Ski: 2014-2015 4FRNT Hoji, 187cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 185cm
Dimensions (mm): 130-112-121
Effective Edge Length: 112cm
Sidecut Radius: 30 meters
Weight Per Ski: 4.9 lbs.
Boots / Bindings: Nordica Enforcer 28.5 / 4FRNT Deadbolt (DIN) 13
Mount Location: Factory Recommended Line
Test Location: Alta Ski Area
Days Skied: 12
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 12/13 Hoji, which is unchanged for 13/14 and 14/15, except for the graphics.]
The 4FRNT Hoji made quite a first impression on me while in Japan (which you can read about in my initial Hoji review). For the conditions and terrain we were skiing nearly every day, the Hoji was one of my favorites of the trip because of its uniqueness. In 2-12 inches of fresh snow and mellow but super playful terrain, I found the Hojis to be light and dynamic. They loved to stay pointed down the hill while bouncing in and out of the snow, blowing through soft pillows for speed control. They also felt equally at home breaking into a nice smear as a means to keep speed in check.
After the Niseko trip I really wanted to get more time on the Hoji, so I brought it back to Alta to see how it would do in a larger variety of snow conditions and some steeper terrain.
After spending quite a bit more time on the ski, I still feel like the Hoji is definitely a ski that offers a unique feeling on the hill. I wouldn’t be willing to make this the only ski in my shed, but it would definitely make a great addition to certain quivers.
As I pointed out in my initial review, the Hoji has a continuous full-length rocker, which is the same radius as the turning sidecut. While this aggressive rocker profile contributes to the Hoji’s exceptional attributes in soft snow, it leads to some interesting characteristics when the snow firms up. When using a low edge angle while smearing down bumpy and hard conditions, it was difficult to find a sweet spot to stand on, as the skis felt kind of like a rocking chair. I did find the trick to skiing these firmer conditions was to use a higher, more aggressive edge to engage more of the ski’s sidecut, and to stay balanced and strong over a spot just in front of the toe piece. Too far forward and the soft shovels would start to get overwhelmed; a more upright stance led to too many instances caught in the back seat.
Luckily, not all the ski days this season were on firm snow, and I did take the Hoji out on a few small storm days, which turned into chopped-up mega-crud days. I found the Hoji to be the most in its element when the snow was fresh, or slightly cut up. In smaller doses of untracked pow (1-12 inches), the Hoji was truly exceptional, in all terrain.
Taking the ski down Eagle’s Nest was a high-speed blast full of smears, quick and light turns, and solid landings to airs. Since I talked mostly about powder skiing in the initial review, however, I don’t need to elaborate much here. If it’s soft, the Hoji kills it.
What I didn’t get to see a lot of in Japan was steep terrain that had been skied hard, going from pow to crud to bumps. The Hoji didn’t feel like it was in its ideal environment here. The soft shovels and large continuous rocker led to a bit of a balancing chore, and several instances of being thrown back onto the tail of the ski. One good thing in this case, though, is that the Hoji does have a fairly strong tail, so when I did get tossed back, it wasn’t into the abyss. The strong tails also offered a nice extension to the landing platform when hitting sizable airs.
When warming up or cooling down on groomers, the Hoji gave a smooth and predicable carve with a little instability when going slowly from edge to edge. If you transition quickly, there is little to notice, but move a bit slower and, again, the large, full-length rocker contributes to some unpredictable behavior. Edge hold was fair, but let’s face it, this ski is not intended for much groomer action.
Unfortunately with my busy schedule and some lackluster backcountry conditions, I didn’t get to take the Hoji on any tours. That’s hugely unfortunate because, as I mentioned in my initial review, I do feel like this would be an outstanding backcountry tool. The ski is very light, and the aggressive rocker would handle variable soft snow conditions extremely well. 4FRNT also placed an ingenious strip of rubber on the tail of the ski that you can notch out to keep your skins from falling off, and also protects the tail of the ski from any impact. Of all the skis I’ve tested this season, the Hoji is one of my top picks to have as my primary backcountry ski. Keep in mind, though, if the skin track or parts of your descent are going to be super firm, you will probably want to choose a ski with much less rocker.
To wrap this up, if you are looking to add to your quiver a ski that will give you a new way to attack the mountain, the Hoji could be for you. If you ski much firm snow, whether flat or bumped up, I’d suggest not making the Hoji your only ski. The Hoji loves to fly down the mountain in soft snow, bouncing from turn to turn or smearing down the super steep. It’s super light, is unbelievably responsive in shallow pow, and will rip through soft crud and crusts. I really liked the Hoji. It’s not a one-ski quiver, but it is a blast when conditions are soft.