This is an ongoing review and I will update it through out the season
Before I get started I'd like to give you some basic information about myself and where I was riding. Please keep these facts in mind when reading the rest of the review. They will help give perspective and how it relates to your personal preferences.
Day 1+2 - Kirkwood, CA
Day 3 - Steven's Pass, WA
Day 4+5 - Kirkwood, CA
Day 6 - Kirkwood, CA
Day 1 - Powder and late day chop
Day 2 - Groomers and packed powder
Day 3 - Hard packed powder and tree powder
Day 4/5 - Soft snow but not wet
Day 6 - Soft snow in the morning with warm/wet snow in the afternoon
Gender - Male
Age - 30
Height - 5'9"
Weight - 150lbs
Foot Size - US Men's 9.5
Years Riding - 18
Style - Freeride / Freestyle
Board - Jones Aviator 152cm
Bindings - 12/13 Now IPO w/ Switchback Straps w/ Green (medium) bushings
Boots - 12/13 Burton ION (US Men's 9.5)
Stance - Reference Stance F12 R-9
I bought this board because I was looking for an aggressive freestyle board that was not the CustomX. I prefer technical freeride lines over park jumps and jibs. However, I still like to hit the jumps in the park. I tried bringing my Carbon Flagship in the park but it just didn't feel right. So when the Aviator was announced I thought my "groomer day" board had arrived.
Day 1: (Kirkwood) Powder + Late Day Chop
Kirkwood got something like 36" of snow. It continued to snow through out the day. I didn't even bother bringing this board out until later in the day. I spent my morning on my Flagship wishing I brought my Hover Split. Towards the end of the day I decided to take a few runs on the Aviator. I was surprised how well it floated in deep snow despite how short it is. At this length I would not choose the Aviator for such a role. I'd have to size up to a 156 or maybe a 160.
Day 2: (Kirkwood) Groomers + Packed Powder
The day after an epic storm is always fun. The first run was taken on a early morning groomer. With temperatures in the single digits things were pretty fast. People who say this board loves to carve are not lying. I felt just as confident in a turn on the Aviator as I do on my Flagship. The Aviator is quick edge to edge and I really have no complaints.
For pop the Aviator is a stiffer board so you really need to put some muscle into it. That being said your effort is well rewarded and I would compare the pop on the Aviator to that of my ProtoCT 154. Disregarding effort to achieve said pop
On packed powder the Aviator does as good of a job as any other board I've ridden. The snow was soft and thus initiating a turn was uneventful.
In the day old powder the Aviator did just fine as long as speed was up. If I slowed down the shorter length really put me on my rear leg.
As for the shape I don't really have a lot to say about it. It is a mostly camber board with some bevel at the contact points. It does help in those situations where camber would have reminded you with a quick visit to the snow. However, it is not a lose like reverse camber or even a lot of the hybrid cambers.
On the topic of camber. I was reminded several times during my first few runs that yes catching an edge sucks. In fact I thought perhaps the board was too narrow and I was getting toe drag. After some playing around with my form I realized that, no. The last 4 years on RC/HC boards had allowed me to get sloppy. I adjusted my form and stayed catch free for the rest of the day.
Day 3: (Steven's Pass) Hard packed powder and tree powder
Conditions here were not great. Started out in the high 20s low 30s and never really changed. On the groomed runs the board handled was one would expect any traditional camber board to. Hooked up fast and just loved to get on it. I also did some flat-basing by request. I had no problem not catching an edge. Although, as I shifted my weight around I could feel the contact points start to catch. No relaxing here.
After a few warm up laps it was off the park because I had planned on seeing what this board could do. However, I was not at all impressed with the park setup at Steven's. I don't really do rails so there were about 5 things I could play on. However, the aviator did great for pop. I had no problem landing my first frontside 360 of the season. I did have to pay a lot more attention to the landings though. Even with the lifted contact points I could still feel the bite when I wasn't perfect. Recovery was straight forward but I could not get away with the same shit that the proto ct let me get away with.
Now, on to the fun stuff! After the park run I was pretty much done with it. So it was time to do what I do best. Freeride. I found the 7th Heaven chair and went scouting. Anything on trail was pretty mogul'd up. Don't get me wrong I had a great time bomb through the moguls and challenging myself to take the straightest and/or steepest line without stopping but I'm old now and I can't take that abuse forever. So I ducked between trails heading through the woods. Which dumped me out well below the bottom of the 7th Heaven chair. I found lots of fresh powder and the board had no problem with the tight technical terrain. In fact the shorter length I choose worked out really well for me in this situation.
Towards the end of the day I went to the lift that normally brings you to the backside. Forgive me as I can't remember its name. This was my first time at Steven's. I did about 6 runs under the lift line, going around the little cliff, and generally attempting to scare the crap out of myself. I wasn't able to do that. However, I had a great time! This is where I fell in love with the aviator. I felt like I was riding my flagship but with a freestyle flex. Which for me meant I could rely on the board to get me through tight lines but break out the park skills without a bunch of effort.
Day 4+5: (Kirkwood) Warm snow but not slushy
Feb 1st and Feb 2nd. Not the best days to be at Kirkwood as the conditions were crap. However, I got to ride the aviator some more. As the board is "breaking in" I'm finding myself doing more and more freestyle stuff. I did a couple 50-50s and attempted a board slide. I suck at rails. The little jumps I did find were tons of fun. The board swings easily and lands fine. It reminded me of how much I missed the pop of a camber board. At this point I'm happy with the board. In a longer length I think it could make a great all-mtn board. I'd also like to get this board in the pipe now. I think it will do very well there.
Day 6: (Kirkwood) Soft snow in the morning with warm/wet snow in the afternoon
Feb 22nd. Slushy day hanging out with intermediate snowboarders. Spent the day riding switch to get a better feel for the board. Riding switch does feel a little strange since the board is directional and my stance is set back a little bit. However, I had no issues carving. While it isn't as fluid as the mountain twin it is completely acceptable for me.
Conclusion as of 2/24/2014
Bottom line. I love this board. This is a freestyle focused flagship. If you love the flagship but want something to ride park, pipe, and all-mountain freestyle. This is your board. It is easier to ride than my carbon flagship 158 since the flex is so much softer. The camber will hook up as expected and the lifted contact points do give a little more confidence when you mess up. However, it is still traditional camber and be prepared that if you do catch that edge you will know it.
Freeriders this is your freestyle board.
If you have not ridden a Hovercraft. Please do. You will love it.