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J Skis – The Friend

Cy Whitling reviews the J Skis Friend for Blister Gear Review

J Skis Friend

Ski: J Skis – The Friend, 186 cm

Available Lengths: 173, 180, 186 cm

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 183.1 cm

Stated Dimensions (mm): 136-114-125

Blister’s measured length: 183.1 cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2348 & 2354 g

Stated Sidecut Radius (180 cm): 19.5 meters

Core Construction: Maple + Fiberglass Laminate + Carbon Fiber Stringers

Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered): 71 / 57 mm

Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~3 mm

Factory “Standard” Line: -6 cm

Mount Location: “Standard” Line

MSRP: $749

Boots / Bindings: Roxa X-Face 120 / Marker Griffon Demo

Days Tested: 10

Test Location: Taos, NM; Targhee, Wyoming

Intro

We’ve already awarded the J Skis Metal a ‘Blister Best Bet’ award, and Scott Nelson has reviewed the all-mountain, jib-oriented J Skis Allplay, it’s time to weigh in on Jason Levinthal’s powder ski, the Friend.

At a width of 114 mm, The Friend occupies the more versatile end of the powder ski spectrum, and that’s reflected in Jay Levinthal’s description: “I designed “The Friend” to be truly the best of both worlds. Float, surf, slash, butter in the deep snow until it gets tracked out, then have equal fun maching top to bottom chop and groomers like it ain’t no thang.”

I spend most of my time on similar skis in this 105-115 waist range,, so I was excited to get to know the Friend.

We’ve also now posted our Deep Dive Comparisons of the Friend to a host of other playful powder skis, so become a Blister member or Deep Dive subscriber to check out our comparisons.

Flex Pattern

In hand, the Friend definitely sits on the softer end of the spectrum. Its tips and tails are a little softer than the Line Mordecai, and it doesn’t stiffen up significantly toward the center of the ski. Overall, the flex pattern is pretty consistent, and I’d call it “a medium / medium-soft’.

On snow, there are no hinge points in the flex,

Pow

My first runs on the Friend coincided with the tail end of the storm that blessed Taos immediately after SIA. Most of the mountain was tracked out, but several chutes in West Basin still held very good snow.

The Friend was very easy and intuitive, even in steep, tighter lines. Although the snow wasn’t bottomless, I never buried the tips, and was able to intuitively milk the last of the storm snow that still lingered.

Cy Whitling reviews J Skis Friend for Blister Gear Review

Cy Whitling on the J Skis Friend, Teton Pass, WY.

At higher speeds, I definitely noticed the Friend’s softer flex, especially in contrast to the ON3P Jeffrey 114 I’d skied the weekend before. I’ll dive deeper into that comparison below.

Later, while skiing a few inches of fresh snow off Teton Pass, my impressions were re-enforced: the Friend is very easy to ski in new snow. It floats well, and the soft flex and jibby shape and rocker make quick slashes and directional changes easy, even in heavier snow.

Soft Crud

The majority of my time on the Friend has been spent skiing softer, tracked-out conditions, both the remnants of storm snow, and slushier, sun-softened snow.

In these conditions, the Friend is a blast. It responds best to an upright stance—its soft shovels are easy to fold if you get too far forward, but its soft tails are easy to load and pop off of just about anything.

The Friend is definitely not a charger. It does not enjoy nuking through crud, but instead, prefers to slarve and bounce through the rough.

Firm Crud

The same is true in more firm conditions, too. This is not an easy ski to blast through chunder on. It gets washy at higher speeds, and feels very vague underfoot, not snappy and engaged. Keep in mind, however, that we’re talking about a soft, jibby, pow-oriented ski.

NEXT: Comparisons, Who’s it for, Etc.

26 Comments

  1. Ran Wei March 7, 2016 Reply

    I logged on today and was confused how I hadn’t seen this review when I was thinking about buying these, given that I scoured just about your whole site. Then I saw the published date.

    I just had these out at Kirkwood two days ago after a big storm and couldn’t agree more. They’re the bounciest skis I’ve ever tried and are really energetic, making them very easy to turn any way I want I want at low speeds. Really great for taking into the woods into soft, smooth powder in a slow, meandering way, which is what I mainly bought them for. Very floaty in powder, and I agree with the folding as I managed a dramatic faceplant after landing too far forward after an unexpected jump.

