Gear review: A powder board that does it all – almost |

Gear review: A powder board that does it all – almost

Bob Ward
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado
Armada JJ: Five stars

Until last week, I had resisted my urge to buy a pair of fat powder skis. My thinking was that, like it or not, the vast majority of my mileage and vertical feet on skis occurs in hardpack or crud, and I can still ski powder well enough on a mid-fat or all-mountain ski.

Why get too specialized?

That was all before I skied four days on Armada JJs. Four days in British Columbia. In the backcountry. In snow ranging from a foot to 18 inches deep. They may well have been the best four ski days of my life.

And the JJs made me feel like a rock star. Light, smooth, fast and sure, these new-school rockered boards made every run feel like surfing on perfect, clean, glassy waves. The JJs could arc big S-turns on wide-open slopes or switch directions quickly in the trees. Never once did my tips dive into the snow and send me sprawling, and when I caught one leg drifting off-course, I could always pull it back into line on these amazing, responsive, can-do powder pigs.

These skis even saved me when I tried reckless airs or flew off unexpected ledges – perfect landings every time. What did I do to deserve this?

When I got home from B.C., I couldn’t get the JJs out of my mind. And then my stepbrother called from Boise, saying he’d found a deal on a pair of demos – did I want them?

Resistance was futile. He was the pusher and I was the junkie.

When the JJs showed up, I waited one day to pull them out of the box; I was too busy at work. But I couldn’t last two days. I opened the box, wiped the drool from my chin and leaned the skis against the wall of my office. It was sunny and 40 degrees out; I would wait for a big snow day.

But then I had to read about the JJs. If I couldn’t ski them, I could at least go online, watch a video and tease myself with other skiers’ descriptions of their shredding prowess. What I found online was the obvious powder porn, but also numerous claims that the skis performed well on hardpack, catwalks and other commonplace resort-skiing realities.

This gave me the excuse I needed. I’ll take the JJs out on some Colorado hardpack, I thought, and write a gear review!

So I played hooky for an hour or so last week on Aspen Mountain, taking a handful of fast trips down Ruthie’s and Spar Gulch. I even tried the bumps on Blondie’s and Pussyfoot, just for good measure. And I must say, I had a gas.

Taking a pair of JJs out for an afternoon on spring hardpack is kind of like taking a full-suspension mountain bike for a ride on the Rio Grande Trail. It’s not the right tool for the job. Ranging from 115 to 136 millimeters wide, the JJs don’t spring through the bumps like my thin-waisted Volkls and they tend to skid rather than carve on the corduroy. But they do have surprising edge control for such a fat ski, and they’re light enough to be lively even when they’re out of their element.

The JJs’ preferred element is, unequivocally, deep powder. I’m anticipating our next powder day like never before.


See more