Ski: 2016-2017 Armada TSTw, 174 cm
Available Lengths: 156, 165, 174 cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 172.7cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 118-131-101-122
Stated Weight per Ski: 1820 g
Sidecut Radius: 14.7 meters
Core Construction: Poplar/Ash + Fiberglass Laminate
Boots / Bindings: Nordica Firearrow F3 105 / Marker Squire (DIN 7)
Mount Location: Factory recommend
Test Locations: Alta Ski Area; Snowbird, Grand Targhee
Days Skied: 11
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 12/13 TSTw, which was not changed for 13/14, 14/15, 15/16, or 16/17 except for the graphics.]
Having spent a great deal of time on the Armada VJJ, I was curious to see how the the Armada TSTw would measure up with its narrower dimensions and similar sidecut.
I was looking for a narrower all-mountain ski that would rip groomers a bit better than the VJJ, yet still deliver in pow. Since the TSTw features tip rocker, traditional camber underfoot, and no tail rocker, it certainly has the look of a more directional, versatile version of the VJJ.
Flex and Camber Profile
The TSTw features a variable flex pattern throughout the length of the ski. On a scale of 1-10, Armada ranks the tip, waist, and tail as a 6, 7, and 6.5. The VJJ that I skied on for the bulk of last season is rated as 5.5, 6.5, and 6.
While Armada’s ratings are awfully close for the TSTw and the VJJ, when hand flexed, the TSTw feels noticeably stiffer in the tip than the VJJ, and the tail felt significantly stiffer on the TSTw than the VJJ. Armada’s numbers didn’t seem to match what I was feeling.
Furthermore, the flat tail of the TSTw also means that effective edge of the TSTw is quite a bit longer than that of the hugely rockered tails of the VJJ.
Groomed Snow & Hardpack
I’ve really enjoyed the TSTw on groomers. Screaming down Alta’s Main Street off the Collins lift, the skis were lively and responsive, and the non-rockerd tail certainly made it track better than the VJJ. The TST’s narrower waist of 101mm (the VJJ is 115mm) also made for easier turn initiation, and short-radius slalom-style turns were just as much fun as big, GS turns.
The widest point of the ski (about 30 cm down from the tip) is at the main contact point with the snow, meaning the TSTw is a great shape for carving, and it could really bite into hard pack. The stiffness of the tails came into play when arcing the TSTw at high speed. I felt significantly more confident on hardpack and was able to really enjoy carving, as the TSTw was (predictably) easier to get up on edge than the VJJ. I was reminded of my ski racing days, and the TSTw felt like the perfect compromise between a slalom and a GS ski, though significantly lighter in weight.
The skis gave me no trouble on short-radius turns as well; I liked the versatility this ski could demonstrate in varying sizes and shapes while turning.
The significantly rockered tips on the TSTw provide ample flotation in deep snow. I tried them out in some untracked, slightly sun-affected powder, and was thrilled at how easy they were to drive through the turns. I experienced no diving of the tips and felt completely stable bombing down at high speeds with a few huge, arcing turns.
I also tried some slower, short-radius farmer turns in powder up in the Baldy Shoulder Area at Alta, with similar stoke. I was very pleased with the TSTw’s powder performance, but they don’t quite compare to the VJJ, given the VJJ’’s rockered tip and tail profile and its greater width.
The stiffer tails of the TST also lent support, helping to keep the tips afloat or to scrub speed in tight trees.
I felt confident hitting features and small drops on the TSTw when the conditions were soft. The skis were lively and easy to land on, and I enjoyed their jibby, playful feel when taking off and landing. I would probably grab my VJJs or my Volkl Kuros on days when there’s more than 12 inches of fresh, but for a ski marketed by Armada as an all-mountain tool, the TSTw certainly performs well in deeper snow. And on the groomed run back to the lift, the TST is decidedly more fun than either the VJJ or the Kuros.
Bumps and Chop
While thrilled with the performance of the TSTw on groomers and powder, when faced with rougher snow conditions, the skis were not nearly as forgiving as the VJJ. The combination of the length and stiffness in the tail was simply too much for me, being a smaller skier (5’3” and 120 pounds). I immediately regressed into a teenaged, tail-gunning version of myself, and I could not get out of the backseat. I would literally have to pull my feet back underneath my body in an attempt to regain a balanced or forward position.
For example, when exploring Eagles Nest off Alta’s High Traverse, the combination of steeps, moguls, and varied terrain, along with the stiffness of the tail, had me rebounding off bumps, struggling to maintain control, and flailing in the backseat. Unsurprisingly, I also found the tips crossing over each other on multiple occasions.
In an effort to gain better control on the TSTw, it was obvious the next step was to play with a couple different mount points.