    I’d also tried them at Northwood on freshly groomed runs and found it surprisingly pleasant and the edges very responsive (just roll them onto their sides and boom — grip) — as long as the snow was smooth. The edges can also dig into ice if they get the right angle, but that can be hard to do in some conditions, like on the icy top of Kirkwood’s Cornice Express where it’s relatively flat and it’s hard to lean the skis over (that part was unpleasant on the Friends). The description that J Skis gives for the skis is very fair. Fantastic for powder and can carry an edge on groomers.

    BUT. The same bounciness that makes these fun at lower speeds makes them terrifying at higher speeds if the snow isn’t consistent and/or if visibility is poor — small variations in snow feel like they launch me into the air. That’s great when I know it’s coming and want it, but in crud and/or with poor visibility the supreme bounciness launches me into unexpected jumps and it can be very tiring to get down the mountain.

    A question for you/the community — after Kirkwood I found myself thinking longingly about all the folks who just powered through the same snow conditions that made me jittery. It’d be nice to have something much more damp/stable and with float for the deeper snow that I see here in California. Could I ask y’all for some ideas?

    I’m 6’0, 185lbs and currently have:
    – J Skis Friend in 180 (I find them super easy to turn in, but not at all stable)
    – Head Rev 85 Pros in 177 (carving oriented all mountain skis made of titanal — I find them much more stable than the Friends though I’d like skis that are even more stable and capable of plowing through or over things; the Heads also don’t float that well which is probably the main reason why I’d consider a third ski);

    The metal Katana sounded nice, though I wondered if the weight and burliness would be too much for someone like me who does like to turn. I’d give up some of the ease of turning though, if I could be confident that I could consistently stop quickly, in highly variable conditions, if I use enough power.

    Of course the metal Katana isn’t available anymore. Reading everything I could find on the carbon V-Werks Katana, it seems the main knock is that its light weight makes it harder to bust through crud at high speeds. Crud busting in both light and heavy snow is the important thing to me, but going 50+ mph is pretty rare.

    I can get a really good deal on the V-Werks Katana in 191; would they fit what I’m looking for? Their light weight has me less worried about the length. I really just care about crud busting in all conditions, and stability at speeds that a mostly reasonable person would regularly achieve. Thank you for any input!

    • Author
      Cy Whitling March 8, 2016 Reply

      Thanks for the comment!

      First off, I’m not surprised that you’re running into those issues on the 180cm Friend. I’m about the same size as you, and feel like the 186cm Friend is a touch shorter than I’d prefer. The Friend is not what I would characterize as a really stable ski, even within its class of more playful freestyle skis, and it’s quick enough that, when in doubt I’d recommend sizing up.

      If you’re looking for something similar to the Friend, that is much more capable without losing all of that jibby feel, the ON3P Jeffrey 114 is a great bet. It’s worlds more stable and versatile in crud than the Friend, and is the most “chargy” playful ski in this waist width I’ve been on. It’s also a load of fun, just like the Friend, it loves to jump and play. The difference is you can take it up to mach chicken in crud and not feel like you’re going to die.

      I haven’t been on any of the Katanas, although, from talking to our people who have been on them I’d say that they are a very different ski that rewards a very different type of skier than the Friend.

      I’ve been on the more touring-oriented sibling the V-Werks BMT 109, and found that yes, it is better than the Friend in crud and chop, but it does not reward a more upright, playful, jibby style. It’s very far from the Friend on that spectrum.

      The Katana, especially in the 191, is going to be a lot more ski than your 180cm Friend, if you’re looking to update your quiver in a way that really doesn’t overlap with anything you already own, it’s a great choice, however I might steer towards a more neutral option.

      • Ran Wei March 8, 2016 Reply

        Haha, thank you for the reply!

        >Mach chicken in the crud
        That sounds pretty awesome. I’ll definitely read up on it.

        When I was thinking of the Katanas, it was as a third pair of skis. But after some thought on your suggestion, I’d probably be happiest with a charging-capable jibby ski than with both a super-jibby ski that can’t charge and a super-charging ski that can’t jib. I wish I could justify having all 3 of those but I wouldn’t have any space to live in if I had 4 skis lying around, never mind the expense of it…!

