The sale everyone waits all year for (and asks about all year long) it the 2015 Nordica Blem Sale!
ON SALE NOW- Click here to buy.
Here is Sierra Jim’s Take on this years batch of blem skis:
The Wild Belle is built on a 84mm waist width and uses a double wide, lightweight stringer down the center of the wood core. This is a ski that resides in the top performance group of Nordica’s flat deck “Belle” series of skis, but is just slightly softer in the tail than some the expert only models. This width range is ideal as an an all mountain tool for the woman with a bias toward packed snow but an occasional appetite for off trail use as well.
On snow this ski is lightning quick and very energetic showing a lot of rebound energy especially in short radius turns. A good skier can lay in big angles and arc turns like crazy but an intermediate will find this width range facilitates lower angle, skidded turns as well. The quick and light feel gives the skier an edge in bumps and the slightly softer tail will make this ski more forgiving than its stiffer sisters. In rough and chalky winter snow at Mammoth last year, we found that the WB did just as well or better than its wider siblings with the only downfall being deeper snow. The WB is a packed snow biased ski with good capability in snow of 6”-10”. This is a great choice for a skier with primarily groomed snow or skied-out off piste skiing in mind and it is among the quickest skis in bumps that we tested. The Wild Belle is plenty of ski for an advanced or even better skier but is just compliant enough to be a good choice for a solid intermediate. . Most of the Belle series comes in two versions; flat (meaning no binding) and also in the EVO version (includes a system binding) There is no advantage either way but it does offer options.
The Bell to Belle shares similar construction to many of the other Belle series in that it uses a double wide, lightweight stringer down the center of the wood core. However, the B2B is built on a narrower platform at 78mm underfoot and it has a softer overall flex. These two factors make the Bell to Belle more adaptable to lower edge angles and primarily skidded turns that are typical of many mid level skiers.
On snow this ski is supremely maneuverable in short and medium radius turns. A good skier can lay the Bell to Bell over and get good carving ability but at some point, that skier will find a speed limit. On the other hand, the intermediate will find this width range really facilitates lower angle, skidded turns while still having enough grip for firm snow on fairly steep pitches. The quick and light feel gives the skier confidence in tackling bumps and even some skied out off trail situations. In rough and chalky winter snow at Mammoth last year, we found that it is best to keep speeds moderate in those off trail situations as this light ski is not as damp or stable as some wider skis. At higher speeds it is probably best to keep the edges engaged so the ski can carve The Bell to Belle has a sporty feel as opposed to a damp “cruiser” type of feel and suited for an intermediate to advanced skier. Most of the Belle series comes in two versions; flat (meaning no binding) and also in the EVO version (includes a system binding) There is no advantage either way but it does offer options.
The First Belle is Nordicas novice to intermediate offering in this collection of “Belle” skis. It uses a combination of sidewall and cap construction that takes out some of the stiffness associated with the higher level offerings in the series. The benefit of this construction is that can soften the tip and tail enough so that it eliminates the edge catching tendencies for intermediate level skiers while still maintaining enough grip underfoot for confidence on harder snow and steeper pitches.
We seldom get a chance to test skis at this level from any manufacturer, and when we do, sometimes we find them pretty lacking. This was not a problem with skis of this level from Nordica. our testers (experts all) found the First Belle to be surprisingly good on a variety of surfaces and conditions. We found the grip underfoot to inspire confidence for even a better skier and the ride was smooth and controlled. One thing that is common to the other skis in the Nordica “Belle” collection is the light and nimble feel which allows most any skier to turn on a dime and get some change back. This is a ski for a skier coming off of rentals and wanting to progress quickly but it will serve a conservative intermediate very well too. Most of the Belle series comes in two versions; flat (meaning no binding) and also in the EVO version (includes a system binding) There is no advantage either way but it does offer options.
The Amber is a hybrid core construction under a structural cap. This provides a nice light ski but with enough spine to target most conditions. Targeted for the novice to intermediate skier, the Amber shows its mettle when the edge is engaged. This ski has a lot of sidecut and it will turn tight arcs at low to medium speeds and on most packed or semi packed snow condition. Naturally, at 74mm underfoot, the Amber is not the classic “all mountain” width. However, for the improving skier with little appetite for powder or off trail conditions, this is a great ski at an unbelievable value.
