2020-2021 Armada ARG II

Ski: 2020-2021 Armada ARG II, 187 cm

Available Lengths: 187 cm

Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length: 185.8 cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2700 & 2703 grams

Stated Dimensions: 125-135-133-134-120 mm

Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 133.6-131.9-132.8 mm

Stated Sidecut Radius (187 cm): 50 meters

Measured Tip & Tail Splay: 66 mm / 65 mm

Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: 0 mm

Core: Poplar/Ash + Fiberglass Laminate

Base: Sintered “S7”

Factory Recommended Mount Point: -4.9 cm from center; 88.0 cm from tail

Test Locations: Chugach Mountains & Alyeska Resort, AK

Days Skied (so far): 5

[Note: Our review was conducted on the 19/20 ARG II, which returns unchanged for 20/21.]

Paul Forward reviews the Armada ARG II for Blister
Armada ARG II
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Review Navigation:  Specs //  First Look //  Full Review //  Rocker Pics

Intro

If you were immersed in ski culture around the mid to late 2000s, you’ll probably remember the surge of ultra-fat powder skis, and the introduction of reverse-camber and reverse-sidecut designs. There was DPS’s Lotus 138 & Spoon, the Praxis Powderboards, Fat-ypus A-Lotta, Liberty Mutant & Genome, and several others (basically all of which were birthed from the revolutionary Volant Spatula, thanks to Shane McConkey).

One of the most notorious skis in that bunch was the original Armada ARG — a 133mm-wide, ultra-tapered, and ultra-rockered fatty.

But while many companies have ditched the super-fat offerings in their line for skinnier and potentially more versatile pow skis, Armada has decided to bring the ARG back for 19/20.

Given that the super-fat market is scarcer than ever, let’s take a closer look at the ARG II to see how this throwback design compares to the current crop of pow skis.

What Armada says about the ARG II

“The ARG II really has no equal. With its 133mm waist it’s float is unrivaled and the reverse sidecut and AR Powder Pocker make it turn on a dime in tight spots and trees. It’s the most surfy, slashy ski we make and when the conditions are right it’ll change your perception of how you thought a true powder ski should perform.

We improved the rocker curvature of the original version for even better float and gave it an all new Poplar-Ash wood core and flex profile for added stability. When it’s dumped so hard that you can’t even see out your window in the morning, it’s definitely a day for the ARG II.”

“Turn on a dime;” “most surfy, slashy ski we make;” “when the conditions are right.”

I think all of those phrases are important. Looking at the shape and rocker profile of the ARG II, I have very little doubt that it’ll be a surfy, slashy ski that can turn quickly. I also like that Armada threw in “when the conditions are right.” This thing definitely looks like a specialized tool, so props to Armada for not trying to convince us that it can also rip icy corduroy, blast through chunder, etc.

The main updates to the ARG II from the original ARG are a new core, tweaked flex pattern, and an updated rocker profile. Armada says they also updated the fiberglass layup.

Shape / Rocker Profile

Armada says the ARG II is a reverse-sidecut ski and that’s … almost true. The majority of the ski is indeed reverse sidecut, or what we’d call extremely tapered. In the middle of the ski, there is a ~54 cm section that does indeed have a very small amount of sidecut (Armada says it has a 50-meter sidecut radius).

Our measured dimensions for the ARG II are 133.6-131.9-132.8 mm. But given the unique shape of the ski, those numbers warrant a bit more explanation. The widest point in the front of the ski (133.6 mm) is about 68 cm from the very front of the ski. The widest point at the back of the ski (132.8 mm) is about 64 cm from the very back of the ski. Compared to almost every other modern pow ski, that makes the ARG II’s effective edge super short.

Compared to currently available skis, the ARG II’s shape is most similar to the DPS Lotus 138 and Praxis Protest & Powderboards. The 141mm-wide Genome is similar only in terms of how fat it is, but the Genome has a very different shape, with way less taper and way more sidecut.

The ARG II’s rocker profile is similarly wild. In a lot of our First Looks, we end up saying things like “X ski has a moderate amount of rocker, but it’s not crazy by today’s standards.” Well, the ARG II’s rocker profile is crazy by today’s standards.

