Ski: 2014-2015 Nordica El Capo, 185cm
Dimensions (mm): 137-107-125
Sidecut Radius: 25 meters
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 186.0 cm
BLISTER’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2,421 & 2,420 grams
Mount Location: factory recommended line
Boots / Bindings: Nordica Patron Pro / Marker Jester (DIN at 10)
Test Locations: Alta Ski Area, Snowbird
Days Skied: 7[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 El Capo, which is unchanged for 14/15, except for the graphics.]
When we first saw the El Capo at SIA, it was lust at first sight: great graphics, solid construction, smart-looking rocker lines, equally smart-looking amounts of tip and tail splay, nice camber underfoot, great tip and tail profiles. In short, we seemed to be looking at the perfect charger.
But I will wager that this is going to be the most mischaracterized ski of the upcoming season, and I guarantee that most of the Buyer’s Guides are going to get the story wrong. They’re going to say that it destroys the whole mountain, crushes crud, has no speed limit—the usual.
My first few days on these skis were confusing, so bear with me as I describe my learning curve with them, because I think it’ll be the best way for you to figure out whether the El Capo sounds like the right ski for you.
Alta had picked up about 12-16″ of fresh, and I was hoping that I wouldn’t regret taking a metal charger to the mountain. But I was quite surprised by the El Capo’s performance in pow, and how easy it was to navigate through steep tree sections of Eagle’s Nest, even at slow and moderate speeds. I didn’t have to be flying to get these things to turn, and a ski like the 187cm Belafonte wouldn’t have been as docile in the same conditions and terrain, at the same slower speeds.
In another surprise, I was having difficulty really driving the shovels in pow. The shovels felt soft enough that they would fold a bit when driven, and it left me feeling like I wanted to get more forward on the ski to control the shovels. (Again, I was still operating on the assumption that I’d need to drive these like a Belafonte.)
By the end of the day, I finally had backed off a bit and was maintaining a more neutral stance, and the skis responded better. That was pretty key for me.
Soft Chop / Crud
I fully expected these skis to be at home most in chop and crud, and couldn’t wait to find some.
But surprisingly, I felt better on the El Capo in a foot of pow than I did in deep, soft chop and baked chop.
Two days after that 12-16″ spring storm at Alta, I spent a good chunk of the day around Ballroom and Baldy Shoulder. But I found it difficult to open up these skis and just let them blow through chop. I wasn’t comfortable making big, fast GS turns, and the more speed I picked up in bumped-up chop, the more I would default to running bases flat, hanging on for the ride.
I still didn’t feel like I could get over the shovels and drive them as much as I wished, so I tried moving to +1 of the factory line. But that didn’t really change my experience, and I can’t say that I preferred +1, so I ended up moving back and settling on the factory line.
I also found that if I got on the tails of the El Capo, I was in trouble. In short, these didn’t feel at all like three of our favorite chop / crud skis: the Belafonte, Blizzard Cochise, or Volkl Katana. For as stiff underfoot and heavy as the El Capo is (and those aren’t pejorative terms in my books), I expected them to smooth out the terrain more, and feel far more damp and stable at speed.