We got to spend more time with the Head Great Joy this season, and we're so glad we did! Our opinion of this ski improved quite a bit as we took it out for longer rides. We were so impressed that we had to award it our Top Pick Award for the best carving ski. This award winner is a great joy when skied on-piste, and when you ski an appropriate length for your ability, it can be a great joy in other conditions as well. This ski's dramatic sidecut and incredibly short turn radius are fun for those who like making tight, snappy turns, feel very stable and like to hold an edge and power through a turn. They do not enjoy making large radius turns, and can be hooky in the bumps, but we've discovered a new perspective in the crud on the Great Joy. We are amazed at how the Great Joy's wide shovel shape and wide 98mm waist float on top of the powder.
Head Great Joy Review
Cons: Can be hokey in crud and bumps
Our Analysis and Test Results
The secret to the Great Joy's power is selecting the right length for you. The last time we tested this ski we got it in a 168cm length, which turns out to have been too short for our expert level ladies. This year, the 173 length gave us a new outlook on this ski. The fat tip has a lot of rocker, and if it is too short, you will feel like you want to go over the handlebars and will not want to get on top of it, where you should be. It will also deflect and bounce you around more in the crud and bumps if it's too short for you. With this longer length, we discovered the fat tips were more of an asset than a detriment.
Stability at Speed
This ski can hold an edge well and likes to really rail into turns. It can be skied at speed with confidence on corduroy and hard pack.
They feel very stable at speed, especially relative to the other skis we're testing like the Black Crows Camox Birdie or the K2 FulLuvit. If you're really hauling on chattery snow, there's a small amount of tip flop, but most of the time we're thrilled with their stability. The hole at the tip of the ski is meant to help dampen it and reduce that flop and seems to work okay.
The Great Joys are incredibly stable and predictable in the steeps. There is lots of sturdy ski to stand on while they're still light enough to pop around on if you want. They hold an edge amazingly well on firm, steep snow; if you know how to set at an edge, they will certainly not let it go until they are told. The Kastle FX 95 HP is the most stable ski we tested in this review and is slightly more versatile than the Great Joy.
The Great Joy is most at home shredding corduroy all day. It loves to carve, and you will love carving on it. Its sidecut is the most dramatic in this review, and it has one of the smallest turn radii of 15.3M (at 173cm length) after the K2 FulLuvit's 14M radius. It makes short, round, peppy turns. When you are railing tight turns, the Great Joy will hold on to that edge and not let go until you do, and you are popped right into the next turn.
As we mentioned, you will get sprung from turn to turn on this ski. The edge-to-edge quickness is one of its best features and makes it feel very playful and fun when carving on-piste. They prefer to rail a turn; they are not your buttery, skidding ski like the Rossignol Soul 7 HD W or the Icelantic Oracle 88. Their edge-to-edge quickness is not at the top of the charts compared to a skinnier carving ski, with their 98mm waist, but once they've got that new edge, they hold on tight. The Great Joy feel super responsive, partially due to their extreme sidecut. They bounce back nicely when you bend them, giving you that extra pop into your next turn.
We laughed out loud when we discovered how fun the Great Joys are to ski in the deep powder that Miracle March provided us in the Sierra Nevada.
They have the fattest shovel width in the whole review, a whopping 142mm; the next closest is the powderhound of a ski the Rossignol Soul 7 HD W. These fat shovels push the powder out of the way and keep you floating over the surface like a water ski. Paired with how easy and snappy they are to turn, they are a joyful ride in the powder.
That stupidly massive shovel at the tip looks silly while you're staring at them on the chair, but it's no longer laughable when that shovel is what's pulling the ski back out of the deep stuff in between each turn. Not laughable, but we were giggling!
If you get the Great Joy in a length that is too short it will throw you around on anything but perfectly smooth powder. The tips are soft and will deflect off choppy bumps and will feel like they are going to wash out underneath you if you get too far forward.
That said, we found a new lease on life in the crud on these skis this year in a longer length. This enabled us to plow through the crud in a way we could not before. This award winner excels in the crud and is a far better choice for variable conditions than the K2 FulLUVit. The Great Joy performs decently in hard packed and icy conditions because it can grab on, although they can feel a bit grabby because of their huge shovels in breakable crust conditions.
Playfulness is one of the Great Joy's best characteristics. Their edge-to-edge quickness and float in powder make them a fun and playful ski.
Those who like skiing on-piste found them much more playful than those who prefer to be off trail. They are light and poppy, but also fun to drive and carve. The Rossignol Soul 7 HD W are a more playful ski in soft snow conditions because their shape is so different from the Great Joy. We also found the lightweight Icelantic Oracles to be quite playful.
Bumps Skiing Performance
Depending on the condition of the bumps, the Great Joy's performance could go either way. If they were icy, firm bumps, they would hold on and carve them up.
If they were soft, cruddy bumps, they may feel catchy and frustrating to get around. We had this problem with the Volkl 90Eights as well. Sometimes the big shovels will catch when you're trying to bring them around or bounce you into the back seat if you hit a bump head on. The Rossignol Soul 7 HD W performed surprisingly well in the bumps due to their tapered tail and tip shape.
Their desire to hold an edge and carve makes them a bit trickier to butter and pivot if that's how you want to ski your moguls. If you enjoy a tighter line through the troughs though, they work well.
This is a great ski for a woman with advanced skiing skills and who wants to carve lots of turns on groomed runs but wants a ski she can take out for some fresh tracks, too. You can take this ski anywhere and have lots of fun. If you're looking for a more intermediate level ski that is quick edge to edge, check out the Icelantic Oracle.
The Great Joy has significant rocker in the tips, and this makes the ski seem shorter than it is. We would recommend sizing up when purchasing this ski due to the dramatic rocker. This will help with the crud performance and will make for a better all-mountain ski. Our expert 5'6 and 5'10 testers preferred the 173 length while some of our shorter testers felt more confident skiing the 168cm length.
The price of these skis seems to creep up by $50 each year but is holding at $750 for the 18-19 season, which is at the higher end of the pack this season. We think the Great Joy is worth the price, especially if you want a carving machine that you can also take off-piste. Another ski with a tight turn radius is the K2, at $100 less, but it's lacking in stability and doesn't hold an edge nearly as well. Head is known for durable bases, and this ski is no exception. It stood up well to the rocks we encountered last winter and would be a ski that lasts a long time in your quiver.
These Heads are a great joy when carving on-piste. We think they are a playful, responsive ski when shredding the corduroy and when you're on the right length can be a joy off-piste too. They provide great float in perfect powder, their shovels lifting us up and plowing through the soft and firm crud. We took a fresh look at the Great Joy this year and liked what we discovered. One tester who loves carving tight turns on-piste found this to be hands-down her favorite model in the review.
— Jessica Haist and Renee McCormack