        I want to give J Skis a shoutout, I emailed their line for returns (they have a money-back guarantee) and Jason himself answered in 20 minutes flat, asking for some feedback on the skis (naturally, I pointed him here to your review). I can’t think of any other company where that’s happened. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from them again when they inevitably launch something else that’s cool!

      • Ran March 9, 2016 Reply

        After some more reading — would the Bibby 190 be a better fit? I don’t actually do tricks, I just like to be able to turn and pivot easily — and as I’d mentioned before I like stability and dampness at speed.

        • Author
          Cy Whitling March 9, 2016 Reply

          I doubt it.

          I’d agree with JLev, just from your comments, I really think a lot of your issue was that you were on way too short of a ski. So, the 186 Friend would be a huge step up in stability.

          The J Skis Metal would also offer a significant versatility upgrade without losing that easy to ski feel, just make sure to get the longer length of that as well.

          I personally have yet to ski the Bibby / Blister Pro, and haven’t tried exceptionally hard to because I know that I am the sort of skier that doesn’t want or need that sort of stability at the expense of playfulness and an intuitive feel. From your comments I get the impression that you are too.

          So, with that in mind, I’d again bump you toward the ON3P Jeffrey 114, you can check out our review on the site, it’s an incredible blend of playfulness and stability.

          While it’s discontinued for next year, the K2 Shreditor 112 also is worth mentioning in this discussion, especially since they are still pretty easy to find. The 189cm version is surprisingly stable, and is also very easy to ski. It’s not quite as confidence inspiring as the Jeffrey, but will let you go much harder than your 180cm Friend.

          If you really want to get a Bibby then I’d recommend the 184cm version, it’s going to feel like quite a bit more ski than your 180cm Friend, but I think any of the options I mentioned above would be a better choice.

          • Blister Member
            Ran March 9, 2016 Reply

            Gotcha, I guess I find it surprising that 6cm would make that much of a difference…!

            I was looking around for the ON3P Jeffrey 114, but it’s out of stock everywhere except in the 176 (too short from what I’ve read here) and 191. Could the 191 work? I really wanted a lot more stability than my 180 Friends, can sacrifice some playfulness and am willing to put some more effort into my turns.

            Thank you for the thoughts, especially from a different viewpoint than the rest of the site that really leans heavily towards the Blisters.

            [Also, finally bit the bullet and joined! Woo]

            • Author
              Cy Whitling March 9, 2016 Reply

              Congrats! That badge looks good!

              Looks like the 186 is three weeks out on back order, and I’d guess you want these ASAP to finish out the season?

              I really do think a 186 Friend wouldn’t be the end of the world for you, it’s going to be pretty impressively stable, compared to your 180cm version.

              On the same note, a 186 Line Mordecai is going to be pretty similar but just a touch more versatile than the Friend.

              Unless you are charging pretty aggressively, (more than I am, and more than I’d guess you are) I’d steer you away from the longer Jeffrey and either wait for the 186 Jeffrey, or go with the 186 Friend, Mordecai or Metal.

              Now that you are a member you can check out our Flash Review of the Metal:

              http://blistergearreview.com/gear-reviews/flash-review-2016-2017-j-skis-the-metal

              I think that could be a pretty good fit for you.

              As far as that 6cm, at your size, and especially when looking at playful, rockered twins, I would never recommend going under 184cm or so. This sort of ski should be remarkably easy to turn, so bumping up in length isn’t as scary, and helps with stability, the bane of this kind of ski.

              In addition, that length jump from 179/180 to 185/186 in a manufacturer’s line of skis often comes with a jump in stiffness as well, making the ski even more suited to your size.

              • Blister Member
                Ran March 9, 2016 Reply

                If getting them fast isn’t an issue (happy to use my skinnier skis for a few weeks) — sounds like the ON3P is still the recommendation? (and the Mordecai was more if I wanted them fast?)

                Jonathan also brought up the 184 Bibby/Blister Pro. If my idea of playfulness is ease of turns and pivoting at low/medium speeds and I’m rarely going to ollie or butter, would the 184 Bibby/Blister be as good or a better option than the ON3P?

