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 Santa Anas 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. There are now fie Santa Anas, ranging in width from a fat 104mm to a svelte 84mm.
In step with the Santa Anas’ new homogenous construction, three years ago 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. Now all Enforcers use a carbon chassis instead of heavier glass laminates to create livelier, more responsive skis. All Enforcers also 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 5-model Santa Ana collection. In addition to TSM, all the Santa Anas use carbon chassis and True Tip, just as on the boys’ Enforcers. Because each model’s essential design parameters are adapted by length, size selection is more important than ever.
2022 marked the debut of two new women’s models, a Santa Ana 84 that’s geared a little lower than its big sisters and the Wild Belle DC 84. A made-exclusively-for-women system ski, the Wild Belle DC 84 panders to the lower-skill skier looking for a helping hand. The “DC” in its name stands for Dual Core, a two-tier, poplar and beech core with a layer of rubber in between for a cushioned ride. The Wild Belle should be a terrific learning tool for the recreational woman who wants a secure, comfortable ride that will help her improve at her own pace.
The backcountry market has been on such a hot roll for the past several seasons – a streak that became turbo-charged by the pandemic – that every Alpine brand is working hard to slice the off-the-beaten-path into ever finer slices. Nordica already had a stellar all-terrain collection in its Enforcers and Santa Anas, and had planted a toehold in the Alpine Touring segment with the Unlimited. In 2023, Nordica staked its claim to a new, powder-much-preferred posse of heavily fore-and-aft rockered rides that need soft snow under them to keep them happy.
Nordica positions the Unleashed family of five models as “built for the contemporary skier looking for a modern free-ski.” In other words, if you really love the feel of a cambered ski with a lot of snow connection, these are not your skis. Even though the Unleashed clan plagiarizes the Terrain Specific Metal concept introduced in the Santa Ana series, its super-surfy personality overrides the normally calming qualities of Titanal.
While the Unleashed 108 and 98 are both stable underfoot, the overall platform feels short, perhaps because the “contemporary” skier may opt to ski backwards at any moment. As long as they’re fed a steady diet of soft, deep snow, they are dreamy, super-simple to swivel and slash. But the lack of hard-snow substance makes any Unleashed a poor choice as an everyday, all-terrain ski, unless you live in a magic kingdom where every day is a powder day. Most in-resort skiers would be better off leashed to an Enforcer, all of which are extraordinarily well-balanced and well adapted to all-terrain skiing as practiced by adults.
The 2024 Season
For most of Alpine skiing’s brief history, construction concepts have been perfected in the rare air of competition design, then declined and adapted to fit a slew of lower price points. Nordica’s Double Core, which debuted as a design intentionally targeted to the developing female skier, has taken the opposite tack. What began as an initiative to make a carved turn more accessible to the uninitiated has morphed into the principal design feature of the Dobermann, Spitfire and Steadfast families in Nordica’s 2024 collection.
For those Dear Readers unfamiliar with Nordica’s long history as a maker of elite race boots, the name “Dobermann” isn’t bandied about lightly. It connotes real-deal race performance, an arena is which Nordica is no slouch. The Spitfire spin-offs are cut from the same Double Core cloth, but in sidecuts and flexes better suited for the piste than the race course. I skied the Spitfire DC 74 Pro and could find no fault with its edging accuracy, acceleration out of the turn or stability at mach schnell, but neither could I find any other tester feedback, a reflection of the tepid interest level the American market usually exhibits where narrow-waisted carving skis are concerned.
Where American male skiers are most likely to encounter the Double Core concept in action is the flagship of the new Steadfast series, the Steadfast 85 DC FDT. At $799 with an integrated Marker binding, the new Steadfast 85 DC brings elite carving capability within reach of the recreational skier who spends most of his precious ski time either on or alongside groomers. It would make a terrific “step-up” ski for someone coming off a long history of rentals and/or hand-me-downs.
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
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
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
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
The Enforcer Free 110 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 three 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
When I received Rossi’s first press release about the Essential, it sounded to me more like a publicity stunt than a product pitch. Demonstrating that the technology already exists to make a ski that is 77% recyclable sounds all eco-cuddly, but my jaded brain-filter filed the announcement under “Inflated Product Puffery” and turned its attention to concocting my next podcast. My blithe assumption that Rossignol’s new ski was designed to distract attention from the absence …READ MORE
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
Three 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 theSanta 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 Stacy …READ MORE
It’s not entirely coincidental that the Santa Ana 98 debuted three 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. So, …READ MORE
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. Two years ago, Nordica found the solution, Terrain Specific Metal: the wider the ski, the more metal is cut out of its mid-section. The widest models, …READ MORE
When Nordica was first finding its footing as a ski brand, it struggled to find a toe hold until it earned a following for its Fire Arrow carving skis. Over the course of the last decade, the runaway success of Nordica’s Enforcer and Santa Ana series has stolen the spotlight, relegating Nordica’s superb Dobermann Spitfire series to relative obscurity. For the 23/24 season, Nordica has adapted the Dual Core design – first debuted in the …READ MORE
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