Pure bliss – The Armada Pipe Cleaners
There’s a dirty little secret among some of the industry’s top ski manufacturers: most top pros aren’t skiing the same planks that you and I can pick up at your local ski shop.
From the world’s premier race events to the X Games, some ski companies frankly don’t trust their standard models to their best athletes, but instead rely on custom-made setups to outfit their team members. Often times, the skis may appear the same in terms of graphics, but with closer investigation they reveal serious construction differences.
One such company who has bucked this sneaky trend is core freestyle ski company, Armada Skis. Armada, co-founded in 2002 by five pro skiers and a photographer, has never been a company that follows the traditional model. Choosing to base their North American operation in the center of the skate and surf industry, Orange County, California, the company has rapidly emerged as one of the leading influences among the ski industry. An example of this influence can be seen with the development of the Pipe Cleaner ski line.
The Pipe Cleaner holds the distinction of being the first-ever halfpipe specific ski ever produced, something that has since gone on to become a staple among several other companies in the industry. When the line was first released it drew a lot of curiosity from potential buyers. Featuring a higher price tag than the AR6 series, (now the AR7) some skiers may have been hesitant to grab a pair over fear they might be too limited given the seemingly niche use.
However, after being lucky enough to pick up a pair of the 181cm Pipe Cleaners this past year at the legendary Armada warehouse sale, I can assure you while this ski does in fact dominate the pipe, they can also tackle all sorts of other terrain.
Being a seasoned pipe skier, I was planning to almost immediately take these skis into the “stunt ditch” as soon as I had them back from the shop where they were mounted. Unfortunately, at the time, the pipe was temporarily out of commission, probably due to any one of the massive snow storms that dumped on Mammoth this past winter. So instead of going straight to halfpipe, I tested them on groomers, and was immediately impressed with their performance. While bombing down the empty corduroy of Mammoth’s Quicksilver run, I could immediately notice the World Cup-inspired race base. The ease of ripping GS turns on these was unlike any other park ski I’d rode, and I grew increasingly excited to see what other surprises this ski had for me outside the pipe.
After warming up on these babies a few more times, I popped into Mammoth’s South Park Terrain Park where I cautiously figured out the speed required to clear the jumps on these babies. I will warn you – don’t make the mistake of thinking you are still riding on your beat up twin tips. The Pipe Cleaners are fast, and don’t necessitate tucking the run-in to hit the smallest of kickers. The Pipe Cleaners absolutely launch you. It took me a bit of time to figure out exactly how many fewer speed checks I needed in order not to completely overshoot the landing. However, once I became comfortable, it became almost second nature.
Soon after, I was riding with even more confidence as the extra stiffness of the park ski really helped when popping the lips off the jumps, and provided stability when landing both regular and switch. Flipping through the air I felt very much in control on these skis, and was stoked on the ease of the light swing-weight.
Following a few days of salivating over the prospect of unleashing the new skis in the pipe, I was finally rewarded in the Mammoth Superpipe. I was immediately awe-struck at the difference between my previous park skis and the Pipe Cleaners while airing out of the pipe’s walls. The stiffness really increases the skier’s ability to boost, and the 2.5 mm Impact Edge held like a dream.
Spinning and carving off the firm walls was pure ecstasy. Edge-to-edge the skis simply didn’t slow down and maintained the amplitude on every hit.
Proving the skis were no joke on groomers, the park, and especially the halfpipe, the only thing I was really wondering was if these skis could actually be durable enough to handle any sort of jibbing. Featuring a race base, I knew the average rail and box may just eat the ski alive and quickly result in destroying my recent investment. After delaying and delaying ever grinding any rails or boxes on these babies, I finally gave in after my other park skis had to be retired, leaving me no other ski choice to take down ultra-fun jib lines.
Sure enough, even on the jibs these skis held their own. While I advise having a separate pair of skis outside the Pipe Cleaners for jibbing, if maintained appropriately these skis can handle it. Frequent waxes (usually every 3-4 times) will really increase the longevity of these skis, and keep them nice and fast for mountain destruction.
Pipe Cleaners can handle jibs as well – Credit: Nicole Kucerova
So if you’re looking for a ski that is fast, durable, and just pure fun, consider grabbing the same ski that Tanner Hall used to rack up a bounty of competition wins. Once again, Armada Skis knocks it out of the park, and proves why they are continually known for having the pulse on the desires of skiers everywhere.
181cm, 176cm, 171cm, 166cm
[181cm] 117 / 85 / 107mm
[176cm] 116 / 84 / 106mm
[171cm] 115 / 83 / 105mm
[166cm] 114 / 82 / 107mm