Nordica’s opportunities as a ski brand took a fundamental turn for the better when the Tecnica Group bought the Blizzard factory and shifted Nordica production to their new, refurbished facility. Prior to this happy development, Nordica skis had endured a checkered history. It began when the self-important sweater-maker Benetton owned Nordica—an investment they would come to rue. As Benetton has managed to do with all their sport properties—we believe that they single-handedly destroyed the in-line skate market with their shredded stewardship of Rollerblade—they drove Nordica and Kästle directly downward. By the time Nordica was re-acquired by its original ownership for dimes on the dollar, the Kästle brand had been euthanized and replaced with the first Nordica skis.
Nordica’s sustained importance as a boot brand allowed the ski line to survive a rocky adolescence.
Now that it has a permanent home, it also has emerged as a major player. As Nordica developed as a ski brand, it earned a foothold in the Carving world with a series of exceptional Frontside models, then busted into the critical All-Mountain categories with the Steadfast and the Hell-and-Back, two of the best all-fiberglass skis we’ve seen in recent years. They proceeded to hit a series of home runs with the Big Mountain models Patron, Helldorado and El Capo.
He who sits still gets run over, and so Nordica modified their all-terrain construction by adding a latticework of Titanal on top of their already torsionally rigid I-Core construction in the NRGy series introduced in 2015. In keeping with Nordica’s technical heritage, the NRGy models are strong skis that all but require the skier to drive them from a high edge.
Nordica’s ability to make lighter weight, non-metal skis gives the brand the inside track on making a great women’s ski. The eternal quest for a lighter structure has seen the creation of the I-Core, with one wood stringer replaced with foam, the WI-Core with 2 foam channels and now the Balsa Core CA, with microlaminates of balsa wood as the ski’s central component. The persistent focus on weight reduction has won Nordica a faithful following among women of all skill levels.
After last year’s big investment in the NRGy series, Nordica spent carefully on the 2016 product cycle, fiddling with a few formulas at the fringes of their line. For example, last year’s El Capo keeps its shape but switches to the I-Core Torsion Bridge construction and presto, you have the NRGy 107. There’s a new Fire Arrow carver, the 80 Ti EVO, but Nordica has had an 80 EVO in their line in the not-so-misty past and they’ve always had a Ti alternative to the “go fast or else” FA 84 EVO EDT, so the 80 Ti EVO feels like we already know it.
A more important re-mix model for the fat-idolizing American market is the re-modeled 100mm Enforcer, which marries a twin-tip shape to a World Cup construction with two sheets of Titanium. As the name implies, the Enforcer is a big boy’s ski, now with a gal pal, the women’s Santa Ana, which copies the Enforcer’s footprint but builds it around a balsa wood core.
If this sounds as though Nordica didn’t invest much in new tooling for 2016, consider that this year they’re reincarnating the Dobermann boot line and resurrecting a Grand Prix collection. The capital costs to create even one new boot series are brutal. As a brand that built their consumer following as a boot maker, it’s eminently understandable why boots gobbled up most of the alpine R&D budget.
In-depth reviews of 19 models—with key performance ratings ( ? ) and genre model comparisons ( ? ) —are in our member section
Dobermann GSR Plate
Radius: 19.5m @ 182cm
Weight: 2400g @ 176cm
If you don’t own a mountain with 3,000 nearly vertical feet, you might want to consider another ski. The Nordica Dobermann GSR EVO EDT isn’t even warm at 30mph, and 60mph feels like idling speed.
You can point it out of the fall line, but don’t think for a nanosecond that it wants to stay there. Never did a 19.5m turn radius feel more like a mathematical possibility and less like a ski that actually changed direction. “It insists on the fall line,” as the Dude so aptly put it. Bear in mind, we wouldn’t be underlining this limitation if the GSR didn’t have a sparkling flip side: you feel nothing but the wind into which all caution has been thrown.
You could be hammering over a rutted dirt road at highway speeds and the EDT array of carbon reinforcements on the GSR wouldn’t let you feel a ripple. This ski looks like a weapon and skis like a rocket.
Fire Arrow 84 EVO EDT
Radius: 17m @ 168cm
Weight: 2605g @ 176cm
“Go fast or else.”
That was the terse advice scrawled, ransom-note style, on the bottom of a Fire Arrow 84 EDT EVO test card. Indeed, it’s impossible to overlook this ski’s insistence on speed. The same technology that allows the 84 EDT to hold an incorruptible edge at speeds approaching that of light make it a tad disinterested in deviating out of the fall line until it’s in its happy place, around 50 mph and aiming at sea level.
We kid you not. There aren’t many skis without “Race” in their name that live in the speed range where the 84 EDT thrives. If you get queasy at 40 (your speed, not your age), you’ll never discover what makes this ski special. Damper than a moist towelette, one hardly feels the speed, at least underfoot, as the mind strains to life at downhill speeds.
Needless to say, the timid are better served elsewhere, and no one should mistake this beast for a bump ski. But if you want a machine with no discernable top end in a footprint this wide, this is your kind of ride.
Radius: 15.5m @ 161cm
Weight: 1490g @ 169cm
Nordica has been gradually whittling away at wood components in its women’s ski cores, first replacing one wood stringer with foam, then another. This year they’ve dispensed with the wood/foam pastiche and gone all balsa, the superlight hardwood with a honeycomb cellular structure.
The result is a ski that’s a dash lighter, stronger and more versatile than the Wild Belles of yore. By inclination a carving device, the Wild Belle’s girth gives it the gumption to head off trail. “They handled everything well,” asserted Kayla from Aspen Ski and Board, “from trees to bumps to steeps, fast, slow or sweeping turns.” That pretty much covers all the bases but bottomless.