The ARG II has no camber, and instead has a section that’s flat where the sidewall section is underfoot. Beyond the underfoot section, the ARG II’s rocker profile rises dramatically, creating a nearly symmetrical rocker profile that basically looks like a banana. Wild.

The ARG II’s rocker profile is pretty similar to the Lotus 138’s, but the ARG II has a longer flat section underfoot and a bit more tail splay.

Flex Pattern

Here’s how we’d characterize the flex pattern of the ARG II:

Tips: 6.5
Shovels: 6-6.5
In Front of Toe Piece: 7.5-9
Underfoot: 10
Behind the Heel Piece: 10-8
Tails: 7-6.5

At the ends of the ski, the ARG II is not super stout. The first ~30 cm and last ~20 cm of the ski are fairly soft, but where the core thickens, it’s quite stiff. And the sidewall section of the ARG II that comprises most of the area around the bindings is basically unbendable during a hand flex.

Despite the contrast between the tips / tails and stout section underfoot, the ARG II’s flex ramp-up is very smooth, and there aren’t any noticeable hinge points.

Overall, the ARG II’s flex pattern is fairly similar to another super-fat ski, the Liberty Genome. Both skis have fairly soft extremities, which should help them plane in the super deep snow they’re designed for. But then they’re both pretty stiff around the middle.

Dimensions

We already touched on the ARG II’s shape, but it’s worth quickly touching on its girth. At a measured width of around 132 mm, it’s one of the widest skis on the market. The K2 Pontoon (132 mm), Praxis Powderboards (138 mm), DPS Lotus 138 (138 mm), Fat-ypus A-Lotta (140 mm), and Liberty Genome (141 mm) are the other available skis I can think of that are as wide or wider. I’m sure I’m missing some, but the point is that the ARG II is in a very small class of 130mm+ skis, and it’s one of the very few new additions to this class.

Mount Point

Unlike many of the other super-fat skis out there, the ARG II has a very progressive mount point of around -5 cm from center. I think that’s a big differentiator for the ARG II, and could make it more appealing to those who like to pivot through bottomless pow from a centered stance, or maybe even spin on their super-fat skis. Though that last part might require a bit of effort, given our next section…

Weight

Look at the very bottom of the list below. The ARG II is one of, if not the heaviest ski we’ve ever reviewed. At 2700 grams per ski, this thing is extraordinarily hefty. The funny thing is that, when Jonathan Ellsworth and I were handling the ski, neither of us thought that it felt very heavy. Out totally subjective guesses before weighing it were that it was around 2200-2300 grams per ski. But after weighing it over and over, our measured weight kept coming back to ~2700 grams per ski.

Given how big it is, it’s not super surprising that the ARG II comes in really heavy. But it is worth noting that the Lotus 138, Praxis Protest, and even the 148mm-wide DPS Spoon all come in way lighter. Interestingly enough, one ski that’s not that much lighter? The old Volant Spatula.

All that said, I think it’s important to keep in mind the ARG II’s shape. Unlike most skis, where the widest points are near the end of the ski, the ARG II’s widest points are basically directly in front of and behind the bindings. That means the swing weight of the ARG II should feel significantly lighter than its portly weight would suggest. And while just holding this ski, that does seem to be true. We’ll see if that theory holds up on snow.

For reference, here are a number of our measured weights (per ski, in grams) for a number of notable skis. As always, note the length differences to keep things apples to apples.

