Ski: 2016-2017 4FRNT Hoji W, 179cm
Available Lengths: 171, 179, 187 cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 177.4cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 129-112-120
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1955 & 1955 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius: 30 meters
Core Construction: Poplar/Paulownia + Fiberglass
Boots / Bindings: Lange RS 120 SC / Marker Griffon (Din at 7)
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley, NM; Crested Butte, CO
Days Skied: 12[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 15/16 Hoji W, which was not changed for 16/17, apart from graphics.]
I’ve been dying to try the Hoji W ever since 4FRNT released it last season. Over the last few seasons, I’ve been generally underwhelmed at the women’s offerings from most companies, but the Hoji W is one of the few skis that’s really intrigued me. Not only is the Hoji W offered in 171cm and 179cm lengths, but 4FRNT is also making a 187cm Hoji W; they aren’t messing around.
4FRNT introduced the men’s Hoji, Eric Hjorleifson’s pro model, during the 12/13 season. The Hoji, and now the Hoji W, are designed as a big mountain powder boards that can also be skied all around the mountain. Jason Hutchins reviewed the Hoji when it first debuted, and I was curious to see how I would like the new women’s version of the ski, especially given that I’m a less playful skier than he is.
Design and Construction
The Hoji W is unlike any ski I have ridden before, so I’ll take a moment to talk about its design.
The Hoji W is fully rockered, but its reverse-camber profile and the curvature of its sidecut radius are shaped work together, the idea being that the ski will provide the benefits of a fully rockered design in terms of float and low-speed maneuverability, but offer better carving performance.
The 2014-2015 Hoji and Hoji W will see a couple minor changes for the ’15-’16 season. The skis will have slightly less dramatic rocker in the tip and a new, textured top sheet that is supposed to shed snow more effectively. (I think the new graphics on the new Hoji and Hoji W also look really great.)
4FRNT will also be introducing their new “Vibe Veil” technology into a number of skis, including the Hoji and Hoji W. Vibe Veil is an elastic membrane that is placed in the tips of rockered skis, and is designed to reduce chatter and poor edge hold in variable and firm snow conditions.
The Hoji W has a nice, fairly even flex, with “medium-stiff” tails and slightly softer tips. 4FRNT uses a different construction for their women’s skis, which they call Contour Core. The heaviest and thickest part of the core is moved 5cm back from the midsole of the ski to work better for women who ski with a more centered stance. I can’t say that reflects my style since I tend to ski with a more forward and aggressive stance, and I imagine a lot of the ladies interested in the Hoji W may also, but I can’t speak for everyone.
My first day on the Hoji W was on a fairly firm day at Taos Ski Valley. I was a little nervous about how the Hoji W would feel in slicker areas, given that they are a fairly wide ski with a fully rockered design (one I didn’t have any experience with). And in his review of the Hoji, Jason also mentioned that the skis felt a bit unpredictable on firmer snow, with almost a “rocking chair-like feel” to them.
However, I was pretty surprised by how much I liked the Hoji W ripping down Bambi on my first groomer run. My very first impression of the ski was that it felt super stable. The 179cm length I reviewed is on the long side for me, and the Hoji W has a 30 meter turning radius, so those factors certainly contributed to the stability I felt, but I was still quite surprised by how quiet and solid the ski was while I carved long arcs across the trail.
As I mentioned above, conditions were firm and the ski did take a bit of getting used to. I spent a majority of the first day running my bases fairly flat, not exactly trusting the ski to hold an edge (I had recently lost my tails while deep in a carve on another pair of skis with tail rocker, crashed hard, and got a bit of a concussion, so I was skiing somewhat tentatively).
Although I wasn’t working the skis into a carve as much as I usually do, I noticed that the Hoji W really liked to be pushed fast and hard down the fall line. I had a lot of fun ripping around making low angle carves, enjoying experimenting with how fast I could get going comfortably on the Hoji W. On both smooth and slightly roughed-up groomers; I never really found their speed limit.
Again, since the snow was pretty slick in places, I didn’t really spend time trying to achieve any high angle carves on the ski, but chose to experiment instead with various types of skidding turns. While I knew the Hoji W was really going to be in its element once I got it in softer snow, I still enjoyed making looser, sliding and skidded turns.
I did eventually have the opportunity to ski the Hoji W on softer groomers, and found I could get the ski a little higher up on edge, though it wasn’t particularly lively or poppy through the turn. If you’re looking for an everyday ski that prioritizes carving or a balance of carving and powder performance, I think that you may be better off with one that has a little bit of camber, like the Nordica La Niña or the Line Pandora. But if you really don’t care as much about carving performance and just want something that can rally back to the lift, the Hoji W will suit those needs; in my time skiing the Hoji Ws on groomers, they always felt stable and liked to go fast, and did actually have pretty decent edge hold for a fully rockered ski.
