[Editor's Note: Our review was conducted on the 16/17 Armada BDog, which is unchanged for 2017-18, except for the graphics].
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Ski: Armada B-Dog
Length skied: 179cm
Tip-Tail Length (Straight Tape): 179.5cm
Binding: Tyrolia Attack 13
Days skied: 10+
Reviewer height/weight: 5'11, 160lbs
Review Location(s): Whistler, Canada
Conditions skied: Late season park, slushy all mountain, groomers
2017 is set to be a year of change for Armada. While the all new ARV range has taken most of the attention, for me, the one ski which really stood out was the all new Armada BDog.
A BDog ski has been in Armada’s range for a number of years, but it was more of an adaption than a whole new ski. Most of you will probably remember the Halo and Alpha skis and this is where the previous BDog ski came from. The new version however, is all new.
Every aspect of the new ski is designed by Phil and fills a gap I think has been present in the Armada range for a while. The Thall was always one of my favourite skis - it's soft buttery flex made it really fun to ride - but it was starting to look dated. Full camber and mid 80's underfoot may have been popular around the 2000's, but it's not what most park skiers want today. The new Armada BDog in my eyes is an updated Thall, so it was for this reason I was so excited to try it out.
Before I got on the skis I wanted to know a little more about why Phil had changed the ski so much, so in his own unique and understated way, this is his take on the new skis:
Tom: What were your main aims in redesigning the BDog ski?
Phil:To experience something new and create a ski that that would enable me to accomplish my visionz more easily
Tom: What did you want to change and what were you hoping to achieve in the new ski?
Phil: I wanted the flex to be softer and stiffer at specific areas on the ski, to reach ultimate pop without compromising the way it skis.
Tom: What did you like about the old ski and did you want to bring elements of that to the new one?
Phil: It's a full redesign, we moved on for the best!
Tom: With you riding a lot of urban as shown in the new film Be Inspired, was that something you wanted the new ski to excel in?
Phil: Indeed, but mainly a ski that would ride well all around was the focus.
Tom: Where do you think the new BDog sits within Armadas current range? I.e. full urban, park, all mountain, or bit of everything?
Phil: A bit of everything for sure, but specialized in park, the street and slushy BC conditions
Tom: Anything more you would like to develop further?
Phil: Will see after I try it out!
Tom: Anyone you want to thank?
Phil: Logan Imlach for his concern, he is open-minded and understands what we are trying to create.
The new Armada BDog is a more conventional shape than the five point sidecut of previous versions. At 90mm it sits between the ARV 86 and 96 and is in the range of where most park skis seem to be going. It does use a more extreme sidecut than the ARV range and the tip and tail dimensions are similar to that of the ARV 96, even though the waist width is 6mm narrower on the BDog
Unlike the Edollo, the BDogs use the 2.5mm edge - something which I'm sure the more jib happy skiers among you will be happy with. The Edollo - although a fun ski - is perhaps not the most durable, so it’s nice to see Armada address this with the BDog. Considering the type of urban we are seeing from Phil, durability was obviously high on his lists of priorities.
The rest of the build is similar to what you will find in the ARV range. It uses the Ar rocker, which although not extreme, does make the tip and tail more playful. There is slightly more rocker in the tip than the tail, but compared to the large rockered tips of the Edollo, it’s a lot more even tip to tail. There is a good amount of camber underfoot, much like the Ar7 and Thall used to have.
Armada's 50/50 sidewall is used - which is a combination of sidewall underfoot and a capped construction in the tip and tail. Using a capped construction in the tip and tail makes for not only a lighter ski, but also a more flexible feel and the sidewall underfoot aids carving performance and protection against damage on rails. I like this combination, as full sidewall skis can often have a rather heavy and stiff feel, which can work in certain situations, but for park can sometimes be a little overkill.
The core is the Pop Light, which is a combination of softer, lighter wood and firmer more dense wood. Using both lets the core be made in such a way that the tip and tail can be softer, without compromising stability and strength underfoot. The new spin tip is also present, which is a lighter material used in the tip and tail to reduce swing weight, much like Rossi do with the air tip in their “7” skis.
On the Snow
The trend recently has been for park skis to get wider and wider, to the point it's not uncommon to be riding 100+ skis in the park. This wider shape does have its benefits, but it's not without down sides too. Wider skis will be heavier and slower to throw around, so I was pleased to see the new BDog somewhat bucks the trend and uses a 90mm underfoot width.
Some of you may be surprised by this, as the old BDog was 95mm, but don't be put off. The tip and tail are now actually wider than previous versions, which makes the skis appear bigger than they actually are. In comparison to other park skis, in the 90mm range the BDog feels like a wider ski, and in the 179 length I was testing they have that fat ski feel, without the added weight which comes with it.
Flex-wise, the Armada Bdog is on the softer side in the tip and tail. If you look in the catalogue it is by far their softest ski. The new ARV 86 and 96 could perhaps be considered replacements for the Ar7, whereas the BDog is that soft, jibby ski that the Thall used to be.