                I am pretty sure I’m looking for >110, I really value the float and want skis that will complement my 85s on deeper days (which as I’m increasingly finding, is most days out west!). I do look forward to reading the full Metal review; going to the Flash Review was the first thing I did after registering.

                Thanks for all the help guys, I’m looking forward to drooling over all the cool stuff and places on your site.

                • Author
                  Cy Whitling March 10, 2016 Reply

                  You got it!

                  I’ll leave the 184 Bibby / Jeffrey comparison to Jonathan, I haven’t been on the 184 Bibby at all, so he’s much more equipped to weigh in on that.

            • Hey, Ran – welcome to the team! For what it’s worth, Cy and I discussed your question before he wrote, and I concurred: I would not recommend the 190 Bibby for you; the 184 is a different beast. I agree that the 184 ON3P Jeffrey 114 would be a good call, but I think the 191 could be overkill. I personally think the 186 cm J Skis The Metal would be a very good bet, and I can’t say for sure whether I think you’d prefer it or the 184 Bibby more. But I could see you loving either. So I’d make the decision based on how narrow or wide you want to go: sub-110mm? Easy. 186 cm The Metal. Want a wider ski for more float in pow? 184 Bibby / Blister Pro. And now that you’re a member, you should absolutely read my Flash Review of The Metal. Full review coming soon…

              • Blister Member
                Ran March 10, 2016 Reply

                Jonathan — figured it’s easier if I reply here as well.

                You brought up the 184 Bibby/Blister Pro — if my idea of the playfulness I want is ease of turns and pivoting at low/medium speeds and I’m rarely going to ollie or butter, would the 184 Bibby/Blister be a better option than the ON3P?

                Thank you!

                • If “ease of turns and pivoting at low / medium speeds,” is the primary goal, I think the differences between the two skis is going to be quite negligible, and not the reason why someone might choose one over the other.

                  • Blister Member
                    Ran March 10, 2016 Reply

                    Sweet, thank you! I’ve gone ahead and ordered the 184 Bibby — reading through, it sounds like I’m getting more stability and losing the ability to butter, which is totally fine by me. There’s also the 10% discount that comes with the badge.

  2. JLev March 8, 2016 Reply

    Right on, A 186cm would actually make a big difference and if I talked to you prior to your purchase I’d definitely suggested it, any expert over 6′ should be skiing longer than 180cm for sure!

    However if you’re just looking for a very stiff powerful ski without the playfullness then yeah you should get a different ski. I always focus on making sure my skis are super fun and playful obviously always without removing too much stability to try the perfect balance of not giving out too much of one for the other. Most people love the distinct feel of my skis in terms of being able to have more fun with less effort, you don’t have to constantly on the gas pedal to have a great time with a more nimble and energetic, playful ski that turns the whole mountain into a playground vs. just trying to straight line past it…haha. But like I said size has a lot to do with it, any expert skier over 6′ 170 lb should be skiing over 180cm that’s why I offer longer lengths. See what other’s who own the Friend ski think by choosing a graphic and scroll down to the reviews section at the bottom of the ski page: https://jskis.com/collections/friend

  3. willie March 10, 2016 Reply

    Ran Wei, the J skis friend sounds like the last ski you should ever buy for kirkwood or any other mountain in Tahoe, you should of gotten the Moment Bibbys instead, that way you would have the playfulness and still be able to charge thru the crud at mach speed, their made in Reno for Tahoe conditions.

    • Blister Member
      Ran March 10, 2016 Reply

      Hadn’t thought about that. Of course they’d be optimized for the resorts that are right next to them…

      Thank you, I’m still hoping either Jonathan or Cy reply.

    • JLev March 10, 2016 Reply

      “sounds like the last ski you should ever buy”. . . really???

      You’ve never even ridden the ski, so please don’t spread miss-information. I’ve sold a ton of the Friend skis to skiers in Tahoe and the Northwest who absolutely love them! Any people reading this that want to know what skiers that actually ride these skis daily think about the skis, read their reviews here http://www.jskis.com/tune-out

      • Blister Member
        Ran March 10, 2016 Reply

        I’m happy to back this up, the Friends were loads of fun in smooth deep snow at Kirkwood and really enjoyable on just-groomed slopes at Northstar. It’s now obvious that I should have gotten a longer length, and also I might just be looking for a somewhat different kind of ski.