1710 & 1744 Atomic Bent Chetler 120, 184 cm (18/19–19/20)
1795 & 1817 Moment Wildcat Tour, 184 cm (18/19–19/20)
1808 & 1809 Line Pescado, 180 cm (17/18–19/20)
1854 & 1903 Whitedot Ragnarok 118 Carbonlite, 190 cm (17/18–18/19)
1862 & 1873 Faction Prime 4.0, 185 cm (18/19–19/20)
1910 & 1941 Scott Scrapper 115, 189 cm (17/18–18/19)
1931 & 1959 Volkl BMT 122, 186 cm (17/18–18/19)
2013 & 2099 Moment Wildcat / Blister Pro, 184 cm (18/19–19/20)
2019 & 2051 K2 Mindbender 116C, 186 cm (19/20)
2034 & 2052 Blizzard Rustler 11, 188 cm (17/18–19/20)
2043 & 2046 4FRNT Inthayne, 188 cm (18/19-19/20)
2083 & 2097 Line Magnum Opus, 188 cm (15/16–18/19)
2093 & 2115 DPS Spoon, 190 cm (13/14–17/18)
2102 & 2137 Line Sick Day 114, 190 cm (17/18–19/20)
2126 & 2173 Rossignol Super 7 RD, 190 cm (17/18–19/20)
2130 & 2130 Moment Wildcat / Blister Pro, 190 cm (18/19–19/20)
2133 & 2133 Salomon QST 118, 192 cm (17/18–18/19)
2176 & 2178 Praxis Protest, 186 cm (12/13–18/19)
2183 & 2190 Black Crows Anima, 188.4 cm (17/18–19/20)
2196 & 2199 Icelantic Nomad 115, 191 cm (17/18–18/19)
2220 & 2252 Faction Prodigy 4.0, 186 cm (17/18–19/20)
2212 & 2215 Armada ARV 116 JJ, 185 cm (17/18–19/20)
2222 & 2278 Prior CBC, 184 cm (17/18–19/20)
2228 & 2231 Blizzard Spur, 192 cm (17/18–19/20)
2230 & 2250 Black Diamond Boundary Pro 115, 185 cm (17/18–19/20)
2246 & 2265 Fischer Ranger 115 FR, 188 cm (17/18–18/19)
2267 & 2270 Whitedot Ragnarok 118, 190 cm (16/17–18/19)
2268 Praxis Powderboards, 190 cm (stated weight)
2285 DPS Lotus 138 Spoon, 192 cm (stated weight)
2296 & 2309 Liberty Origin Pro, 192 cm (17/18–19/20)
2297 & 2317 K2 Catamaran, 184 cm (17/18–19/20)
2341 & 2357 Dynastar PR-OTO Factory, 189 cm (18/19–19/20)
2343 & 2360 J Skis Friend, 189 cm (18/19)
2346 & 2351 Nordica Enforcer Pro, 191 cm (17/18–19/20)
2382 & 2395 ON3P Billy Goat, 184 cm (17/18–18/19)
2408 & 2421 ON3P Kartel 116, 186 cm (17/18–18/19)
2417 & 2469 Liberty Genome, 187 cm (17/18–19/20)
2429 & 2437 Kingswood SMB, 188 cm (16/17–18/19)
2438 & 2480 DPS Foundation Koala 119, 189 cm (19/20)
2438 & 2492 Rossignol Black Ops 118, 186 cm (16/17–19/20)
2490 & 2529 K2 Catamaran, 191 cm (17/18–19/20)
2651 & 2654 Volant Spatula, 186 cm (02/03)
2700 & 2703 Armada ARG II, 187 cm (19/20)

Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About

(1) We doubt the ARG II is going to be great on firm snow, but one of our main questions is just how deep it has to be to warrant breaking out this super-fat ski?

(2) What about other consistent, forgiving snow conditions like slush and corn? Is the ARG II fun in those conditions?

(3) Given its progressive mount point, what kind of stance(s) will the ARG II demand?

(4) How noticeable will the ARG II’s hefty weight be?

(5) How does the ARG II compare to other superfat skis, and what about the ski that spawned all of them — the Volant Spatula?

Bottom Line (For Now)

While more and more companies are trimming down their pow skis, it’s cool to see Armada giving the proverbial middle finger to convention and trends and bringing back their ridiculously big, rockered, and tapered pow ski. The new ARG II now stands out more than the original ever did before, and we’re eager to get it out as soon as possible. We’ve sent the ARG II up to reviewer Paul Forward in Alaska, and we’ll report back as soon as he’s able to get time on it. 

FULL REVIEW

[Editor’s Note: While we still need to answer a few remaining questions, our reviewer Paul Forward has been getting time on the ARG II, and we wanted to share what he’s learned so far.]