Despite having a waist width reminiscent of some of Nordicas all mountain skis, we categorize it as more of a frontside skis or carver. We use these terms to describe a ski with a construction that is best suited for firm or packed snow. The Conquer fits that description perfectly but the wider platform does improve performance in mixed snow when compared to narrower frontside skis. It has very good grip but is just soft enough to not buck the skier into the back seat is she makes a mistake. The notable feeling of the Conquer is smooth power. You get this when the ski bends well enough that the turn starts easily, holds with stability though the middle and end of the turn, then releases easily. The Conquer feels damp and smooth no matter how rough the snow gets and it is very good in the choppy piles of snow at the edges of the runs or just off the trails a bit. The Conquer is not a ski that is well suited to deep snow but it handles up to the boot top just fine. This is great choice for the skier who has a primary interest in groomed runs but wants enough off trail capability to dabble around out there occasionally. The Conquer has been a tester favorite of ours and was also a winner in the magazine tests for several years in a row. The Conquer is sold as an integrated system with the Nordica 2S XB binding (3-11 DIN).
The Fire Arrow collection was been expanded with some new models added for the 2012 season. The Fire Arrows are models that are high-end, mostly packed snow oriented skis with dual radius sidecuts. This type of shape has a deep sidecut in the tip for a slalom ski feel in turn initiation, combined with a GS type shape in the tail for a more relaxed turn finish. The Fire Arrow 74 Ca combines the dual radius sidecut, with a glass/and carbon wrap that makes it more forgiving than a full bore metal layup.
I first tested the Fire Arrow 74 Ca at the SIA intro at Winter Park. The snow was cold, and very firm with some scraped off patches that were close to slick as it gets in Colorado. I first noticed that when compared to some other skis in the hard snow category, the Fire Arrow 74 was very quick and easy to initiate. For all that quickness and early hook up however, the ski let me release the turn and run the turn finish down the hill very easily. There is plenty of strength in the tail to hold onto a carve if you want it to but the Fire Arrow doesn’t make you do that, it just allows you to. As speeds picked up and the hill got steeper I felt that the Fire Arrow gave very good grip and was damp and smooth. This is a high end, high speed, ski for the skier whose interest is primarily groomed trails but who doesn’t want a race ski or near race ski to do that job. The Fire Arrow 74 EDT is sold as a system ski with the N Pro 2s (4-12 DIN)binding.
Although the FA 74 and 76 are pretty close in shape, they are very different skis. The 76 Ti uses a double metal layup and much firmer in torsion and stiffer overall as well. For all the forgiving nature of the FA 74 Ca, the FA 76 Ti is a pretty different beast and beast is a pretty good term.
I first skied the 76 at Mammoth and was fortunate enough to take it out while the shade was still on the runs and the snow was still hard. I started down a shaded trail and immediately felt very strong edge grip. As I started out at slow speeds and low angles, the 76 took some firm input from me to get a bend going. Then as I picked up some speed, the ski became easier to turn. I laid in some edge and let the carved turns build speed until the point where I lowered my hip and powered up the end of a turn. When I did that, my first reaction was…….YIKES!! The ski held like an icepick and when I powered it up, it spat me out the end of the turn like a slingshot. I know how to make a race turn but in this case, I just wasn’t prepared for the power at the turn finish. I sort of whoaed things down for a moment and reflected on a little different skiing style for this ski.
After that little wakeup call, I skied the 76 a little more attentively and found it to be truly spectacular. This ski grips, carves and rebounds about as well as anything in this class and by the way, did I mention that it has grip? I found that when skied with a lower angle and a little less pressure, it had more temperate manners. But, when powered up at a high angle………seat belts are suggested. This is a ski that is honestly too much for a basic intermediate. An advanced or better skill set is suggested to get the most out of it. At speed, it has a damp ride and nothing seems to shake it off the edge. I felt like the 168 had a bit of a Slalom Ski feel while the 176 was better at higher speeds and in longer turns. The FA 76 Ti skis well above its price point and is a ski that precious few skiers will ever feel undergunned with.
