An in-depth look at Armada's all-new Stranger ski for 2021, with ski specs and full review discussing piste performance, throwing tricks, durability, and more.
Ski: Armada Stranger
Length skied: 180
Actual length (Tip-tail w/ straight tape): 179.3
Shape: 134 / 106 / 124 mm
Measured weight (each ski): 2111/2123g
Binding: Tyrolia Attack2 16
Days skied: 7
Reviewer height/weight: 5'9, 135lbs
Review location(s): Saas-Fee
Conditions skied: Freshly groomed, shallow pow, crud, park.
Riding photos: Hanne Lundin
The name ‘Stranger’ is no misnomer. These are strange-looking skis. I don’t mean the graphic, which is the traditional Zero series logo, white edition. In fact, the skis look beautiful. But they also look like the lovechild of several different ideas, because they are. Armada’s aim was to build a piste ski, a ski that carves exceptionally, with all the fun of a freestyle ski. They aren’t the first brand to take aim at this best of both worlds concept. Line, for one, have made their play with the Sakana, and perhaps even the Blade. Dare I say it, Salomon’s awful BBR kind of went there too. And of course, there’s the “fun shape” snowboard influence. The Stranger, however, takes a slightly different approach as we’ll see in this review.
The Stranger has a 139mm tapered tip and a 100mm waist. That alone should tell you the sidecut is short, and it is 15.8m in the 180cm ski. It has a pretty significant tip rocker and tip taper that would look at home on any powder ski, somewhat reminiscent of the JJs in fact. The tail is squared off, with more or less full sidecut, and less rocker than the tip. The tail rocker is also very different from the tip, with a near-flat angle somewhat similar to some Surface skis. Armada calls the tech ‘springboard tail’.
The ski is moderately stiff, but not remarkably so. The rockered sections are probably around a 6 flex and the underfoot is softer than some skis. It’s definitely softer than the ARV 96/106. The poplar/ash core and capwall construction are familiar from most of Armada freestyle offerings, with the sidewall extending to the rocker points. The tip is edgeless past the contact points, while the tail features a full wrap edge. All in all, it’s a very unique ski.
The Stranger was, well, strange to ski for the first time too. I jumped on these having spent the summer on the Reckoner 102 and it definitely took a while to get used to looking down at all that shovel. The first thing I should get out of the way with this review is I’m pretty sure I was skiing the wrong size. This ski is designed to be skied a bit shorter, much like the Sakana, which I like to ride in a 172 but Armada only had 180cm samples. I mounted +2cm of recommended (-8cm from true) on the recommendation of Armada as a result, and I’m glad I did. After a few runs, the started to feel a bit more comfortable and I got to start playing around with turn shapes and flex. The tight turn radius and mounting point feel more natural when you turn aggressively than when you ski in a more relaxed position and with a more centered stance. The ski feels like it will make most turn shapes quite comfortably, though it does feel a bit twitchy at high speeds in longer turns. For shorter, more (and I can’t believe this sentence is going in a Newschoolers review) GS style turns though the skis linked up really nicely. They have a good amount of energy in the exit of the turn too, thanks to the moderate flex and poppy core. You can really flex the skis into the turn and bounce out of it. I wouldn’t say they hold on edge for quite as long as the Line Sakana, which hasn’t got any tail rocker, but they do break loose easier to slash turns and pivot more quickly as a tradeoff (despite the extra length on my pair).
Being frank here, at 100mm underfoot, they do not grip groomers like a true piste ski, most of which have waists tens of millimeters (centimeters if you will) narrower. That is especially true on icy days. There is something of a speed limit too. That big tip rocker and moderate flex get a bit flappy when you really push these, and the short radius can feel slightly skittish at speed, though the waist width helps balance that. But for a 100mm twin tip, they ski very well and they do outperform the more center-mounted skis I typically ride. They would make a great everyday ski for someone transitioning away from the park or from wider freeride skis to more hard snow and looking for performance there.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to call this category but I wanted to encapsulate the concepts of all-mountain jibbing, some park, and some backcountry… generally larking about in fact. For that, these skis lie on the jibbier side of the spectrum than the Sakana. For one, the flex is more fitting for a freestyle ski. The Sakana tail is pretty stout and full cambered, so you aren’t going to be doing manuals (wheelies?) all over the hill on those, but on the Stranger, they’re a ton of fun. You can load up that springboard tail and just sit there, and when you want to pop out, it gives you so much energy to do so. The nose profile and flex are fun for buttering too. You have a lot of nose in front of you, so you do need to throw your weight, but it’s not so stiff or challenging as to be uncomfortable. I found it far more chill than the new ARV 106, for example. The tail shape feels a little strange on switch butters, the first time I tried, I got ‘stuck’ because it the square tail doesn’t release without properly popping but again, I got used to this to a degree.