Over the past five years Nordica has cemented their reputation among elite skiers for making first-rate carving machines (America’s best technical skier, Mike Rogan, has been a loyal Nordica-sponsored athlete forever) and established their bona fides among close followers of the ski craft for making superior skis without tossing metal laminates into the mix. The Wild Belle brings both these strengths into play, an all-terrain playmate that never forgets that a ski’s first duty is to hold an edge as instructed.
Radius: 19.5m @ 177cm
Weight: 1870g @ 177cm
A torsionally rigid rocket fueled by a tank of traditional camber underfoot, the NRGy 100 takes some determination to crank up on edge, but once it’s there it could roll over a land mine and not get tossed off line. Old, set-up snow won’t deflect it and hard snow doesn’t discourage it one bit. While it has all-mountain chops, it reserves its best performances for powder days. The NRGy 100 can motor through crud right alongside any other ski in the All-Mountain West genre.
With strong scores in the critical criteria of stability at speed, rebound and off-piste performance, the NRGy 100 comes through when it counts, tearing a new one out of terrain that would intimidate the less well-equipped skier. True to its name, the NRGy 100 produces more energy than it extracts, making it a solid, every day ski for the aggressive skier who wants a ski that matches his attacking style.
Radius: 16.5m @ 177cm
Weight: 2050g @ 177cm
“This ski was a total surprise to me,” confessed Matt from Footloose. “It gets my award for Best 97 Waist that skis like an 80-something waist. I just wish it wasn’t a twin tip…”
We concur on all points. One of the bigger shocks of our 2016 test is that the Nordica Enforcer didn’t make our self-imposed cut line, but the less highly touted Soul Rider did. Our test crew doesn’t normally cotton to twin tips, and we don’t even report on the Pipe & Park category for which this feature was invented and where it remains ubiquitous.
But a turned-up tail by itself is no disqualification in our estimation. It doesn’t have to denote a smear stick with too short an attention span to figure out which way is forward, just as the absence of metal laminates doesn’t doom a ski to second-class citizenship. Nordica has been making some of the finest all-glass skis of the last decade, so it’s not like the Soul Rider’s relatively high marks for Power traits are an anomaly.
Other comments from the Footloose contingent reveal a ski that’s up for anything. “It would be a great ski in any situation,” penned Jimmy G, “in the park or powder, male or female.” Michael C summed it up in three little words: “fun, nimble and stable.” Sounds delightful. Now if only it weren’t a twin tip….
Radius: 16.5m @ 177cm
Weight: 1990g @ 177cm
We understand why other ski tests awarded top honors to the Enforcer: if the skier is strong enough, it’s a love affair waiting to happen. Our most powerful skiers would also place the Enforcer among the best in show, so we’ve included it among our Recommended models so skiers who fit its profile can find it at America’s finest shops.
Because of their Pipe & Park heritage, twin-tipped skis are expected to be bantamweight smear-sticks with the on-edge accuracy of a spatula. The Enforcer demonstrates that a designer can add a turned-up tail to any sort of ski, including an All-Mountain model with the bomb-shelter construction of the Enforcer.
A powerhouse that is most adept at crushing crud flat, the Enforcer can show some serious carving chops when compelled. As the good doctor Gleason from Telluride’s The Boot Doctors declaimed, “Remarkably precise; slight pressure variance results in a spectrum of turn shapes. The gentle tail shape allows smear and needed forgiveness in demanding places, yet the hold and crispness is at the top of the pack.”
The stronger the skier, and the more he has to ski manky conditions (think pro ski patrol), the greater the Enforcer’s appeal. It likes speed and expects its pilot to bring some pressure to the party. Under the command of a powerful skier, it performs in the most challenging conditions as well as any ski in the very competitive All-Mountain West category.
Radius: 16m @ 161cm
Weight: 1590g @ 161cm
Nordica didn’t change a thing about the Nemesis except how they build it. It’s still a lightweight 98, they just set aside the Wi-Core construction they used last year and substituted the new Balsa Core CA, aiming to make what was already a favorite among our testers even lighter and stronger.
Nordica is known for their expertise at building light constructions that retain the torsional rigidity required to cut into ice and bully broken crud into submission. The Nemesis is also mild-mannered enough to allow lower skill skiers to control it at a low edge angle, making it an excellent candidate for the skier trying a ski this fat for the first time.
Another attribute that makes the Nemesis suitable for the not-quite-expert is its aptitude for shifting from carving turns to smearing them. As one of our intrepid testers applauded, “Great carve for how wide it is. Nice schmear, too.” The carving capacity comes from its traditional camber line that doesn’t have to be hauled to a high edge angle to engage. The schmear factor derives from a tail that will let go of the turn and plenty of width to drift on once the whole operation is sideways.
Put it all together and you have a sweet second ski for a broad range of abilities.
Radius: 14m @ 169cm
Weight: 1975g @ 169cm
A case could be made that Nordica has been building the best all-glass (i.e., non-metal) skis on the planet for the past several seasons. Models like the Steadfast, Hell & Back and Patron raked in best-in-show awards in their respective genres since their introduction. Nordica’s La Nina is cloned from the Patron, purloining every aspect of the unisex model but two center channels of its wood core, which La Nina replaces with foam.
Aside from this modest weight-trimming gesture, La Nina is the Patron in a slightly skewed size run that includes a161cm iteration. What distinguishes both the Patron and La Nina is the ability to impart a carved turn sensation in powder. This trait derives from the mildly cambered zone through the ski’s midsection that behaves like a hard-snow ski in a fat boy’s body. Not only is this critical area arched like a traditional ski to make it more responsive, it’s also given a 14m shape so it can reel out short turns on demand.
Women who like to let the horse they’re riding run fast and free can drop the reins on La Nina and let the freshies fly without fear of throwing a shoe.