I received the ARG II in late April last year, which was too late even for our Alaskan season to properly assess their potential. Fortunately, our winter here in Girdwood has turned around, we’ve been getting quite a bit of snow at Alyeska Resort, and I’ve been out a handful of times working with Chugach Powder Guides. I still need more time on these skis to finalize my opinions, but I have some initial thoughts.

In our First Look of the ARG II, we posed a few questions that are now worth exploring. I’m going to offer some preliminary answers while reserving the right to update later.

But before I dive into the questions, however, I should take a moment to address the conditions for which the ARG II was intended…

Powder

In untracked powder, the ARG II is similar to the DPS Lotus 138 that I’ve been gushing about for years. I’ll get into a more specific comparison later, but for now, suffice to say that the ARG II offers similarly effortless turns and pivots, drifts, and slarves as well as other similarly shaped skis.

Paul Forward reviews the Armada ARG II for Blister
Paul Forward on the Armada ARG II.

Compared to most other super-fat shapes, the ARG II does seem to prefer a slightly more neutral stance, but once up to speed, it’s fairly supportive of a more aggressive forward stance as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’ve never skied untracked powder on a “reverse-reverse” style super-fat ski, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. In this era of so many excellent and more versatile powder skis, most people won’t buy a ski like this. But it’s definitely worth trying, because there’s nothing else quite like it. And if you’re fortunate enough to have a quiver of skis, a pair like this probably deserves a place in it (depending on where you ski).

Now, to our initial questions from our First Look:

Question #1: We doubt the ARG II is going to be great on firm snow, but one of our main questions is just how deep it has to be to warrant breaking out this super-fat ski?

As I’ve done with many other super-fat “reverse-reverse” type skis, I’ve probably pushed the envelope a little with the ARG II. I’ve skied a few runs on the groomers and have negotiated some shallow chop as well as some borderline crud on these. The short answer is: It depends on your priorities.

The first time you ski firm snow on the ARG II (or other skis with similar shapes) it does feel really weird. They feel twitchy and unpredictable when going fast with bases flat, and it takes a couple of runs to learn the best weight distribution between uphill and downhill edges when skidding down groomers to prevent one ski from veering off course. (In my experience, they do best with more equal edge pressure than other ski shapes in almost all conditions.)

Paul Forward reviews the Armada ARG II for Blister
Paul Forward on the Armada ARG II.

But after a few runs, the sensation goes from kinda scary to much more predictable and manageable, though I doubt anyone will ever truly enjoy groomers or firm snow on these beyond using them as a conduit to the next stash of deep snow.

Personally, I love a carved turn too much and enjoy being able to lean onto my edges in chopped-up snow to ever again choose one of these super-specialty pow shapes for firm-snow skiing, despite how fun they are in deep snow. Other skiers, however, might be so in love with the sensation of effortless smeared turns, pivots, and drifts that they’ll decide to take the ARG II out on lift-served days or even a day or two after a storm. For those drifted-turn junkies, the ARG II will get you from stash to stash without too much calamity once you learn how to use them in firm snow.

Question #2: What about other consistent, forgiving snow conditions like slush and corn? Is the ARG II fun in those conditions?

The chairlifts were closed last spring by the time these showed up, so I’ll have to put this on hold until later this season when I get a chance to ski them in this stuff. But I’ll definitely update.

Question #3: Given its progressive mount point, what kind of stance(s) will the ARG II demand?

The ARG II’s mount point doesn’t feel unnatural to me, despite the fact that, before and after my runs on the ARG II, I was on skis mounted at -10 cm. As I alluded to above, the ARG II doesn’t need a lot of fore-aft input for turn initiation, and I think most experienced skiers will naturally find themselves in a slightly more relaxed, neutral stance on these skis. Once they get up to speed — and especially in more supportive maritime pow — a more forward stance is supported, but not really necessary. At lower speeds, pushing into the shovels can create little tip dive and makes the skis feel a little off balance.

Question #4: How noticeable will the ARG II’s hefty weight be?

