Jones Aviator vs Ultra Aviator

When I heard Jones were releasing a 158 in the Aviator line I was really pleased.  I’d ridden both the 156 and 160 Ultra Aviators – I liked both of them for their snappy, lightning quick performance, however one felt a bit too long for an all mountain freestyle deck and was more of a carving groomer board, whereas the 156 was a little lacking in stability at speed at my weight.  This isn’t a criticism- the 156 is a downsize on the weight chart, so to some extent it was a compromise I was forcing through.

The 158 seemed like the perfect option.

Cutting to the chase – the Ultra Aviator is a pricey board.  Especially at full RRP and it sits well outside of any comfort zone I’m prepared to pay for a deck.  When I saw a low cost 158 in the regular construction I grabbed it, there and then, on my iPhone and eagerly awaited the bargain of the century to arrive.

I’ve ridden both constructions now – and it’s fair to say the only real similarity is in the name and the brand – they are chalk and cheese in terms of feel.

Anyway, back to the Ultra Aviator – the key unique attributes here are the weight and the edge hold.

Firstly weight – this is a super, super light board.  Paired with a set of Burton Genesis bindings, I could barely feel the board on my feet on the chair lift.  It was so easy to turn and your boots felt naked when boosting off a side hit.

It’s lightning quick – I had no issue keeping pace with the ski pack, in fact I’d go so far as to say the 160 was probably the fastest I’ve ridden any board ever by this point.  And at speed it had bucket loads of stability.

This low tip weight had a slight downside – through crud – you couldn’t punch it out the way and the clear tips would just resonate don’t do that if you ploughed into a messed up patch of snow.  The secret seemed to be to slice through bad snow, and certainly moguls, using those really sharp edges by digging hard.  This board is a weapon – a katana.

umathe Jones Ultra Aviator – a precision blade for slicing through the mountain

This analogy leads nicely onto to the edge hold.  The Ultra Aviator features a small bevel to the edge.  This slight up turn means the board is far less catchy than it looks – bringing about the classically great properties of a camber board for carving with some more modern looser style riding at lower speeds.  It’s a great feature of the board, and whilst I didn’t venture into the park, I can see why it would live up to its freestyle positioning in the Jones range- even if there are far cheaper and arguably better options out there to go bonk off features.  Coupled with magna-traction, this board grips firm snow and slices its place on the mountain with precision rather than aggression.

It’s a beautifully crafted tool that suits anyone looking to blast around the mountain mainly on pistes.  You can set the stance back for powder, but I suspect this isn’t a great powder board – Jones has better options for going the ‘wrong side’ of the posts.

Aviator 158 – Regular Construction

I never did find the elusive 158 Ultra Aviator at a price point I was content with, but I did chance upon a regular Aviator in 158 during an internet trawl of end of season reductions.   I thought about it, quickly, no brainer – it couldn’t be that different to the Ultra Aviator and I liked the colour – a dark red, it looked good.

How wrong I was – this board was stiffer- both torsionally and longitudinally.  It was heavier (a lot heavier) and just felt utterly dead on the feet.  Don’t get me wrong, it was quick and I felt it could probably be punched through duff snow the way the Ultra Aviator couldn’t; but all the finesse of the Ultra was lost and non-existent.  There was no Uma Thruman here, it was a standard issue broad sword for an uncredited character on Game of Thrones.  It did nothing special, other than go hard and fast whether you wanted to or not.

On that basis, I’d say this had zero freestyle credibility – you could, I guess, call it a meat-and-two veg charger, but I’d probably put it in the category of boring board for a big old fella on piste.  You’d need to be dead in the soul to get much enjoyment from this board – it just does nothing special and for smashing pistes at speed, there are a ton of better options out there.

The only positive thing I can say is that at least it still carries the Jones name – which means when you sell it, you won’t suffer too much depreciation.  Ironically I actually turned a small profit when this went on eBay…. silver lining n’ all that.

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