The FA 84 Pro shares the shape with the EDT version but it’s a pretty different ski. The 84 Pro has a similar plate setup but without the carbon fiber suspension arms of the EDT version. The Pro also has a somewhat softer overall flex and is lighter in weight. While the Pro gives up a little in grip and dampening to its more powerful brother you’ll seldom find snow icy enough to challenge this ski very much. The payback for the skier is that the Pro is more versatile in turn shape.
When I first skied the 84 Pro it was at Winter Park on very cold, hard snow. While the 84 EDT is certainly best in class for those conditions, the 84 Pro is very close. The Pro initiates better at lower speeds and is more capable in short radius turns particularly at moderate speeds. The hardest snow I could find at Winter Park was not much of a challenge and I think the 84 Pro has enough grip for all but the iciest of conditions. At higher angles and speeds, the ski has plenty of stability and grip and is only slightly less damp than the EDT. In mixed and softer conditions out west, the 84 Pro was more nimble than the EDT but still felt as if it were more at home on firmer conditions than in softer ones. Tight bumps were not the forte’ of the 84 pro although given its stellar performance on hard and rough snow, that’s not a realistic expectation. This is a hard snow biased ski with moderate capabilities in soft and mixed conditions.
The Fuel is a ski that unfortunately was a little lost in the Nordica lineup. This is a ski that was built like the justly famous Steadfast which was an industry standard all mountain ski for some years. Yet, the Fuel was narrower and thus, it didn’t fit the “all mountain” width range that was trendy at the time.
When skiing the Fuel, the first imperssion is “light and quick”……..and so is the second impression. This ski is nimble and maneuverable like few others on the market. Yet for all that quickness and nimbleness, the Fuels exhibits a lot of grip relative to its category. This is not a noodle of a ski and thus a good skier who skis with a bit of speed won’t find the Fuel flighty as long as it is kept up on edge. The fuel is so light and quick in the bumps that the skier will feel like he is in dancing shoes. All of this nimbleness does have a price and the Fuel gives up somewhat in stability vs. some heavier skis. This is a ski with a sports car feel rather than a Cadillac feel.
The Transfire model range falls in between the flat deck Hell & Back/Belle series and the Fire Arrow series. This ski series was affordably priced and was sold all over the world in several versions. Each model was made in several colors and binding combinations in order to provide variety for different markets. A lot of times, I don’t test the mid priced ski market but a couple of years back I did. At the time I was looking for one or two skis that were maybe a notch or three below the highest end skis.
Many mid level skiers that don’t get a lot of days out, know they need to upgrade their old, obsolete skis but they are reluctant because of the prices of some of them. They are also sometimes afraid that the lower priced skis that they might find in a box store type setting are not very good. Like almost all Nordica price point skis, the Transfires were pretty overbuilt for their price and positioning and they all skied much better than some of the other medium priced skis on the market.
When I skied the Transfire 78 in both 2012 and in 2013, I found that this was a ski with a good price and a bargain in performance. Skiing around both Alpine Meadows and Mammoth, this ski offered easy turn initiation and exit in conditions ranging from short radius on groomers and in steep bumpy/mixed snow to longer radius turns at speeds beyond what an intermediate will attempt. Throughout these tests the Transfire 78 offered grip and especially damping that was simply beyond what the other, similar priced skis had. One run stands out in my mind as a great testament to the Transfire 78. The occasion was Mammoth near the end of the test day and my legs were pretty shot. I was working with some mid priced skis from several manufacturers and when I got to the Transfire, my day was about done. I took my normal test route that included a pass down the frontside groomers and then a pass through some pretty rough and choppy snow in an off piste pitch. The Transfire was head and shoulders above the rest in terms of grip and stability on the groomers yet was just as easy to ski as some of the soft and sort of wimpy skis that I was also testing. The Transfire gives us a ski that most any strong intermediate will love but at a better price than some entry level stuff.
While some of the comments on the Transfire apply to the Avenger as well, this really is a ski that is targeted for the novice to solid intermediate skier. The Avenger offers the grip and stability from the Transfire series but tailors it to the skier that is just starting to build their skill base or the skier who has some established skill but just doesn’t exercise it more than a couple times a year. The overriding impression in skiing the Avenger is easy turning at slower speeds but with confidence to go faster at times when the mood strikes. This would be a great first ski purchase or an equally great ski to transition away from cheap entry-level stuff. The Avenger has been made in several color ways and versions over a few different model years but they all exhibit similar characteristics.