  4. willie March 10, 2016 Reply

    The Bibby is the perfect Tahoe ski, it floats well up to about knee maybe thigh deep if its steep enough, but what sets it apart from the pack is how well it does when it gets chopped up/ hammered and starts to set up hard, you can just blow thru it at mach speed skipping over the top and blasting thru it, they are so STABLE at speed in chop, and you can lay some serious carves down on the groomers as long as its fairly soft. The 184 is a very playful/nimble ski that dosn’t give up much to the 190 when charging.

  5. willie March 13, 2016 Reply

    JLEV, how do you know I’ve never ridden it? I have, sure its a blast in perfect conditions like a lot of your skis and Pollards style Lines, but they all fold when it gets chopped, and heavy.Maybe you should spend more more time on the REAL coast instead of the east coast and REAL snow, then you might build a more versatile ski instead of skis for when its “just playful conditions” code word meaning WONT CHARGE.

    • JLev March 14, 2016 Reply

      hahaha awesome! . . . It’s just skiing.

  6. Alex March 25, 2016 Reply

    My favorite fat ski to ski anything and everything was the 2011 Sir Francis Bacon with the black/white bases. I stopped skiing and sold my prophet 100s after that. The SFB was all I skied until I stumbled upon ON3P.

    Anyways, today I don’t have the 2011 SFB. Obviously the tips and tails of The Friend are more tapered than the ’11 SFB, but I was wondering how the friend would compare. I don’t know if you have been on that ski Cy or if JLev will stumble upon this comment and weigh in, but it seems like an interesting comparison.

    Or if someone has a 2011 182 SFB laying around; take my money.

  7. JLev March 28, 2016 Reply

    Alex,
    The original SFB I think you’re referring to http://www.freeride.co.uk/gear/skis/2011/line/sir-francis-bacon.html was 115mm wide and literally my inspiration for creating the Friend 114 wide but of course I’ve applied a bit more modern shape and rocker that I’ve learned since as well as a much much more traditional directional shape with a wider tip and narrower tail. The overall flex though is very very similar and that’s a huge part of what you love about the Bacon because there quite simply aren’t other brands with the guts to offer that fun of a flex.

    The reason I tapered the shape more from tip to tail is because 98.9% of skiers rarely if ever ski backwards in pow so a narrower tail and wider tip will naturally float much better and when carving on firm snow it will also carve more comfortably. If you’re not skiing and landing backwards in pow, it’s counterproductive to have equal tip and tail width and Eric will tell you the same. Eric always was willing to sacrifice a ton of forward skiing float in the name of him wanting as much float as possible skiing backwards thus almost symmetric tip tail width and him mounting only 2.5cm back
    original bacon 142/115/139
    friend 136 / 114 / 125

    What makes people fall in love most with the OG Bacon and Friend is the shape and flex and rocker actually the fairly deep sidecut compared to others in that category and in both the original Bacon and Friend we run the sidecut pretty far up the tips relative to others in the category giving it the firm snow handling other brands blow off as a goal. The rocker is gradual so the edge still engages and doesn’t bounce when on firm snow and you’re on edge yet surfs effortlessly. Also anyon reading this feel free to call me anytime if you want to discuss more 802 585 1098 or email jason@jskis.com

    • Alex March 29, 2016 Reply

      Thanks for the info Jason… that link is the ski I’m talking about. Awesome to hear that was the inspiration for the Friend. I will try to get on a pair.

  8. JLev March 29, 2016 Reply

    I don’t have any demos, instead I offer a 100% money back guarantee, if you don’t like the skis after 3 days of riding them you can return them. more info: https://jskis.com/pages/warranty

  9. JLev October 28, 2016 Reply

    Heads up! My name is Jason levinthal and J skis is my ski company, so if you have any questions about this ski or any of my others, please feel free to post a comment and I’ll do my best to get right back to you here. You can also hit me up directly anytime at jason@jskis.com or (802) 585-1098. To check out my other skis and customer reviews go to http://www.Jskis.com. Thanks Blister for another great honest and in depth review!

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