Once I dropped them onto the snow and clicked into them, the ARG II did not feel abnormally heavy. Compared to the Volkl Three / Bash 135 that has a similar width and weight, the ARG II feels quite a bit lighter underfoot and lacks the massive tip vibration of the Volkls in chop or firm conditions. As Luke mentioned in the first look, the ARG II concentrates most of the weight very close to the boot / binding, so the swing weight is fairly low. Compared to a variety of similarly rockered but more traditionally shaped skis, the ARG II feels pretty nimble underfoot.

Question #5: How does the ARG II compare to other superfat skis, and what about the ski that spawned all of them — the Volant Spatula?

Stay tuned for this one. So far I’ve done some back-to-back runs on the DPS Lotus 138 Spoon and ARG II, but I’ll have some other Deep Dive comparisons — including the Volant Spatula — soon.

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25 comments on “2020-2021 Armada ARG II”

  1. Holy shit that rocker profile. The shape looks a lot like the Protest, which I own in a 192 and love, but they sure don’t look similar at all in profile. Crazy stuff, looking forward to hearing about these.

  2. As someone who skis the predecessor to this ski (the Bubba) on a regular basis, I would like to plant a Maritime-snowpack-seed in the Continental-Blister-brain: have you ever skied a West Coast pow day w/ a foot or more of heavy, wet snow, where “modern” <110mm pow skis sink enough to require jump turns in tight trees & rocks, but 120mm+ fatties simply float & smear where you want them to? This describes conditions West Coast locals see on a regular basis.

    • Intellectual challenge for Blister: reconsider automatically classifying superfat skis as “bottomless blower” tools, and think about their everyday utility for skiers in heavy conditions of more than a few inches.

      • Paul Forward and I have been saying for about 8 years now that the 138mm-wide, DPS Lotus 138 is one of the best skis we’ve ever been on for (1) breakable crust, and (2) heavy mashed-potato snow. I’ve talked about the incredible versatility of the previous Blizzard Spur and the Kingswood SMB, and the very good versatility of the Praxis Protest (128mm-wide).

        Long and short: this isn’t some categorical mistake we’ve been making, and we don’t and haven’t automatically classified all wide skis as always “bottomless”-specific. And in our First Look here of the ARG II, we note that we are interested in checking its performance in slush and corn.

    • Yes. Quite a bit. Various reviewers of ours (myself included) have skied plenty of days like this in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, New Zealand, and Argentina, and (though so many people seem to assume that “continental” areas never experience maritime conditions, I have skied a number of days in Utah (in particular) in where ~110mm-wide rockered skis barely wanted to budge. So, yes, we know what you mean.

      • We didn’t get this ski till very late last season, so we’re hoping to get the full review out mid- to late-season this year so that we can get enough time on it in a variety of conditions, including very deep snow.

  3. I own both the original ARG and a pair of 188 Bubbas, nothing even comes close in powder then a reverse/reverse ski, I laugh at Blister when you guys Are calling 115mm skis powder skis. These are the true powder skis, and with the winter we had here in Tahoe this year, I spent a lot days on both skis, nothing beats dropping into waist to chest deep heavy Sierra powder on a reverse/reverse ski in tight trees or chutes

  4. Also let me add that you don’t need a deep day to ski the ARG, as long as it’s 6” deep soft or heavy corn their a blast, detune the heck out of the edges and they will go sideways just as much as foreword, super fun in deep soft chop/crud. They will be my main deep corn snow ski this spring at both Squaw and Kirkwood

  5. Super curious about your perspective, Matt N. I’m an eastern Washington (continental) skier. The one weekend I’ve been able to ski high water content snow – at Stevens Pass – it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I was on Surface New Life 194s, which are reverse-camber but not tapered, and it seemed to take a lot of speed to avoid hooky behavior.

    • Well, I’m not Matt N, but I am from western WA and ski Crystal as my home mountain. I’ve got a pair of Praxis Protests in a 192, so I’ve got a bunch of time on something not truly reverse-reverse, but pretty close. Sidecut is definitely not your friend in deep, wet, heavy snow. Unlike hardpack, you do sink into the snow, so having wider shovels and tails means that that you have to push snow around with those parts of the ski a lot more to get them to release from a turn, but unlike blower pow the snow’s heavy and sticky and that can be hard to do.

