Ski: 2010-2011 Black Diamond Justice, 175, cm
Dimensions (mm): 138-115-123
Turn Radius: 33m
I was a little skeptical of the Black Diamond Justice, despite the good things I’d heard about it. I had previously owned a pair of Black Diamond Verdicts that I’d never grown to love, and I was worried that I might find the Justice to be a stiff, unplayful ski that was hard to turn. I’m a smaller girl and a telemarker, so I like a ski that turns easily, floats well, and pops….
Day 1: It was chilly and partly-cloudy day at Alta. Six inches of snow had fallen a few days ago, and conditions were soft but pretty tracked out. Given Black diamond’s burly reputation, I thought I’d start with a gentle groomer to feel out the ski. The first run was smooth and my first turn was near perfect. After just three turns, I nodded and gave my friend a thumbs up of approval. The Justice skied fast and beautifully carved turns. They didn’t feel like a fat powder ski forced to negotiate a groomed run, nor were they as burly and stiff as I had feared.
I then ventured out to Devil’s Castle to explore, sidestepping only a little way. There looked to be some soft, nearly untracked snow below us. I watched a friend ski before me. It looked soft but a little grabby, and I watched him take deliberate, careful turns. Then I dropped in. The snow was smooth in places, but there were buried ice chunks and random patches of wind effect. The skis preformed well, but turning wasn’t effortless. The Justice need to be driven with confidence. When they are, they impress with how well they plowed through chop. Once a turn was initiated I could trust them. The only place I felt caught off guard was making a little playful alpine turn at the bottom of the run. My edge grabbed me by surprise. While I could make a quick but intentioned tele-turn, a mindless, playful maneuver didn’t seem possible, which can probably be attributed to the stiff, non-rockered tail.
Our next move was to go back to Collins lift and try out the chalky looking snow on early West Rustler. At the top of the run, I looked down with a little apprehension. The chalky looking snow I saw from the lift was actually well below a section of steep, firm bumps. But once again I was happily surprised. The Justice turned when I wanted them too, though they certainly required some force to make that happen. I skied down with careful, premeditated turns. Up top where it was smoother with more room to turn, they were fun. They popped over features and gripped into the chalky, buffed snow. But toward the bottom where the moguls became more dense, the ski felt stiff and awkward. The Justice is not a mogul ski. While some powder skis are too floppy and squirrely to turn through tight bumps, the Justice felt too big and stiff.
To summarize my first day inbounds: I felt strongly that the Justice is a very reliable ski that turned when I wanted it to. It was stable once set on a course, and it was extremely fast on groomers. And, while “playful” wouldn’t be the first word I’d use to describe this ski, it did surprise me with its ability to nail a quick tele-turn or leap over a mogul.
After a day of ripping good groomers at top speed, and skiing both variable, untracked snow and chalky, tracked out snow, I was pretty satisfied with the Justice. I rode all sorts of inbounds terrain. But the question of their powder performance still loomed….
Day 2: I was on a quest to find deeper snow. I threw on a pair of skins and ventured across the street from Alta, up Flagstaff Peak, to see what I could find on the other side. Skinning up proved to be as easy as I expected. The skis certainly felt light, but by no means drastically lighter than most other skis. Our first run – a steep chute, with a smallish choke in consolidated powder – put the skis to work. The Justice floated but didn’t turn very well. I felt like I was forcing turns more than I wanted to, given the tightness of the terrain. The second run brought us into mellower, more open terrain, which felt more like the ski’s natural habitat. Their performance definitely improved. But I still finished those two powder runs wanting a little more. The Justice seemed to lack the smoothness that I get from a more playful ski.
We skinned back up, enjoying the scenery. I knew that dropping down the south facing slope would be different. A firm, slick, sun crust was buried under 6 inches of newer snow. I had skied this exact run two days prior, and it was a little tricky. I remember my other skis washing out on some turns as they struggled to hold an edge on the icy, buried crust. The Justice, however, charged and gripped this weird, variable snow.
Day 3: I went back inbounds for an afternoon in the sun, again without new snow. I decided to try to just have fun on the skis and drop the critical, ski-tester attitude. Rocking out on my i-pod and riding laps with friends, I felt at home on the skis. We ripped some groomers and hit a few little features. Once again, cruising at high speeds on the Justice was fun, but popping off the trail to get some air, I was tossed and bucked. They are definitely not a Jib ski. They lacked pop, and something felt funny about the weight (or lack their of) under my feet. I landed back-seat every time. I soon headed out to Ballroom where more buffed and bumpy snow gave the Justice a new challenge. I was impressed with their performance here. They held an edge and easily navigated the spaces between awkward features.
After three days, I certainly felt comfortable skiing the Justice. I would even say I liked them. As someone who believes strongly in a two-ski quiver, the Justice had started to put some questions in my mind about the possibility of having one ski that does it all. I would almost go that far. But I can’t. I have grown too accustomed to a playful ski. The Justice have some play. They make fun, snappy turns, are quick edge to edge, and have a lot of energy. But they lack the ability to make buttery, smearing turns. And in powder, while they floated, they felt rather lifeless.
The Justice is a reliable ski. They are wide enough to be a powder ski and are simultaneously quick edge to edge. As a telemarker, I find this combination hard to find, yet extremely important. And the tip-rocker promotes float and surf in powder, while softening the blow of obstacles in more variable conditions. If you like to charge fast and straight and feel like you’ve got a solid pair of planks under your feet, the Justice might be the only ski you need. As for me, I’d happily ski on the Justice again, but I don’t think I’ll be getting rid of my two-ski quiver.