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, you’ll miss the moment. Don’t worry if you do, for the Spitfire 76 will find the edge as soon as you give it a chance. But part of what makes this review an unblushing rave will pass you by.
If you’re hooked on the G’s generated in a short turn, you’ll feel right at home on this cobra-quick stick. It has the reflexes of a fencer, moving unerringly into the center of the arc where it ignites and, as it says in its name, fires the skier across the fall line. The Dobermann Spitfire 76 RB has all the qualities a strong skier expects in a race ski, just de-tuned a red hair so it’s more fun for freeskiing. Jim Schaffner from Start Haus, a big man with an engrained race technique for which the term “powerful” seems inadequate, wrote of the Spitfire 76, “I felt like I could do anything on this ski. It’s fun, lively, snappy, with a dash of the Dobermann race heritage feel.”
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 accordingly. One could make a strong case that, when all factors, such as a skier’s skill, sex, preferred terrain and turn shape are considered, the Enforcer 88 is probably the most versatile Enforcer of them all.
For anyone who loves a short-radius carve or whose heart beats a little faster at the prospect of moguls, tight trees or the two in tandem, there’s no question the 88 is the pick of the Enforcer litter. Its oddly abrupt front rocker might make you suspicious it’ll be a floaty, disconnected smear stick. But it isn’t the 88’s Persian slipper shovel that controls its performance, whether on piste or off, but the pronounced camber zone that lies right behind it. Once you’re rolling on hard pack, you don’t notice the tip, but as soon as you’re off-trail, you’ll be glad you have it out in front, softening the blows delivered by choppy conditions.
One of the traits one expects an All-Mountain East model to exhibit is an agnostic approach to snow conditions and turn shape. In the sidecountry, you can’t insist on a single turn radius to get you down the hill. Ideally, your ride will be able to switch from a carver to a drifter at any given moment. The Enforcer 88 acts like it’s trained all its life for these circumstances. It’s never out of balance, which is about the highest praise an all-terrain ski can receive.
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 it distributes force when pressured. Even though the Enforcer 94 sports a high front rocker, it’s mercifully short, returning to a camber pocket that’s the source of its power. When loaded, all the skier notices is the tranquility emanating from the mid-section; the disconnected tip and tail never call attention to themselves.
I’m not sure if the Enforcer 94 can actually confer expert status on anyone who steps into a pair, but it sure won’t hold anyone back. It’s able to maintain its balancing act in part because a lateral drift or trench-cutting carve is immediately accessible at all times. I vividly recall riding up the steep banks of Gremlin’s Gulch at Mammoth, playing with edge angle to elicit exactly the degree of engagement I wanted. Every movement felt intuitive, unforced and integrated with the flow of the mountain.
A balanced terrain diet is the calling card of the entire AME genre, so naturally the Enforcer 94 can segue from frontside groomers to backside bowls without missing a beat. The camber in its baseline continues to exert control, while the sharply rockered tip and tail shorten its effective length so it’s easier to swivel on command. Of course, it lacks the buoyancy of a true Powder ski (there’s an Enforcer 115 Free for that), but its springy flex is perfect for porpoising through a foot of fresh.
It’s hard to pigeonhole the Enforcer 94 as a specialist at any one thing, for it has the chameleonesque ability to be whatever its pilot wants it to be. The key to its mutability is how mindlessly simple it is to transition from a crisp edge to a friction-free drift. This facility is what makes the Enforcer 94 masterful in any terrain, from brittle hardpack to fluffy powder and every crud-junk-chowder consistency in between.
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 RB would gladly volunteer for the job.
“Easy turning and forgiving,” notes Bobo’s Theron Lee. “Feels like a western Frontside ski, able to handle soft snow as well as hard. Good energy feedback but not overly damp. Suitable for intermediates up to and including Frontside speed addicts.”
The tip-to-tail camber line on the Spitfire 80 RB creates an instant connection at the top of the turn and releases energy at the bottom with a peppy pop. “A great dynamic performer,” assesses Start Haus’ Jim Schaffner. “I could have a blast all day on groomers with this one.”
You might think its race-style plate would make the Spitfire 80 an unmanageable hellion in low-depth crud, but the opposite is true. By stiffening the ski, the plate also stiffens its resolve to kick the crap out of whatever is in its way. If your plan for the Spitfire is to crush high-speed groomers in the early morning and you have the skills to commit your hips to the turn, the plate defangs all vibrations that might perturb your blazing descent.
To get full value out of the Spitfire 80, it pays dividends to be skilled. Pay heed to the remarks of Corty Lawrence, who is the epitome of the strong, technical skier: “80mm is a good width – versatile yet still agile and playful. Like all Nordicas, you need to be lord and master,” by which he means you better be in charge or else the ski will be. Jim Schaffner, also powerful technician, summarizes his perception of the Spitfire 80 as, “A very playful experience, very easy to ski. A very good Frontside super-ski.”