I would not call them a soft ski however. Often soft skis, such as for example the Line TC, can be almost un-rideable at higher speeds and variable conditions, but the BDog's never feel out of control, even when skiing fast.
You can push into the flex and press the ski, but they never feel as though they will give out on you. The flex stiffens underfoot and I found the stability was perfect for hitting bigger jibs at speed, which when you consider the type of urban Phil is doing, makes sense. These are not an X Games competition ski, they are an all-round high performance jib ski.
Personally, I like the feel of more of a comp ski, I like to ski fast and I like really poppy and light skis. All of this is not really the BDog. They are much happier being ridden in a style more similar to Phil's, and this is something which will no doubt appeal to many Newschoolers. They encourage a lazier attitude, smearing and pressing your way around the park and mountain.
Most of the testing I did was in the later spring season conditions when the snow was softer. In the cut up late season park, these skis were perfect. The flex helped them negotiate the ruts and for a softer ski they still had plenty of pop. For slower speed urban style rails you can pop easily to get onto the rail, where they really felt planted.
For bigger features where you needed a longer run up they were really confidence inspiring and I never felt out of control, even in the less than ideal conditions. For the urban skiers out there this will be a big plus. Urban does not favour perfect take off or landings, so having a ski which can handle this will put you at a big advantage.
On jumps they again favour a more playful approach. The skis felt stable enough on the smaller and mid-sized jumps, although at times on larger jumps I did find they lacked some stability on landings. This is not to say they don't jump well, just compared to other stiffer skis I have used - such as the NFX or the new Twall - they don't have that big jump feel to them.
One thing I did notice was how fast the skis were. This was partly down to them being new and freshly waxed, but I was very pleasantly surprised how easy it was to maintain speed, even in the wetter spring snow; which again could be a big plus in the urban environment.
Out of the park the skis maintained the jibby feel. They are certainly not a ski you will be railing hard carved turns on icy pitches, but for that 'jib the whole mountain vibe' they are perfect.
I got the chance to try them in a little fresh snow and again they handled it well, however they would not be my choice for an all mountain twin for Whistler, as for me personally they were a little soft. I would instead be looking at the slightly stiffer ARV 96 or even the 106. If you live somewhere where the vertical feet are measured in hundreds of meters rather than thousands, they could make for a great all round ski though.
Some of you may be concerned at the largest length being 179, but to me they felt bigger then my 181 Thall's and Ar7's I had spent a lot of time on. This is partly down to the wider waist width and more extreme sidecut, but if you are worried they may be too small I would not be overly concerned. My friend Soren - who is the guy in most of the pics in this article - is 6'4 and close to 200lbs. Compared to me at 5'11 and 160lbs, I did wonder how he would get on with the 179, but watching him throw down on the skis, it did not seem to be an issue.
Part of the reason I had Soren test the new BDogs is the fact he currently skis on the 2016 version of the ski, so was perfect to compare new with old. Along with skiing with him in the park for a few days on the new versions, I got him to write his thoughts on the new skis down, so in his own words this is how the new compares to the old:
“It’s a completely different ski from the BDog 15/16; a lot of the features has changed. The dimensions are nothing like the old BDog, it is not as wide at the waist and has completely different shape. It feels super light and more buttery, which makes it very playful and incredibly fun to do presses on. At the same time, it is still really fast and very responsive with a good pop, so allows you to try out new lines and ideas. I had heaps of fun riding it, and even though it is very different from the old BDog, it’s definitely still a ski I'm strongly considering buying for next season. Also, the graphics are sick.”
Durability wise, as ever, it’s hard to asses without spending a lot more time on a ski, but for the 10 or so days I rode the skis, they held up perfectly. Soren tried his best to break the skis with a disaster gone wrong, but even that was not enough to do the slightest bit of damage. I got no edge cracks during testing, the bases held up really well, despite quite a number of stones coming through, and overall the skis still looked pretty much brand new.
The Armada BDog is basically what I always hoped the Thall ski would evolve into. It feels like a wide ski, but without the compromises of a fatter ski. Many of you will be considering the new ARV skis, but for the more jibby among you, who like to think of yourselves as a mini Phil, I would take a closer look at the BDog.
Although I did enjoy the BDog, it is tough for me to say whether I would buy it. It is not stiff enough or wide enough to be an all mountain ski for the way I ski, and although it’s really fun in the park, I favour a more competition-orientated ski.
However, reading the forums I would appear to be in the minority in favouring this style of park ski, so I think there are plenty of people who the BDog will suit perfectly.
If I was still skiing the Snow Domes in the UK, or was calling the mid-west or east coast home, I think my opinion would be different. The BDog would be a perfect dome ski, where speed is more limited and a more playful style of riding is favoured.
As an all-round park-to-urban ski they are a lot of fun. I wouldn’t say they are my favourite park ski I tested - that review is still to come - but I was very pleased with the direction Armada have taken with them. It fills a hole left by the Thall and is almost a passing of the flame from one hugely influential skier to the next.
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Next up: K2 Marksman (Meethammer!)
Thank you to Phil, Sharpy, Soren, Dan and Peter for their help with this article.