Ski: 2016-2017 Nordica La Niña, 185cm
Available Lengths: 161, 169, 177, 185 cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 184.2 cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 143-113-132
Stated Weight per Ski: 2050 g
Sidecut Radius: 16.5 meters
Core Construction: Poplar/Ash/Polyurethane + Fiberglass Laminate
Boots / Bindings: Rossignol Radical World Cup 110 and Dynafit Gaia / Marker F12 (DIN at 8)
Mount Location: Factory Recommended
Test Location: Alta Ski Area; Silverton, CO
Days Skied: 7[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 12/13 La Niña, which was not changed for 14/15, 15/16, or 16/17, except for the graphics.]
Although it was easy to get distracted by the new-gear hype at SIA this past January, it was pretty clear that cool stuff is happening in the realm of women’s skis; manufacturers are finally listening. Many companies have added one, if not several, new skis to their women’s lineup, significantly increasing the number of options for next year.
And not only are there more women’s skis coming to market, there are more impressive skis, too.
Yet after browsing all the 12/13 selections, there was one ski I absolutely could not wait to get on: the Nordica La Niña.
I was initially attracted to the Nordica booth because they had sick graphics, but once there I noticed a modestly feminine-looking ski standing in the middle of their big-mountain lineup. The flowers and name definitely indicated that it was a women’s ski, but it was just as tall as the men’s. Could there really be a 185cm women’s ski? Unless I completely missed a similar-length ski made by another company, I believe the La Niña is the longest women’s ski available. Awesome.
While I was excited to see that Nordica had introduced a potentially game-changing product, I know that bigger doesn’t always mean better. This ski was long, but it could also be a noodle. In fact, the La Niña has a 25% lighter wood core than its male counterpart, the Patrón. With a simple hand flex, the ski felt a little softer, but certainly stiff enough.
(Note: Where the Patrón has a full wood core, the La Niña has a middle layer of ultra light polyurethane and beech stringers sandwiched by two strips of poplar, a construction Nordica calls its “Women’s i-CORE,” or “Wi-CORE.”)
Even though I’ve had the opportunity to ride on a number of skis this season, I have been hesitant to claim one as my favorite. After a week on the La Niña in a wide variety of conditions, however, I can say that this ski is my favorite to date.
Given its length and relative stiffness, I was surprised how light the La Niña felt as I swung the ski back and forth on the chairlift. It was the first day of spring break, and though I hadn’t gone as far south as most, I had gone down to Silverton Mountain in southern Colorado, home to some of the steepest terrain in the state. It was the perfect day for spring skiing, with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. Silverton’s best terrain is accessible only by hiking (or by heli), so at the top of the lift I strapped the skis on my pack and started the boot-pack up.
We began hiking before the sun had really softened the snow, which required carefully placed, cautious steps. Silverton’s highest skiable peak is also 13,487 feet with some significant exposure, so I was definitely working hard. Yet I was pleased how comfortable the skis were to carry, even after a 30-minute hike. Although I didn’t get the chance to take the La Niña into the backcountry, I think their light weight would make them an excellent touring ski.
Standing at the top of the first chute of the day, I was a little apprehensive. I had not been on skis this long in several years, and I was going to need to make some quick hop turns. I dropped in and was instantly surprised at how easy it was pivot the La Niña and negotiate the steep terrain on hardpack snow. Toward the wider bottom section, I easily transitioned into larger, sweeping turns to the base of the bowl.
The Nordica La Niña’s versatility enabled me to feel confident in a broad range of conditions, turn sizes, and speeds. First, the ski has fairly exaggerated rocker in the tip and tail. So even though there is 185 centimeters of ski underfoot, quite a bit less of the ski is actually in contact with the snow throughout the turn. I found the skis to be nimble and quick in small-radius turns, and even while picking my way through rocky sections, hop turns were not an issue.
The La Niña also has camber underfoot and a good amount of sidecut, with a 16.5-meter radius—relatively short for a ski this length. This combination dramatically increases the ski’s ability to hold an edge, and I could actually rail them down firm groomers. They had a snappy, playful feel, and I never felt the tails wash out, which I’ve experienced on other rockered skis. And with just a little more work to get the ski up on edge, the La Niña was happy to carve turns.