindings. I was immediately sold. Any touring binding providing a better downhill experience was worth every penny.

What is the value for the money versus other options?

There's no easy way to say it—the ATK Raiders are not cheap. They are one of the most expensive binding options out there (they cost nearly as much as my skis). Sure, more affordable tech bindings exist, such as the Salomon MTN, the Dynafit Rotation 14, or even the Salomon Shift. But none of them offer the same combination of lightweight, bomber construction, amazing release reliability, sustained downhill performance, and overall durability. In this case, skiers absolutely get what they pay for. So, yeah, they are a serious investment. Still, after having skied a full season on them, I have no doubt my investment will be returned many times over. In my opinion, this is the touring/tech binding to rule them all.

What do you love about this product?

What I love most about the Black Diamond ATK Raider is that it successfully executes everything I want in a touring binding, which is saying a lot. In the past, I often had to choose between a touring binding that provided great downhill performance but was very heavy for the uphill phase or a lightweight touring binding that was awesome for going uphill but sacrificed downhill performance. With the ATK Raider, I don't have to make that choice anymore because it does it all. On top of this, the ATK is incredibly well built and features some ingenious yet simple designs that give the ski greater longevity, such as magnets in the heel risers that ensure that, even if the rivets wear out over time, the risers will still work as intended. Honestly, there is not much about the ATK Raider that's not to love.
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Luke Hinz
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Emilie R.
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