Armada ARV 116 JJ Review

This is my review of Armada ARV 116 JJ. In my opinion, it is a capable, effective powder ski that caters to those who like to get creative and have fun while exploring fresh snow.

With ample waist width and a lightweight build, they give you everything you’d want to handle deep snow. They aren’t a recommended all-mountain option due to some limits in versatility, but they work well for powder hunters who ski hard. 

Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of this ski, who it is best for, and other similar alternatives to consider.

Quick Summary

  • Where to buy: Amazon, The House
  • Best for: Skiers on the prowl for powder while looking for a playful and responsive option to help them find fresh lines. 
  • Pros: Excellent powder ski with plenty of flex and a surfy, fun feel. Light and flexy for a powder ski. That makes them extra playful and allows for creativity while skiing. 
  • Cons: Not all that versatile in other conditions outside of deep, fresh snow. Not a recommended beginner ski
  • Alternatives: Atomic Bent Chetler 120, Icelantic Nomad 115, Armada ARV 106

Any ski can technically be used as a touring ski, but a wide and large option like the JJ will be on the heavy side for any serious ski tour. You’ll get excellent powder performance, obviously, but they will be a lot to handle on the way uphill.

Yes and no. If you’ve never skied powder before, I would suggest trying out a smaller ski because wider options can be a lot to handle. If you have some experience with powder and are ready to take things to the next level, these can be a good option.

Why Trust Me

I’ve been skiing almost as long as I’ve been able to walk. I’ve skied all over the world and have decades of experience skiing on, testing, and reviewing different skis and skiing equipment. I conducted in-depth research into the Armada ARV 116 JJ skis by looking at its on-snow characteristics and other features. I also spoke to a few expert skiers with experience riding them. Below is my detailed review. 

Detailed Review of Armada ARV 116 JJ

Powder hungry skiers demand equipment that will provide them when high-end performance when the perfect conditions present themselves. The Armada ARV 116 JJ is one such ski that can provide all of the float and deep snow performance you need to make the most of every inch of fresh snow. They are also a bit more playful than some other similar powder ski options.

Powder Performance

We’ll start the review off by diving straight into what these skis are fully intended for – powder. The ARV 116 JJ is a capable and effective powder hunter that will give you high-end performance when the snow really starts to stack up. The 116 waist and wider tip and tail provide plenty of float. That allows you to slash and carve your way down an untracked line, grinning like a kid the entire way. 

One thing that truly distinguishes these skis from similar options is how playful they are in deep snow. I know you’re probably thinking that a powder day always feels like you’re at the playground, but these skis take things to another level. If you’re a creative skier who really likes to have fun, these planks will provide you with the freedom to do whatever you want.

That same playfulness and quick response does come at a bit of a cost in terms of aggressiveness. The skis are not the best option for busting through crud or other conditions when it hasn’t snowed for a while. If you’re a straight line bomber type of skier with a need for speed, they probably won’t live up to your standards. If you love to play and roam down a big powder bowl, they’re among the best options around. 

All-Around Attributes

Even though the ARV 116 JJ’s are fully intended for powder days, you’re most likely not going to get to enjoy deep snow every day. While these will get you by in other areas of the mountain, they are a little too wide and flexy to be recommended as an everyday all-mountain pick. They are too much ski to be effective across quickly changing conditions and are better left in the garage if it hasn’t snowed in a while. 

That said, if you have some leftover soft snow or even slush, they can provide you with a solid skiing experience away from fresh powder. The same attributes that give them excellent powder performance allow you to eat up spring slush later in the season. They have plenty of pop and surf in those conditions, and their playful nature comes into effect there as well. Plowing through crust and crud is a different story, but in slush you’ll be fine. 

However, these skis aren’t going to provide anywhere near peak performance on groomers or hardpack. They simply aren’t designed for that. They are an almost entirely powder focused option that will tend to chatter and feel unstable if you try to turn up the throttle on hard snow. They’ll get you down the hill, but you better remain in control and engaged while doing so or the speed wobbles and rocker chatter will catch up quickly. 

Construction and Style

The Armada ARV 116 JJ features the brand’s AR Freestyle Rocker profile that puts plenty of floaty rocker into the tip in tail. That’s a key design aspect that adds to the excellent powder performance and comes in handy when you want to play around. Armada still keeps a bit of camber underfoot to give you response and pop when you need it. It’s subtle, but still manages to do the job in deep snow. Just don’t expect the same performance on hard snow. 