These definitely are not a park/jib ski with that mounting point, but if you’re a very occasional park skier, they’ll do the job for you there too. I hit some features in the Saas-Fee summer park, spun a couple of threes, etc. And while it feels weird to someone used to a center mount, they have enough freestyle DNA to make the odd park run enjoyable if you’re not trying to throw big tricks. There’s plenty of tail to land switch, even in transitions, which I discovered to my great relief on the wallride feature pictured below. You could slide rails too, but with these skis, you really do not want to ruin your edges. That would be defeating the whole point.
They have plenty of pop for playing around on sidehits, and there’s something dope about how the shape looks in shots to me. Skiing switch with the bindings at -8 is weird, but again, it does work. I managed to get my elbow down on some switch carves and I’ll call that good enough for me.
I didn’t get to ski any deep pow on these, but with that much rocker, they will do ok for sure. One thing to note is that even in 6inches of fresh you could feel the squared-off tail not wanting to release that easily. You have to really push it through the snow. They’ll work great for someone who gets a couple of pow days a year, but I again wouldn’t buy them as a powder ski.
I didn’t really put these through the wringer, being as I mostly skied them on trails, but they held up perfectly for my review period. They have the same construction as Armada’s ARV series as far as I can tell, so I would assume similar durability.
Basically, these skis do what Armada designed them to do. They’re fun on groomed snow, poppy, and playful, but not a park ski or a powder ski. They’re a great ski to take when you’re going to hit the trails, play around in glades but not necessarily throw your hardest tricks, ski an epic pow day, or charge super hard. However, I’m not quite sure I understand why they are 100mm underfoot. To me, something in the low 90s might make more sense because it would make them more usable on icy days (East Coast) and even better on groomers which is the primary territory of these skis. But for Europeans and West coast skiers, 100mm is fine for most days.
The closest direct competition is the Sakana, and they are relatively easy to choose between in my eyes. The Sakana moves further away being a jib ski, and as such it carves better, holding more strongly through the turn (better for circle carves (attempts) etc). It’s stiffer too, especially torsionally. But the Stranger is much more fun for messing around on. It’s closer to its jibbier ancestors than the Sakana is, so it offers more in the park, more off sidehits and more buttery playful fun.
For my actual day to day use though, I wouldn’t say they outperform some all-mountain freestyle skis on trails so much that the tradeoff is worth it. The Sir Francis Bacon, for example, has a sidecut profile plucked pretty much straight from the Sakana, so it turns beautifully inbounds, but skis both park and pow far more comfortably than the Stranger. The Stranger is better for groomers alone but to me, the difference was perhaps not great enough to justify giving up the versatility. I really am a guy who skis switch a lot, lands switch a lot, and wants all of his skis, from 90mm to 120mm to be close to center-mounted to best facilitate that. I think if you took that out of the equation, the Stranger would appeal a lot more on a personal level. I also think a shorter size might have made them even more fun which would have changed my opinion. I still really enjoyed the Stranger, it just didn't make that much sense for me personally.
However, the Stranger certainly offers a unique compromise of attributes to achieve ‘all-mountain’ performance. It’s rockered but not stellar in pow, it’s a groomer ski but it’s relatively soft, it’s very directional but playful and fun. I think it’s a ski that’ll be a bit ‘marmite’. Some people will love it, and some won’t really see the point. I do think there are a lot of skiers out there who would love to have a ski like the Stranger in their quiver. It occupies a space between something like the Sakana and your regular mid-fat twin. If you ski out West, or somewhere else that it’s pretty consistently soft on the trail, and you basically ski inbounds laps on said trails with occasional ventures elsewhere, then these are a TON of fun. They offer enough to occasionally venture in to the park too. They’d also be a great, slightly more directional ski to add to the quiver for those kinds of days, even if you’re a predominantly jibby skier like me.
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