    • Camber, sidecut, taper, & tip/tail rise all play significant roles, but they vary based on snow consistency. In heavy, fresh maritime snow, significant rocker, rise, and taper in both tip and tail will yield maximum maneuverability. I detune tips & tails and only ever notice hookiness issues when encountering inconsistent, crusted layers in the snow. Those New Lifes have very conventional tips & tails: Blister loves wide tips for busting crud, but the heavier the snow, the more those big, bulbous tips & tails fight your ability to pivot them like a true reverse/reverse, or even a hybrid-camber 5-pt ski like Armada’s Bubbas or the JJ.

      • Matt – it sort of feels like you keep assigning to “Blister” positions that we don’t actually hold?

        So let me try to at least clarify a couple positions that I, at least, have found to be generally true after being on a whole bunch of skis:

        (1) The narrower the ski, the more I find that heavily tapered tips will deflect in crud. So the narrower you go, the less, I think, that a lot of tip taper makes sense or is needed.

        (2) Conversely, I have consistently said that the wider the ski, the more that tip taper *does* make sense. I.e, the DPS Lotus 138, and the previous Blizzard Spur.

        (3) Truly “bulbous” tips — i.e., skis with tip shapes like the Renoun Z-Line 90, the current Head Monster 88, the 110mm wide Scott Punisher — those are tip shapes that I do not think are good in crud and chop, because their oversized tips tend to catch and get pulled into a turn when you don’t want them to.

        (4) In terms of tail taper, see our comments about the ON3P Billygoat — the more you are skiing in really dense, heavy, wet cake batter, the more that tail taper is your friend.

        So given that I can’t see that we are actually disagreeing about anything here, please stop attributing to us (or, at least me?) positions that we don’t actually hold, and we will do our best to be clearer than we have been in the past, if need be. :)

      • Matt N, I have read every blister reviews of all skis over 120mm waist many times. Nowhere in any of their reviews do they say anything that supports the views you are trying to attribute to them.
        If you are of a different opinion, please tell us exactly what review you are referring to, and exactly where i the review.

        I suspect you have not read them at all.

        Jonathan Ellsworth, no need to be clearer, you have been perfectly clear in these matters in all your reviews.

  6. Hey David. I’ve skied the 184 new life in wet heavy Tahoe snow and as David mentioned above the side cut is not your friend in those conditions, super hooky unless you really round those edges in the tip and tail, taper helps a lot in those conditions. I run into people all the time in Tahoe wondering how we ski the powder out here, because they are struggling so bad

  7. Wow! That’s a beautiful ski. I owned the original and loved how you could nuke on it and then shut it down instantaneously with a sideways slashing turn. Also loved how it would slither through tight trees effortlessly. Groomers back to the lift were tedious though and the previous years of low snow conditions caused me to dump them. But I missed those mind-blowing moments of pow ecstasy so I ended up buying a 4Frnt Renegade with the intent of re-living the glory days on the ARG. They don’t slither as well in tight trees but are more stompable, easier on groomers and still give you the big pow-O! Both skis can rip at high speed in the deep, but IMO, the Ren probably wins in heavy snow.

  8. Scott. It would be interesting to compare the 188 Bubba to the Ren, since it floats better then the ARG, is more stable at speed, and stomps better, and with side cut is actually pretty fun on groomers, it’s not as quick or pivoty as the ARG, but is more suited for open areas whereas the ARG is best in tight spots or trees

  9. Thanks for the maritime snow perspective, David G, Matt N, Billy and Jonathan. I need to add something along the lines of an ARG/138/Protest/Renegade to my quiver.

  10. So, coming back from Swiss alps where the high alpine conditions switched between dumps and oscillating temps, from smooth dry powder to the wet hooky one and of course crust in between.

    My general weapon BC Atris has 108mm underfoot which was fine but at tiles started to sink a bit too much. So this article has me intrigued.How does the ARQ compare to a bit more generalist skis like Bent Chetler 120s or other DPS than the Lotus?

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