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2nd Look: J Skis The Metal

Cy Whitling reviews the J Skis Metal for Blister Review

J Skis Metal

Ski: 2017-2018 J Skis The Metal, 186 cm

Available Lengths (cm): 173, 180, 186

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 183.3 cm

Stated Dimensions (mm): 135-106-124

Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 136-105-124.5 mm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2341 & 2318 grams

Stated Sidecut Radius (180 cm): 17 meters

Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered): 62 mm / 49 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~2-3 mm

Recommended Line: 6 cm behind “ski center”; ~85.7 from tail

Mount Location: Recommended Line

Boots / Bindings: Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 / Marker Griffon

Test Location: Grand Targhee, WY

Days Skied: 4

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 16/17 Metal, which was not changed for 17/18, except for the graphics.]

Intro

In case you hadn’t noticed, Jonathan Ellsworth has already written quite a bit about The Metal. Almost two years ago he published a Flash Review, then a full review, then a Deep Dive, and then named it one of Blister’s Best Bets. It also won a 16/17 Blister “Best Of” award, and narrowly missed out on a “Best Of” award this year (the nod went to its narrower sibling, the J Skis Masterblaster).

So why are we covering The Metal again?

Because Jonathan came to The Metal from the perspective of someone who skis a lot of directional, stiff, heavy, fairly chargy skis, and I’m now coming from the opposite end of the spectrum — I spend most of my time on light, playful, jibby skis, and The Metal is the heaviest ski I’ve been on in recent memory.

But I really, really like this ski, and I think a lot of other skiers who approach the mountain in a similar way to myself will also enjoy The Metal.

Flex and Shape

Jonathan does a great job breaking down the flex and shape of The Metal in his review, so I won’t repeat him here. I agree with his observations, and would add that the shape of The Metal was really the prime factor that made me want to get on this ski and kept me from being intimidated by it. This looks like a fun ski. If I saw a pair leaning against the wall and knew nothing about it, I’d assume it was some sort of all-mountain jib ski. It’s fairly tapered, has a basically twinned tip, and just generally looks like a blast.

Groomers

Here, again, I agree with Jonathan’s synopsis. I’m not much of a groomer ripper, and my experience with trying to make race turns is limited to this one time when I tried to poach a NASTAR Course on my snowblades, switch.

So while Jonathan found The Metal to be a little lacking on very icy groomers, I personally came away impressed. It has better edge grip, and more importantly, better suspension (which helps it maintain a carve), than any of the current crop of all-mountain jib skis I’ve been on.

I did find that it was a little harder to skid and slash around groomers on than skis like the Line Sir Francis Bacon or Moment Deathwish, which is to be expected. Initially I’d go to throw the skis sideways in a hockey stop, and instead find them carving into a turn. But it didn’t take long to get used to this, and if you do want to break them loose and skid around it takes just a little more effort.

Powder

Here, I’d disagree with Jonathan. He says: “ I would happily ski The Metal in 12″ of snow, and there are few skis of its width that I think would be head-and-shoulders better when things get really deep.” I didn’t get The Metal into 12” of fresh, and I’m not planning on it. It performed fine in the 6-8” I did ski it on, but it felt heavy, and glued to the ground. Powder skiing was where I most noticed The Metal’s weight, and where I most felt like it really wasn’t helping me at all. Sure, it’s fine in powder, and it’s better than more directional skis of a similar width, but the list of 104-108 mm wide skis I’d rather ski pow on is pretty long (e.g., Sego Big Horn 106, ON3P Kartel 108, Line Sir Francis Bacon, Armada ARV 106, Salomon QST 106, etc.) I just don’t see the benefits of the heavier construction if you’re planning on skiing a lot of fresh snow on a ski.

Cy Whitling reviews the J Skis Metal for Blister Review

Cy Whitling on the J Skis Metal. (photo by Julia Tellman)

Then again, if you’re coming from directional, very cambered, not very tapered, stiff, heavy skis, The Metal is going to be better in pow. But if you’re coming from the other end of the spectrum, this is an area where The Metal is not going to perform as well as lighter, more jibby skis. Its mount point is a little further back than the -2 cm to -4 cm that more jibby skis would be mounted at, which helps a little, but it still feels a little ponderous in clean, light powder. And that’s fine, J makes jibby skis too, just don’t expect The Metal to be transcendent in deep pow.

Crud, Firm Snow, Chop, and General Crap

I skied some very variable conditions on The Metal, runs that took me from scraped ice to tracked-up powder, to cut-up heavy gunk, to wet groomers, and I had more fun in these conditions than I have in recent memory. This ski is an absolute blast when the snow is less than optimal. Coming from more jib-oriented skis, I was very impressed with the level of suspension and stability The Metal offered.

But what really shone through was how predictable and maneuverable it remained. It’s very easy to make a wide variety of turns on The Metal, even in pretty terrible conditions, and it retains this playful feel that meant that I was seeking out sketchier and sketchier hits, even in pretty bad conditions, because I knew the ski would hold up on crappy landings better than anything I’m used to. This did end up getting me in trouble, and almost ended with me wrapped around a tree, but The Metal put a smile on my face the entire time.

I really noticed The Metal’s suspension and stability when I swapped out to the Moment Deathwish for a few runs. I’ve never complained about the Deathwish in bad snow before, but the contrast to The Metal was huge. The Metal has so much better suspension, and is so much more forgiving. It really will appeal to a large number of skiers.

Why? Well, this is just conjecture, but I think it strikes a really nice balance in a few key areas. That weight, and the suspension it delivers, are kept from feeling unwieldy or too strange to more playful skiers by the jibby shape and rocker profile.

Mount Point

At -6 cm, The Metal’s mount point is just a little further back than most skis I’m usually on. I really liked the ski at -6, but at -4 I found that the swing weight felt a little more balanced, and the ski was a little easier to pivot in tight spaces, at the expense of just a touch of flat-out stability. I settled on -5 cm, and if I was going to mount this ski with a non-demo binding, that’s where I’d drill it. But I’d have no problem mounting it a little further forward or back.

Who’s It For?

Jonathan said The Metal is for “lots of skiers,” which is pretty broad, but pretty fair, too. I think a lot of people will like this ski. The directional crowd that’s looking for something a little less demanding and more playful will have a blast on The Metal, but those used to riding skis like the Armada ARV 106, ON3P Kartel series, Sego Bighorn, Moment Deathwish, and a whole host of other jibby skis will also enjoy The Metal. It offers a significant step up in terms of stability and suspension in variable snow, without sacrificing much of the “fun factor” that helps define those skis.

Bottom Line

J really did hit a homerun with The Metal. It somehow manages to fall in the middle of the spectrum of stability and playfulness, while still appealing to people along its entire range. It’s a little more playful than the directional guys are used to, and a little more directional than the playful guys are used to. But instead of giving neither group what it’s looking for, we’d argue that it manages to offer something unique to them both. That’s pretty impressive.

I’ll be updating this review as I continue to ski The Metal in a variety of conditions, but for now, if you’re a playful skier looking for something that allows you to nuke into hits a little faster in bad conditions, while not sacrificing much playfulness once you do get into the air, The Metal is a great option.

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