Ski: 2017-2018 J Skis Vacation, 186 cm
Available Lengths: 173, 180, 186 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 183.5 cm
Stated Weight per Ski: 2185 grams
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2048 & 2096 grams
Stated Dimensions: 135-106-124 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 136-105.7-124.8
Stated Sidecut Radius: 18 meters
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 69 mm / 52 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~2 mm
Core: Maple + Carbon Fiber Stringers + Fiberglass Laminate
Factory Recommended Mount Point: 4.15 cm from center; 87.6 cm from tail
Blister’s Recommended Mount Point: -4 cm
Boots / Bindings: Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 / Marker Jester Demo
Test Locations: Grand Targhee, WY
Reviewer: 6’0″, 180 lbs
Days Skied: 4
[Editor’s Note: We are conducting our review on The Vacation with the “Magic Carpet” topsheets, which is the same ski as the current model shown to the right, apart from graphics]
If there’s one word that J Skis’ product description of The Vacation brings to mind, it’s the word, “soft”. J states, “The Vacation is the ultimate getaway … from traditional stiff fat skis.” “This is one of the widest skis you’ll find with such a soft flex pattern,” it’s “like a futuristic version of ‘Elizabeth.’”
If that copy is to be believed, the emphasis here falls squarely on just how “playful” this all-mountain ski is … but there is a bit of a twist here.
We’ll be getting out on the Vacation soon, but here are our initial impressions, including some comparisons to another ski from J, The Metal…
Shape and Rocker Profile
First things first: J has two 106mm-underfoot skis in the line, The Metal, and The Vacation. And really, those two skis shouldn’t have much more in common than their waist width — skis named “The Metal” are usually stiff and are supposed to charge. And The Vacation is supposed to be soft and designed to play.
We’re huge fans of the Metal — Jonathan Ellsworth and I both found it to be approachable and capable, and think it will work for a wide range of skiers in a wide range of conditions. Some of that performance comes down to its shape — it has a very playful-looking, reasonably-tapered shape, especially for a ski named “The Metal.”
The Vacation looks very similar to The Metal as far as shape goes, and if you go to J Ski’s website, both skis actually have the same stated dimensions, and the same stated sidecut radius. J even gives a complete breakdown of rocker profiles for both skis, and … they’re identical.
They only differ in two key areas: weight, and their recommended mount points. Which adds a level of intrigue to this review.
In the past, plenty of companies have offered varied layups of essentially the same ski, to mixed results. In the case of skis like the Moment Bibby and Bibby Tour, it makes a lot of sense, and we think both of those skis perform very well for their intended purposes. However, while skiing several different versions of RMU’s North Shore 106 last year, I came away skeptical, wishing the shape had changed with the layup to better suit each ski for its intended purposes.
That similarity between the Metal and the Vacation means that we’ll not only be comparing the Vacation to the current crop of all-mountain jib skis, we’ll also be looking at how it compares to its burlier brother.
And now, even more intrigue.
Jonathan sums up The Vacation’s flex pattern like this:
In Front of Toe Piece: 8-8.5
Behind Heel Piece: 8.5-8
J Lev emphasizes the soft flex pattern of The Vacation, but by our numbers, The Vacation definitely isn’t the softest ski out there. That said, the flex pattern does feel very accessible, and it ramps up very smoothly without any hinge points. Jonathan said it reminds him of the flex of a really nice, progressive 120-flex ski boot — easy to bend into a turn, but supportive as you press into it harder. To him, at least, the flex pattern feels really good … but how soft the flex pattern was is definitely not what stood out to him.
That said, The Vacation is currently on its way to me, so once I have it in hand, I can directly compare it to The Metal (that I am hoarding and will probably claim is lost if Jonathan asks me to send it on to another reviewer). But Jonathan’s operating assumption for now is that The Metal is definitely not significantly stiffer than The Vacation. And in fact, the shovels of The Vacation might be stiffer than those of The Metal. So I’ll sort this out as soon as I can.
At -4 cm, the Vacation’s recommended mount point is right in line with a bunch of other skis in this class of all-mountain freestyle skis. I skied the Metal both at its recommended -6 cm mount point, and at -4 cm. I found that I personally liked the Metal better a little further forward, but more directional skiers will probably like that -6 cm mount point (as Jonathan did). My guess is that I’ll get along very well with the Vacation’s -4 mount point, and I’ll play with moving the mount point a little forward and back as well. I’ll also ski The Metal and The Vacation back to back, both set to the same mount points to see if I notice anything interesting.
This is where the Vacation differs the most from the Metal — it’s about 300 grams lighter per ski. That’s a significant amount, and while The Metal feels surprisingly light on the snow and in the air, The Vacation should feel much lighter. That should give it the edge in tight areas, or when jibbing, but will likely come at the cost of some variable snow stability.
For reference, here are a few of our measured weights (per ski in grams) for some notable skis:
2032 & 2062 Line Sir Francis Bacon, 184 cm (17/18, 18/19)
2048 & 2096 J Skis The Vacation, 186 cm (17/18, 18/19)
2109 & 2145 Armada ARV 106, 188 cm (18/19)
2144 & 2153 K2 Marksman, 184 cm (17/18, 18/19)
2221 & 2245 ON3P Kartel 108, 186 cm (18/19)
2241 & 2295 4FRNT Devastator, 184 cm (17/18, 18/19)
2341 & 2318 J Skis The Metal, 186 cm (17/18, 18/19)
The Elizabeth Question
There’s one line in that product description that will stand out to playful ski fanatics of a certain age: “like a futuristic version of ‘Elizabeth.’”
The Line Elizabeth was Eric Pollard’s park ski from around 2008-2010. It was short, fat (110mm-underfoot), really, really soft, fully cambered, and an absolute blast — as long as you knew what you were doing and weren’t too tall for the ski (a lot of people were since the longest length it came in was 182 cm). Now, used pairs of Elizabeth’s occasionally pop up for sale, and the corresponding hoopla is impressive. People still get really excited about that ski. So JLev is bringing back the Lizzie!?! Pretty exciting stuff!
However, by the numbers at least, the Vacation doesn’t seem that similar to the Lizzie: it’s narrower, stiffer, and has taper and rocker, all things the old Lizzie lacked. Of course, a futuristic version of the Elizabeth would have evolved over the last eight years of ski design, but as far as we can tell, the Vacation is not as radical as the Elizabeth was when it came on the scene.
And if anything, we’re very curious to see how “capable” The Vacation is as an all-mountain ski, and how hard it can be pushed. Because even if J wants to call The Vacation “soft,” we certainly don’t think it’s some noodle.
Bottom Line (For Now)
By the numbers, the J Skis Vacation looks like a competitive and compelling addition to the 104-108mm-underfoot playful, all-mountain ski category. It also looks remarkably similar to a ski we really like, the J Skis Metal. I’ll be getting on The Vacation shortly, and will be testing the two skis back to back, along with many other similar skis in this category.
NEXT: The Full Review