Firstly, I will post this in the review section also, for those that complain about a concentration of reviews in the ski equipment section.
Skier: 5'8, 150 pounds.
Ski: 178 Armada JP v. Julien
Mounting: Look P18 mounted -5.5 from true center
Conditions: All over BC, from Whistler-Red, from powder to groomers and moguls
It should first be noted that my focus on riding this ski was powder and big lines, not backcountry booter sessions. To that end, I cannot really vouch for the switch abilities of this ski in powder - other reviews found here accomplish this already.
On the Mounting Point:
I selected -5.5 as a mounting point based off the personal settings of Anthony Bornowski, and it's almost as far back as the ski's construction will allow you to mount it. I'm always very wary of selecting mounting points having no experience on a ski, but I am happy to say that -5.5 is a GREAT setting for riding on this ski. It allows one to really push the tails and crank turns around while not overly pushing weight to the rear of the ski. With -5.5 I found the ski to ride perfectly, neutrally and with no noticeable bias towards a light tip or heavy tail. Riding switch with this setting was only done on groomers, but i had not trouble with controlling the ski.
On the Binding:
Binding reviews on the highly popular and praised P18 are limited on NS and full of one-line claims and bias to no end. Hopefully, I can put forward a more respectable opinion. I bought the P18's on NS from a fellow member acting on good old impulse and my agitation with modern plastic binding construction.
Initially, I was worried about the weight of the bindings, especially since the Armadas are light skis, and I was hoping to keep them so. While the final mount was not the lightest, it was about the same if not slightly more than my Rossignol Scratch's with Rossignol Axial 120's.
To be blunt, these bindings are absolutely amazing - solid, confident and worry-free. Alot of people on NS are smaller riders like me, and many have claimed that the P18 is dangerous in this context. I disagree, I run my DIN low at 10, but I find the bindings to stay on far more than my Axials at a similar DIN. Moreover, the binding has released in bad situations. While a FKS 155 may be a more rational choice, finding a P18 was easier for me.
The feeling of connection to the ski is noticeable in my opinion, the bindings provide a greater feeling of unity between the skier and ski. This connection, coupled with the strength and confidence they inspire when dropping into lines, is invaluable.
The only downside is having to reset the heel when the binding disengages. But this is no problem at all and takes 2 seconds.
The P18 is THE binding to own in my opinion when riding powder and lines.
On the Ski:
When you pick the ski up it's very light with a mid flex that is not soft, nor stiff. Plus it has white sidewalls, and everyones loves that.
The 178 length has not been discussed much, so this review should be valuable.
When I got the ski I was initially worried about the length, tossing and turning at night over whether or not the 188 would have been better - and if so, what of the manly ANT?
The moment I got on the ski on the hill, I felt alot better about the length. It is true that the ski skis shorter than the length indicates, but not too short at all. On groomers it turned fine, though a bit slow (which I expected.)
I like to get used to skis by taking them through all conditions by riding them for about 2 weeks straight. This way I understand fully how the ski handles. The ski when cranking down groomers feels great, due to the soft flex. It pops well, and the ski loads well under pressure. However, since it is a powder ski, it's ability to hold edges at the limit on such snow conditions is questionable - but irrelevant. I then moved to moguls, messing around on Blackcomb and it's many chopped up chutes following a week of no new snow. Surprisingly, the ski was quite fast in turning through them. I had no issues controlling them, and cranking off fast pop turns. I was left VERY happy with the performance of the ski in this area.
More importantly, onto the area of riding this ski was meant for - powder and lines. To start, the ski is simply amazing for this sort of riding, it's fast, initiating quick, floating, turns, and does not flex adversely if you press it on. The way it turns should be noted. It has very little sidecut, leading the ski to slightly slide/drift in turns rather than cut as sharply as other skis. This is not a bad quality at all, it simply takes one a bit to get used to - once you initiate a turn at the last minute only to slide sideways into a tree (that a normal ski would turn around) you wise up. Once mastered, which is quick, the way the JP turns is disturbingly fun, giving the ski a playful characteristic in powder that I can't simply get enough of.
One thing to be careful of is the flex outside of powder conditions in powder chop. These conditions usually appear on groomers on powder days, and stand as a weak point to the ski. The chop threw the ski around to a point where I had to really manhandle it to ensure that it stayed flat and in control. This flaw is irrelevant once one rides the lift back to the powder.
Bringing my riding to RED mountain, in Rossland BC, I realized the true strength of this ski for people my size choosing the 178 length. Tree skiing. RED is known for its tight, fast tree skiing in deep powder, and this ski was very much at home here. The ski slid, and chopped lines through the forest with confidence, and left me stunned and smiling. For me, the 188 in this context would have been harder to control due to the length and my size. The 178, due to the shorter length, is better to maneuver in the tight, tree skiing context for smaller riders.
Exiting the treeline, I was left on the face of a cliff, with a wonderful two stage drop shaping up in front of me. I let her rip, and loved it. Hell, I'm even smiling now. The ski lands with confidence, and fills you with confidence to push it hard off drops. Cranking out one sexy as hell sliding turn to the second drop, I went off and landed cleanly and stuck. Others reviews have claimed the ski is awesome as landing drops, and I agree. It may be the width of the waist, but other skis have the same quality, so us reviewers may be missing another characteristic of the ski.
I then moved to hike into the back country for runs at Mt. Roberts, the site of the Canadian Freeskiing Championship. This tested the ski's ability on open face powder riding. I dropped in off a cornice onto the main face and opened the throttle. Once again, no qualms at all with the ski in this context. It ripped just as well as before, turning quickly, with that cahracteristic slight slide/drift. It felt so great that I had to do another bootpack to the top. The 178 length was fine, but I wonder how 188's would have done. Rest assured that the 178 length was not a hindrance on open face lines, but there was something slightly noticable that left me wondering. Would I move to a 188? NO.
For those of you wondering if this is a good overall ski, I would say No. I think a ski like the Scratch BC (or whatever Rossi calls it now) would be a better choice, or something else with a smaller waist - since this ski would not be entirely happy in the park. Plus, I would not want to harm it's pretty little sidewalls and edges.
In conclusion, this is quite possibly the longest gear review ever on NS, and I expect most that read it to complain about the length. But for those waiting to spend a ton of money on a new ski (or binding) I think this review will be helpful. If anyone has any questions, ask away, or MSG me.