I really enjoyed skiing the TST in soft chop, as they felt stable, versatile, and easy to maneuver, provided that I was driving the shovels and skiing with a forward, athletic stance.
In these conditions, that ~40cm of rocker in the tip that made the TST feel so manageable on groomers comes back into play, as it helps the ski float through the soft chop. The shovel is stiff enough that the rockered tip smooths out the uneven soft snow and provides enough support that I was comfortable driving the shovels of these skis and skiing aggressively through the soft chop.
While softer than the El Capo or the Influence 105 underfoot, I still found the TST to be stiff enough to provide a stable platform through soft conditions, especially when ridden with that forward stance. I also found the unrockered, twinned tails to be stiff enough to provide support whenever I ended up in the back seat, but soft enough to be forgiving of those mistakes.
In very deep, thick chop, the TST becomes a bit less forgiving, and not quite as smooth or stable. I discovered this while making laps on Baldy Shoulder at Alta a few days after a storm cycle that dropped 3 feet of snow. The snow had settled to become pretty dense, but was still very soft.
After a few laps, I realized that the tips of the TST were having trouble providing a smooth ride through the larger clumps and piles of dense snow. I played around with a few techniques, and found that as long as I maintained a forward stance and drove the shovels, the extra force of me being over the shovels would help the tips flatten the mound of snow and keep the ride feeling fairly smooth. But, if I hit one of these clumps of snow in a neutral stance or in the back seat, the tips would be deflected up and I would be tossed further into the backseat.
As long as I continued to drive the shovels the skis felt pretty smooth and stable, but they became less forgiving in very deep, dense soft chop. With this forward stance the skier actually helps to control / manage the shovels, which helps eliminate the deflection that I experienced when in a neutral stance. That being said, if you’re looking for a ski to really rage through chop there are many stiffer, damper skis out there that do this work for you.
These skis felt very versatile in soft chop conditions. I felt comfortable arcing large, fast GS turns, linking slower, shorter radius turns, and feathering my edges to smear out a turn at any speed.
Overall the TST performs well in soft chop conditions, but it does require the user’s technique (forward stance, driving the shovels) to help dampen the ski and stop the tips from deflecting. I wouldn’t recommend the TST to someone looking for a ski to blast through chop, but if you’re picking up the TST for its other attributes, then I imagine you’ll also be satisfied with its performance in soft chop.
Point / Counterpoint
Will Brown and I talked a good bit about the TST’s performance in both soft and firm chop, so I figured I’d share Will’s take:
“I found that I could keep the ski fairly stable through chop so long as I didn’t put it up through too high of an edge angle. But at a certain point, at a certian speed, I found that the TST’s started to get squirrelly no matter what, especially in firmer conditions (as you note below). So I think the important thing to underscore is that the TST isn’t a “cheater ski” you can jump on and rage though chop without skiing very attentively, even when skiing soft chop. The most important point is that you have to keep an eye on the shovels and try to keep them under control. I just want to make sure that someone looking for a stiff comp doesn’t assume that as long as they keep a forward stance, they can use the TST as a killer chop / crud ski, no problem.”
In my experience so far, any ski designed to be an “all mountain charger” must sacrifice performance in one area in order to perform well in others. For the TST, that area of sacrifice is firm chop and crud. The TST’s tip rocker, softer flex (compared to the Influence and El Capo), and poppiness make it difficult to confidently ski fast in firm, choppy conditions.
I found that firm, choppy snow deflects the rockered tips of the TST, and that the tips aren’t stiff or damp enough to absorb that impact. Once the tip gets deflected by a bump, the poppy, elastic nature of these skis causes the energy from that deflection to propagate along the whole ski. This makes it hard to keep both skis on the snow, let alone tracking cleanly, and makes skiing fast over firm chop quite scary.
This problem is slightly mitigated by maintaining a forward stance and driving through the shovels, as this stance can help dampen the energy from the deflected tip, but even with this stance I never felt very comfortable skiing fast in these conditions.
On the other hand, skiing fast through firm chop while in a neutral or backseat stance is downright terrifying. For the few turns that I was unlucky enough to make in a position like this, the deflecting shovels would continuously toss me further into the backseat, with each bump threatening to buck me onto my butt until I could bring my skis back underneath me.
Moguls / Firm Chop, Cont.
The TST did perform better when I skied through firm chop like I would through large moguls: with more precision and finesse. Just as in other conditions, they felt manageable and maneuverable as I finessed my way through both the firm chop and mogul fields. I was impressed by how well such a long ski was able to slide through the bumps/chop, as the rockered, tapered tips and relatively soft flex profile helped keep the TST from getting caught up in these conditions.
The TST performed very well in powder, and I found I was able to drive the shovels, float, and make a variety of turn shapes in fresh snow.
Just as in soft chop, the rockered tip of the TST provides enough support that I felt comfortable driving through the shovels in new snow. My first run on the TST was down Gunsight at Alta on the first day that the gate was open since that 3-foot storm. Upon dropping into the chute filled with smooth, wind-buffed powder, it only took me a turn or two to feel comfortable driving the shovels and making fast GS turns all the way to the bottom.
Baldy Shoulder opened the next day, offering up the deeper, denser pow I mentioned earlier. I was able to make a couple laps through a variety of terrain before the zone started getting tracked out, and I was able to make both fast, open GS turns and short, quick turns through trees while in that forward stance, without ever feeling like the tips were going to dive.
Bottom Line (Who’s the TST for?)
I would recommend the Armada TST to:
1) Skiers who ride powder/soft snow while it’s there, prefer to ride groomers when conditions are firm, and want a ski that can do both.
2) Skiers who want a ski that is very versatile in soft snow, but prefer to lock it down and ski firm chop / moguls at slower speeds with more precise turns.
3) Intermediate and advanced skiers who spend most of their time either on groomers or in pow, and want a ski that is very good at both.
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