The Armada JJ UL is a legend in the realm of powder skis. Its girthy dimensions, light weight, and nimble character make it a dream tool for those seeking the deepest powder stashes on planet earth. Powder stashes you’re likely to find in the deep snow paradise of Niseko, Japan, the home base of OYUKI. Being that the JJ is the perfect ski for smashing the deep powder of OYUKI’s hometown, along with OYUKI and Armada’s shared focus on combining innovative technology with timeless artwork, a collaboration was only natural.
“We have a long-standing relationship with the good humans at Armada, and this project represents our shared love of art and smashing pow. Our vision was to create a ski that would perform perfectly in deep pow as well as visually share the spirit of Niseko,” explained OYUKI Founder, Matt Hampton.
Armada co-founder, Hans Smith, has known Hampton since he was Armada’s Australian distributor back in the day. Their partnership continued to grow when Hampton later opened Rhythm stores in Japan, quickly becoming one of Armada’s top global retailers (not to mention one of their favorite places to shred).
“Because OYUKI started in Niseko and translates to ‘big snow,’ and Niseko is one of Armada’s favorite places to ski pow, it was just a natural collaboration,” said Smith. “Japan stands for so much in Armada’s relationship with OYUKI and the brand stands for the things we love, so it was a natural fit for us to come together and produce a ski with a group we admire so much.”
To achieve their vision, every construction element of the skis’ construction is intended for a backcountry freestyle experience. It features a Caruba Wood core and is 25-percent lighter than previous models, creating a uniquely lightweight and smooth ride when the going gets deep. To visually bring the ski to life, the brands’ commissioned Mike Shankster to design the topsheet. Shankster holds a longstanding relationship with OYUKI, having created the artwork on their first products and being responsible for much of their visual identity to this day.
“Commissioning Mike to create the artwork was a no brainer,” added Hampton. “His love of Niseko and relationship with OYUKI runs deep. We provided Mike with the ultimate canvas, the ARVJJ UL. The result is something we are all truly proud of.”
Shankster pulls inspiration from his childhood growing up in the remote, rural wilds of Australia and his deep immersion in punk rock culture. He’s known for his sharp, detail-oriented illustrations, and has produced works that span mediums ranging from paintings to digital renderings to full-length public murals.
“I’ve traveled between Australia and Niseko for several years and have been lucky to work with OYUKI since its inception,” said Shankster. “It’s been a nourishing experience collaborating with OYUKI; it triggered my love for Niseko and Japanese culture as well as enabled my skillset as an artist to grow beyond any expectations I had ever imagined. The mountains hold a special place for me, particularly Niseko. The quietness of the hills and the depth of the snow allows the weight and obligation of life to disappear, bringing real presence.”
When designing the artwork for the OYUKI + ARMADA JJ UL, Shankster wanted to convey the warmth and welcoming characteristics that make Niseko such a special place for so many.
“My intention was to create an artwork that reflected the uniqueness of Niseko,” said Shankster. “The small bars tucked away under snow-covered buildings, the playful nature, coupled with the homely aesthetic that the town brings. It makes you feel at home, which is something unique to Niseko.”
“Mike’s real talent is as an illustrator and in fine art, and we knew that he was going to be able to create something special. By using ink and blackline art, he was really able to create a truly one-of-a-kind graphic on our iconic JJ Ultralight chassis,” added Smith. “He included this Tanuki, a Japanese mystical creature that’s described as a shapeshifter, built into the actual design of the buildings. The representation of what the local setting looks like in Niseko is a really iconic graphic for Armada, and we’re very fortunate that we were able to partner up with Shankster to create something so unique and appropriate for a city of this nature.”
Armada will produce 200 pairs of the collab JJ UL globally, all in the 185-centimeter length. Available now at oyuki.com