The 2017 Union Atlas is pretty much the same binding as the 2016 Atlas and still a binding that we love to use because it blends well with a wide variety of boards.
2016-2017 Union Atlas Review
Riders: James, Peter, Jimbo, Stephen
Boots: Burton SLX, Burton AMB, Burton Imperial Salomon F3.0, Burton Fiend LTD, Burton Ambush, Nike Lunarendore
Boards: Yes Optimistic, Yes Greats, Yes Pick Your Line, Yes Jackpot, Jones Mountain Twin, Jones Ultra Mountain Twin, Jones Flagship, Jones Hovercraft, Loaded Algernon, Rossignol One Magtek, Rossignol XV, Lib Tech TRS, Lib Tech Hot Knife, Burton Flight Attendant, Burton Barracuda, Capita Mercury, Capita Spring Break, Gentemstick Stingray, Never Summer West, Rome Agent Rocker, Never Summer Ripsaw,
Flex: Nice Mid flexing high back but the response is more than you would think by just flexing the high back.
Adjustability: You know it’s not perfect but I really like the adjustable heel loop to dial out the binding to your boot’s size. The only real issue is the ankle strap angles are fixed but you can rotate your high back as well as do everything else you might want. It just takes longer to dial out than some bindings.
Comfort: Super comfortable and I love how the binding fit’s around our boots.
Turn Initiation: Sharper turn initiation than you would think for it’s flex. The base plate is pretty responsive and it’s just a little shy of being rated fast when it comes to edge to edge transitioning. For example when I had Cartels on my Jones Ultra Mountain Twin and then switched to Union Atlas there was a noticeable improvement in turning response. Even when paired with boards that are easier to turn it doesn’t overpower the board and make it twitchy. So the best way to describe it is sharp but not overpowering or twitchy. What I mean by twitchy is some bindings can be too responsive so they make the board turn so quickly that it makes the slightest lean respond way too fast and it turns the board too much. AKA it makes you look like you have a tick when you ride.
Buttering: Pretty good flex under foot and it doesn’t hinder the boards natural ability to flex. It’s a little less than some bindings like the Contact Pro with it’s mini disc or Burton’s re:flex but it’s still pretty easy to butter with.
Boot Support: So these ankle straps are pretty good. I love the width and the only thing I wouldn’t mind is a longer ankle strap so it wraps around more. I tried the size L/XL ankle straps on my M/L bindings and kept them on as they are longer, a touch wider and wraps around the boot more. Still with the regular ankle straps it’s a nice balance of support and freedom of movement.
Ratchet System: Much smoother than the older ones and we have no issues with these. Very reliable and I’ve had no issues with sticky or broken ratchets.
Shock Absorption: The EVA foam is pretty stiff but it’s still got a lot of shock absorption. It’s not perfect but we always get a really damp ride.
So all in all these bindings do a great job and work well with a wide variety of boards.
2014 and Below Union Atlas Review
The Union Atlas took over for the Union SL this year and this is fine because the Atlas and SL were pretty close. The Atlas hasn’t changed much over the last 3 years and remains pretty much the same binding from 2012-2014. There is one change though with the 2014 and that is the toe strap pressure was reduced from 10lbs to 7lbs which makes it easier to un-strap. Also a reader pointed out (I missed it) that there is more padding this year in the heel than previous years making the 2014 a little better than previous models.
Weight: Size M/L 4.0 lbs with discs and screws.
Riders:Most of us
Boards: Many but here are some. Jones Mountain Twin, Gnu Impossible Series, Yes Greats, Rossignol One Magtek, Never Summer Proto, Never Summer Cobra, Lib Tech TRS, Lib Tech Lando Phoenix
Approx Weight: 3.8lbs
Flex: Like with some Union bindings the flex doesn’t match the response. It’s got a medium torsional flex but when you pull straight back there is no give what so ever. It’s more medium/stiff over all. It allows a good torsional flex for a little tweakability but really is stiff when it’s time to transition from edge to edge.
Adjustability: Like all union bindings the adjustability is not there if you compare them to a binding like Burton but you can make some tweaks that will adjust it to your liking. You can rotate your high back a little bit but you can’t adjust the angle of the ankle strap like you can with other bindings. Instead the heel loop is there to adjust to the exact size of the boot. Some might like that and some might prefer 3 sizes instead of 2 and more adjustability for the high back and ankle strap. Also most of the binding requires a tool where many these days don’t.
Comfort: We were pretty amped on the larger ankle strap when it first came out but now we feel they are about mid level in terms of size, support and comfort. The ankle straps hold well without pressure points if you have good boots and the toe straps have minimal contact and good support as well.
Heel to Toe Response: The Union Atlas along with most Union bindings offer rather sharp responsive turn initiation that seems to be more than you would think after playing around with them in the shop. They make the board feel more responsive edge to edge. It’s not the most responsive in Unions line but it does a lot better than you would think. It’s not as responsive as the Factory, Charger and MC but it’s got a quick snap edge to edge. The bottom line is the Atlas has a ride that can make boards turn easier and seem more responsive than they are.
Tip to Tail Response– The ankle strap gives you enough leverage for buttering and such and combined with the reduced dead spot under foot you get a pretty good flex from tip to tail. It’s right there with the mid level Burton Re:Flex tech.
Boot Support– The larger asymmetrical ankle strap was a huge improvement over the older ankle strap but now that it’s been around for a few years their are larger ankle straps that provide more support. This is still a good balance of freedom and support and in 2014 it’s kind of medium sized now.
Ratchet System: The Union Atlas ankle ratchet is fine but the toe strap can be sticky trying to undo it. The 2014 is easier to un-do and they have made some improvements there. It’s still not the best toe ratchet out there but now it works and works pretty well.
Approximate Weight: We didn’t put these on a scale but they felt on the light side of middle.
Shock absorption– The footbed is very damp and provides great sock absorption. It use to offer hollow heel but this year it’s got more padding to where it’s pretty much not hollow under your heel any more. Instead it’s got a little more padding from top to bottom making it even better than previous models.
Unions Toe straps can be a bit sticky. For some this is a big problem and for others it’s not that big of a deal. Until Union addresses this issue here are some pointers on how to make the toe strap less sticky so you can enjoy the bindings better qualities.
2013 Union Atlas
2012 Union Atlas Review (same as 2013)
The Union Atlas is new for 2012 and quickly became one of our favorite bindings. The Union Atlas uses all of Union’s new tech and solves many issues the old tech has. It’s hard to characterize this binding, but it seems to be a smoother more comfortable version of the Union Force and is one of the best bindings we found in the low $200 price range. It’s right there with the Burton Cartel when it comes to a good do anything binding for a wide variety of boards and it’s one of our favorites.
The Union Atlas arrived on the scene in 2012 and offered a ride with a little more higher end tech than the Union Force. There is a new base plate, new ankle strap, new high back and new toe strap. The only old tech on the binding is the heel loop. The 2013 and 2014 Union Atlas is almost exactly the same.
One of our biggest complaints was the old ankle straps from 2011 and below; they are just too narrow and didn’t provide the support that many other ankle straps out there have. The Ankle strap of old used to give you this insecure feeling in chop or at higher speeds because it was so thin and small. These new larger asymmetrical ankle straps really make this ride a lot more comfortable and give much more support than the older ankle straps. It really changes the ride.
We feel the Union Atlas is a great all mountain do anything type of binding that we feel will do a great job with a wide variety of snowboards and riders. It’s a binding with some quirks but over all it’s a really fun ride and we will be using to test many boards this year.