I was quite impressed by the Hoji W’s performance in variable, off-piste conditions when there weren’t massive bumps that required quick direction changes at slower speeds (which I’ll touch on below). I spent a lot of time lapping Crested Butte’s North Face and Headwall where there was plenty of ungroomed, chalky snow.
Here I wasn’t really looking to carve, but make strong, smeary turns down the fall line, and the Hoji W provided a stable platform that could again be pushed to high speeds. Although I noticed a slight bit of chatter in the tips over bumpier snow, this wasn’t too surprising considering the skis are relatively light; they don’t have the damp feel of a directional ski with metal in its construction like the former Blizzard Dakota. Instead, the Hoji W can handle an aggressive line, but rewards a lighter, more balanced touch.
At higher speeds, the Hoji W was easy to work around some of the snow’s inconsistencies, and responded quickly to direction changes. The ski is more work to bring around when going slow, and definitely seems considerably more reactive when skied fast.
The Hoji W is not a super heavy ski, but it did feel a bit overwhelming in larger moguls. In low bumps that were more widely spaced, I never had much of an issue getting the ski up to speed and working through the moguls. If I entered those sort of zones with a little bit of speed and a line somewhat picked out ahead of me, I could be ready to throw the ski from side to side without getting caught up by the stiffer tails.
But on other trails like Crested Butte’s Double Top and Taos’ Reforma, where the bumps are often large and firm with deeper troughs, it was much harder to ski a fast, clean line on the Hoji W. Despite the ski’s full rocker and light weight, I mostly just felt like it took a lot of effort to turn precisely at slower speeds, and would find myself off balance more often than usual. This was probably due to the ski’s fairly stiff tails and big turn radius, but in any case, to me they just felt a bit off and not very forgiving in bumps.
Fresh Snow and Chop
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much fun I’ve been having on the Hoji W in somewhat firmer snow around the mountain, but the ski really is meant to shine in soft conditions. After close to two months of dry weather, Ullr finally brought the goods to Western Colorado.
The first day of the storm, Crested Butte received two inches of new snow, which did a great job of softening up most of the runs. Pretty quickly, the resort was skied into shallow, soft chop that really brought the Hoji W alive. Although the snow hadn’t consolidated into firmer bumps yet, the Hoji W was much more lively and playful than it had ever been in firmer conditions.
On the second day of the storm, we got 11 more inches of really light snow. As patrol continued to open new runs throughout the day, I kept finding new areas that were still pretty much untracked. Since the mountain had been so rocky before the storm, I was hesitant to really open things up at full speed on most runs, but at slightly slower speeds and leaning back just a bit, the Hoji W was incredibly fun through the fresh snow.
Once I hit areas that started to get a little more tracked out, I felt I could still ride the Hoji W fast through the soft chop. If I maintained an athletic, balanced stance, I really felt like I could push the Hoji hard. The ski has a wonderful combination of lightness and dampness, which allowed me to push myself through variable snow without feeling like the ski was going to overwhelm me. I love Jason’s description of the ski in these conditions: “When it came to skiing through chopped up snow, the Hoji again had very few limitations. The lack of sidecut—and more importantly the lack of a huge, oversized shovel—made flying down through soft crud feel like a hot knife through butter.” I agree.
I found that it was pretty easy to control the Hoji W’s speed, even when going fast. As I’ve already said, the ski becomes much more responsive at higher speeds, so it was easy to break the tails free of a turn with a quick slide or slash to slow down or change direction. More drawn-out turns across the hill in chop felt smooth, and I never got caught up while tracking sideways (something I experienced with the Salomon Stella.)
Drops and landings felt solid, even in firmer snow, and I felt like the tails were fully supportive.
The day after the storm, I got in some heavier chop that had consolidated overnight. Here, the ski’s lightness became a little more apparent, and a slightly heavier, damper ski like the Moment Blister Pro would have been able to work through this snow more effectively. However, slowing myself down just a little on the Hoji W, I could stay on top of the chop, making more nimble turns back and forth rather than just plowing through piles of snow.
The 4FRNT Hoji W has a very specific feel that I’ve really come to like, and those looking for a more directional pow ski that is also light and smeary should definitely check it out. The ski is an absolute blast in any sort of soft snow, feels smooth and stable through variable conditions, and likes to be pushed fast down the fall line. I haven’t tested a ski quite like the Hoji W, and I can say with confidence that on any day when there’s soft snow to ski, I’ll be reaching for it.
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