2021 Nordica Ski Brand Profile

Overview

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 over 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 live to rue – and decided to acquire the venerable Austrian ski manufacturer Kästle. As Benetton managed to do with all their sport properties – it single-handedly destroyed the in-line skate market with its shrewd stewardship of Rollerblade – it 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 in recent years. They proceeded to hit a series of home runs – technically if not commercially – with the Big Mountain models Patron, Helldorado and El Capo.

He who sits still gets run over, 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 were strong skis that all but required the skier to drive them from a high edge.

When Nordica launched the Enforcer, back before it needed the suffix “100” to differentiate it from its offspring, it was a tipping point for the brand. The first Enforcer spin-off, the Enforcer 93, immediately became a benchmark model in the crowded All-Mountain East market. In 2018, Nordica added to the Enforcer family, creating the Enforcer 110 and Enforcer Pro, both avatars of excellence in their respective categories.

Nordica has always taken the women’s ski project seriously. The eternal quest for a lighter structure began with I-Core, with a central wood stringer replaced with foam, followed by WI-Core, with 2 foam channels, then Balsa Core CA, with balsa microlaminates as the ski’s core component. In 2018, Nordica rolled out Energy Ti Balsa, which uses the weight savings inherent in carbon to slip two sheets of Titanium into several women’s models.

As other brands have discovered, two full sheets of Titanal can be overkill even for advanced women. So after several seasons of testing, Nordica arrived at a new construction called Terrain Specific Metal (TSM) that uses a single topsheet of Ti that’s trimmed down in the center section according to which of the five new Santa Ana it’s applied to. In the Santa Ana 88, the middle of the Ti sheet is nearly edge-to-edge for peak performance on piste, while the TSM platform is narrower underfoot on the Santa Ana 104 Free to enhance drift at the end of the turn.

Not only does TSM vary by model, each size in each model has its own baseline, sidecut and flex. Of the five new Santa Anas, the 104 Free is new to the line-up, the SA 98 replaces the 100 and the SA 93 sports a completely new shape and rocker profile.

In step with the Santa Anas’ new homogenous construction, Nordica also brought its first generation Enforcer 100 and Enforcer 93 up to the design standard set in 2020 by the Enforcer 104 Free and Enforcer 88. This entails a switch to a carbon-infused wood core to reduce weight, and new, size-specific sidecuts, rocker lines and flexes.

The 2021 Nordica Season

Last season, Nordica stretched its cornerstone Enforcer and Santa Ana franchises about as far as they could go. This season, the focus is on tidying up both collections so each uses a common construction and design execution.

 

In the case of the Enforcers, this meant applying the lessons learned creating the second generation of Enforcers to the pioneer models, the 100 and 93. Now all Enforcers use carbon chassis instead of heavier glass laminates to create livelier, more responsive skis. All Enforcers now use True Tip Technology, an extension of the core that reduces the amount of weighty ABS needed to build out the shovel. Perhaps the best news of all for the prospective ski buyer is that each size of Enforcer has a unique baseline, sidecut and flex so all design aspects are in perfect harmony.

 

The same meticulous approach to sizing applies to the all-new, 5-model Santa Ana collection. The signature unifying technology of the 2021 Santa Ana series is called Terrain Specific Metal (TSM), an end-to-end topsheet of Titanal with a midsection that varies in width by model. The expectation is that the Santa Ana 88 will see more duty on trail, so it’s TSM component runs nearly to the edge for more precise grip. The Santa Ana 110 is made for powder, where forgiveness trumps precision, so the TSM is whittled down to a narrower strip.

 

In addition to TSM, all the 2021 Santa Anas use carbon chassis and True Tip, just as on the boys’ Enforcers. Because each model’s essential design parameters are adapted by size, size selection is more important than ever. A close inspection of the 2021 Santa Anas will reveal new size splits along with additional sizes for the SA 98 and SA 93, so women have more options in their quest for the perfect mate.

Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB

If you don’t know how to engage a ski at the top of the turn, and don’t care to know, you might as well stop reading about the Nordica Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB right now. It has the cleanest, highest, earliest connection to the next turn in a category in which this particular trait is prized. But if you’re still lingering on the downhill edge when you should already be tilting in the other direction, …READ MORE

Enforcer 100

While there are no statistics I can point to substantiate my argument, I would contend that the Enforcer 100 is the most powerful model in the All-Mountain West pantheon. It earns this distinction due to an extra-high camber line that begins to load with stored energy from the moment you stand on it. Nordica alleges that the Enforcer 100 surrenders half of its baseline to rocker: 30% in the front and 20% of the rear …READ MORE

Enforcer 104 Free

The Nordica Enforcer 104 Free and Enforcer 110 Free are both first-class Big Mountain Finesse skis – they’ve each recently held top billing in the genre – but they earn their high ratings for ease of use in different ways. The Enforcer 110 Free is inherently better at drifting and flotation, simply by dint of its superior surface area. These are critical properties for a Big Mountain ski, but they aren’t the only admirable attributes. …READ MORE

Enforcer 110 Free

The Enforcer 110 Free is so good at motoring through crud that it jumped to the top position among Big Mountain models in its debut season. Its reign would have certainly continued had Nordica not fashioned an Enforcer 104 Free two years ago, which usurped the throne so briefly held by the model from which it was cloned. Just because the narrower and lighter Enforcer 104 Free feels more maneuverable than its stouter big bro …READ MORE

Enforcer 88

The Nordica Enforcer 88 belongs on any list of the Ultimate 88’s. It looks like a shrunken Enforcer 100, but the truth is closer to the other way around: the current Enforcer 100 is based on the Energy 2 Ti construction of the Enforcer 88. Neither characterization is entirely accurate, as Nordica knew when it created the 88 that it would spend more of its life on groomers, so it tailored the Enforcer 88’s design …READ MORE

Enforcer 94

The essential skill of Alpine skiing is balance. So it stands to reason that the primordial virtue of any ski is likewise balance, both in its blend of personality traits and its ability to impart the sensation of balance to its pilot. I mention these maxims because if there’s a single trait that encapsulates the brilliance of the Nordica Enforcer 94, it’s balance. The key to balance lies in the ski’s flex pattern, or how …READ MORE

Santa Ana 104 Free

The first edition of the Santa Ana 110 swapped the Enforcer 110’s poplar/beech core for balsa, but otherwise faithfully replicated its unisex structure, including two full sheets of .4mm Titanal. That’s a lot of ski, too much for most women hoping to make powder skiing easier, not more demanding. Last season, Nordica found the solution, Terrain Specific Metal: the wider the ski, the more metal is cut out of is mid-section. The widest models, the …READ MORE

Santa Ana 84

Once a brand has star product, the tendency is to extend this concept in every direction as far as it will go. This is how we end up with a model like the Santa Ana 84, an all-terrain design shrunk down to the dimensions of a Frontside ski. Bear in mind that its five Santa Ana sisters are all broader in the beam than the svelte 84, which suggests that the youngest member of the …READ MORE

Santa Ana 88

One of the reasons the Women’s All-Mountain East category is so popular is that it represents the first step away from prepared slopes, the featureless terrain to which the uninitiated are tethered. Perhaps it’s the peculiar nature of the frontier-America mentality, but in the U.S., where no one likes to be told what they can and cannot do, the off-piste represents freedom, escapism and breaking the bonds of convention and formality. Sorry for the rhetorical …READ MORE

Santa Ana 93

Two years ago, Nordica’s 5-model Santa Ana collection was finally unified under a single design concept, Terrain Specific Metal, that closes the gap between the top edge and a single, sculpted, Titanal topsheet as the waist width shrinks. On the Santa Ana 93, TSM moves the metal fairly close to the edge, to improve edging power on the groomed conditions it’s fated to experience. “Being light and fairly flexible makes them fun all around,” notes …READ MORE

Santa Ana 98

It’s not entirely coincidental that the Santa Ana 98 debuted two years ago along with Terrain Specific Metal, Nordica’s way of doling out just the right amount of metal for each of its five Santa Ana models. The Santa Ana 98 was needed because its predecessor, the Santa Ana 100, used wall-to-wall, end-to-end sheets of Titanal, so they skied like supercharged rockets. Skiers who just wanted a ski to make powder easier were over-served. But …READ MORE

Spitfire 80

When Nordica was finding its feet as a ski brand, it earned its first critical acclaim and commercial foothold with its collection of carving skis. In the current market, the runaway success of Nordica’s Enforcer series has pushed its Frontside Spitfire models into the shadows, an unfortunate byproduct of Nordica’s ascendance into the first rank of ski makers. No single ski can change American skiers’ infatuation with wide, off-trail models, but the Dobermann Spitfire 80 …READ MORE

Wild Belle DC 84

When ski makers start from scratch to make a women’s ski, the usual target isn’t the most talented lass, but those less likely to succeed without a little help. All the features that make the Wild Belle DC 84 adapted for women are attuned in particular to ladies who are still ascending the learning curve. It’s cushioned Double Core, two-tiered binding platform and soft, round flex all work to promote better balance and reduced effort …READ MORE