A unique aspect of the shape of the tip and tail is the Smear Tech 3D beveled base. The design supposedly helps to make the skis a bit more versatile and limits binding up in cruddy snow. While I wouldn’t say the feature iis completely effective in the crud department, the innovative shape adds to the ski’s playfulness.

The skis feature a core consisting of both poplar and ash. That combination makes them flexible and gives a character that furthers their playful nature. It also keeps them strong and powerful enough to live up to demanding powder conditions. The edges and base are also made of durable materials, and the skis feature a solid construction that makes them long-lasting even under steady use. 

The top sheet graphics are also pretty dang cool. They feature a skeleton and bird in a bathtub that’s subtle, but weird enough to catch the passing eye. It might be a little too much for skiers who like a plain set of planks, but I tend to enjoy some unique art. Armada always does a good job in that department. 

Price and Value

The Armada ARV 116 JJ is moderately priced in the big, wide, and powerful powder ski department. While they are very good in powder, they do lack some versatility. With that in mind, I give these skis a good value rating because, while they won’t break the bank, you will need to still have other setup skis in your arsenal for days when there isn’t a lot of powder or fresh snow around. 

What I Like

I like powder. As such, I like a good powder ski. These are a pretty unique and innovative take on powder skis, but there’s still a lot to like. The playful nature is particularly great. Many powder skis are firm and floaty. While fine, that doesn’t give you much room to play. That’s not the case here. The JJ is playful no matter how you like to ride. 

I also like the ski’s profile shape and the flexible nature that makes them both quick to respond and gives you enough pop to stay in control at a moment’s notice. All modern powder skis are going to have heavy rocker to keep you on top of the snow, but these combine that with enough camber underfoot to stay planted in the driver’s seat even when you want to lay back and let the lines come naturally. 

These same attributes come into play in slushy conditions, which is another area where the skis deliver. You’ll want to make sure you have them waxed up for warmer conditions in the spring, but they will plow through softer snow and allow you to take advantage of all of their playfulness as the season comes to an end. 

What I Don’t Like

While these skis are great in powder, they don’t offer any other solid performance attributes in other conditions aside from slush. That lack of versatility is to be somewhat expected with a dedicated powder ski, but it really limits their capabilities if you don’t have a lot of fresh and soft snow to explore. If you want the versatility of an all-mountain ski, there are other powder focused options out there. 

While I enjoy the JJ’s playful nature, some other skiers may want something that’s more aggressive and powerful. If you like to bomb down bowls and want a ski that’s strong and efficient for that task, these will leave you hanging. They aren’t intended for that hard-charging aggressive skiing style, and that will be quickly apparent when you really put them under the gun. 

Similar to their lack of versatility is the skis’ inability to really perform well on anything other than soft snow. I don’t like using them and groomers or hard pack. If you’re an experienced skier, you aren’t going to like them in these conditions either.  

The Alternatives

If you’re searching for a different option than the Armada ARV 116 JJ, take a look at these other recommended skies that offer similar, but slightly different attributes:

  • Atomic Bent Chetler 120This is another one of my favorite powder skis currently available. They can easily eat up deep snow and have all of the surf and pop you want out of a powder dedicated option. They are wider and not as playful as the ARV 116 JJ, but they are a little more versatile while still giving you endless possibilities in deep snow. Read my detailed review to learn more.
  • Icelantic Nomad 115The Nomad is all about versatility. The 115 is an awesome all-mountain, powder focused option that will allow you to take advantage of every powder day without sacrificing performance in other conditions. It hits the sweet spot of playful-but-aggressive.
  • Armada ARV 106These aren’t a true powder ski, but they will still give you plenty of performance in the deep stuff and allow you to easily tackle every other condition that comes your way. They make for a perfect one-ski quiver option that can roam through all conditions throughout the course of the ski season. Fun and playful while providing plenty of power and action along the way. Read my detailed review to learn more.

Final Verdict

The Armada ARV 116 JJ is a solid choice for the powder skier who wants to have lots of fun and be creative on the mountain. They lack versatility and don’t have an aggressive nature, which might keep them from being a recommended top choice, but if you want an innovative powder ski in your lineup and are a fan of other Armada options, these are a good pick.

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