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freeriding, resorts, gear

Gear review: Armada AK JJ

Length: 195cm
With: 131-141-120-138-128
Radius: 18m

Mounting point: factory recommended (Marker Jester demo Binding)

Days skied: 4, two days mixed conditions, two days deep powder

Skier profile:
Length: 186 cm
Weight: 98 kg


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The weather forecast was good. It would snow between 30cm - 60 cm during the weekend in the Spanish mountain resort Baqueira - Beret. The perfect conditions to put the Armada AK JJ to the challenge! So I thought…

Arriving in Baqueira Beret we noticed the snowfall that was predicted wasn’t there yet. So the slopes and backcountry had no fresh powder on them. Only hardpack and ice. Well, no worries. The original JJ is usually referred to as a one quiver ski, that is still capable of making carve turns on hardpack, making these conditions to start with the perfect test to see if the AK JJ is also a one quiver beast for the bigger skiers like myself.

When clicking your boots in the ski’s, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the Armada AK JJ. The ski is very light for a ski of it’s size. They felt much lighter then the Rossi S7 or the Salomon Q105 which I have skied before. Another thing I noticed, even though the ski was mounted at the factory recommended line, which is a little behind true center, the tips of the 195cm ski’s still felt remarkably short. So my feel at the time is that even though the ski’s are quite long, they would still be able to handle themselves between the trees.

The Armada AK JJ have a camber profile Armada refers to as EST Freeride Rocker. Rockered Tips and Tails combined with positive camber underfoot. This, according to Armada, promotes floatation in soft snow but control in the harder stuff. I’ve mounted the ski, to begin with, on factory recommended, where you have 120 mm underfoot. Making this a fat big mountain ski compared to the original JJ which is 115 underfoot.

When we started our first few runs the snow was icy and very hard. In the side and backcountry powder had turned into icy crud. What I noticed in these conditions, and lets be honest here that these are not the conditions the Armada AK JJ is designed for, the ski felt very very restless. Because of the weight and the big rocker profile the ski has the tendency to fly and not to press itself firm on icy snow. Because the ski is also very light, it doesn’t tank through hard crud and you feel every bump. Under these conditions it takes a lot of energy in controlling the ski. Also, the ski lacks a lot of edge grip to be able to really charge in these conditions. I couldn’t trust the ski to really hold an edge when charging down.

Of course you can ask the question on how you would define hardpack snow when labeling a ski a one quiver, but my impression of the Armada AK JJ is that you wouldn’t want to buy this ski if you would also use it in hardpack icy conditions from time to time as well. When firm snow and crud become icy then the Armada AK JJ is just to light and lacks the edge grip to confidently charge from steep slopes. A ski like the Salomon Q105 would be a better choice then. Unfortunately for me the conditions only started improving until the end of the day, so I got quite the work out and ski training throughout the day. Around 17:00 in the afternoon it did start to dump, so couldn’t wait to trie them for another run the next day.

Sunday we woke up with about 30 cm (about 12 inch) of fresh snow on the mountain. Not the amounts I was hoping for, as was predicted by the forecast, but still enough to test the ski out in softer conditions before the real powder test would commence just two weeks later in the South of France.

We took the first chair up. Because the snow came in over night the slopes weren’t prepared everywhere and we spotted a lot of powder all over the mountain. The snow was shin deep and in these conditions I started to get more appreciation of the AK JJ. The float and maneuverability was enormous. In this small amount of powder I could make fast long and short turns. It skied effortlessly through the snow. Steeper parts also skied easy and the lightness of the ski made the 195cm easy to handle. Unfortunatly in the afternoon the snow line started to move up again and turned into rain converting the conditions into heavy wet snow and slopes into icy tracks again, not the ideal conditions for the AK JJ ending our weekend.

Massive dump
Two weeks later all the alarm bells went on for the Alps. The southern Alps would get about 150 cm of fresh snow (60 inch) over the course of two days. The conditions the AK JJ is designed for. So from Barcelona we took the plain to Nice. (Normally two excellent summer destinations as well) And there we took off for Vallberg in the South Eastern part of France, close to the Italian border. And the amounts of snow were spot on this time. Even leading to the closing of some of the resorts in the area because off to much snow.

In these conditions the AK JJ was a totally new experience. The ski has an incredible amount of float. Not sinking further away then knee depth in the deep fluf. Also, in the trees it turned out to be very maneuverable. Especially for a 195cm ski.
In soft snow, and soft crud later on, this ski absolutely ruled. I never needed to fear for my tips to sink and the ski to wash out under me.

The ski can ski very fast in these conditions too. Not really having a speed limit. On the groomers, when they are soft, I discovered why they say this ski can carve a good line as well. In contrast to my earlier experience skiing these beasts in Spain they almost carved like a super shaped race carver on the softer groomers. Which is quite unique for a ski with 120mm underfoot. In the deep stuff though these ski’s are great. They feel incredibly easy, playful and surfy.

Mounting point
The Armada AK JJ’s mounting point seems to be quite central. Even though it is a little behind true center of the ski. To try out some different mounting points I thought to try and put the marker jester demo bindings a little bit more to the back. Considering the deep conditions I wandered if that would improve the float of the ski even more. But when I made my first few runs the ski felt totally of. Washing out underneath me. The balance just wasn’t right. So after trying that out I changed the bindings back immediately to factory recommended. If you will use these ski’s for the deepest days, this mounting point is perfect.

Conclusion
In my opinion the Armada AK JJ is a great ski for when the powder gets deep. It will float incredibly and is very fast and maneuverable. And in soft conditions it will also carve very well on the way back over the slopes to the lifts. But when the conditions become hard and icy then this ski isn’t the one you want to ski all day. They will take a lot of energy to keep under control. So one-quiver ski? Not exactly. But it is the go to ski when the snow is deeper then 30 cm (12 inch) and will not disappoint you. For the bigger guys out there the AK JJ with it’s 195 is one of the best powder ski’s out there.

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