Ski: 2016-2017 Nordica Santa Ana, 177 cm
Available Lengths: 153, 161, 169, 177
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 176.3 cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 133-100-121
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 133-99-121
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski (177cm): 1658 & 1665
Stated Sidecut Radius: 16.5 meters
Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered): ~57 mm / ~11 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 3-4 mm
Factory Recommended Line: – 8.45 cm from true center; ~79.7 cm from tail
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Test Locations: Copper Mountain and Winter Park, CO.
Days Tested: 5
Reviewer: 5’10”, 130 lbs (see bio)[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 15/16 Santa Ana, which was not changed for 16/17, apart from graphics.]
New to Nordica’s women’s freeski line this year is the Santa Ana, the all-mountain complement to the wider, much-loved-by-Blister Nordica La Nina. At 100mm underfoot, the Santa Ana’s dimensions are based on the men’s Nordica Enforcer, but it is constructed with a lighter balsa wood core and lacks the metal strips that the Enforcer has.
With the grace of the snow gods this year, I’ve had the chance to test the Santa Ana so far in everything powder to corduroy to moguls to glades.
From an initial hand flex, the Santa Ana feels poppy and responsive. The flex is softest at the shovel (call it a 4 or 5 out of 10), gradually stiffening as you move closer to the center of the ski (5) and toward the tail (6-7). Flexed side-by-side with the Volkl Aura (a ski with metal), the Santa Ana is much softer.
On snow, however, the Santa Ana maintains a surprising level of dampness given its flex pattern and its lightweight construction. The flex is smooth and responsive, yet is stiff enough to provide good stability at higher speeds and in rougher conditions. Nordica says that, despite its lighter construction, the Santa Ana still has a “damp, metal like feeling.” If you’re coming from a ski with metal in it, I don’t think you’d say the Santa Ana has a metal-like feel, but it is still reasonably damp.
My first run on the Santa Ana was on beautiful, soft corduroy, and the ski excelled. I was able to initiate each turn with ease, and transition smoothly into the next throughout the entire run. In Jonathan’s review of the Enforcer, (the burlier men’s version of the Santa Ana), he repeatedly describes the ski as buttery and smooth, and I’d have to say that this description easily translates here.
I felt like I was dancing on the Santa Ana, especially while skiing on soft, even snow. I played between short radius turns and larger, sweeping turns. The Santa Ana’s tip rocker, combined with its poppy flex, allowed me to make very quick turns despite its longer length (177 cm). When really worked, the ski took the energy from each turn and propelled me into the next.
I prefer to ski with my shins pressed hard into the front of my boots, and the Santa Ana certainly responds best in this position. However, it is still a very forgiving ski and won’t buck you into the back seat.
The Santa Ana feels most at home making medium-sized turns at medium to higher speeds. When arcing bigger turns at high speeds, I occasionally reached the ski’s speed limit, but when I did, I never felt that the ski was too out of control.
With limited trails open during the first few weeks of the season, the conditions turned icy pretty quickly. The stability and grip that I felt from the Santa Ana on softer snow diminished significantly when faced with patches of ice. For a ski with a 100 mm waist, the Santa Ana carves really well, but it isn’t ideal for variable and icy conditions. A ski with more sidecut and a smaller waist would perform much better here.
At 100mm underfoot, the Santa Ana isn’t a powder-specific ski, but its light weight and tip rocker aid its floatation. With a series of storms passing through Colorado at the end of December, I had the chance to test the Santa Ana in some light snow and some deeper, fresh snow.
The Santa Ana excelled on days when there were just a few inches of fresh on top of a softer base. With a light dusting, the conditions were conducive to playful skiing, and the ski matched them. I appreciated the stiffer, flatter tails in these conditions, since they allowed me to rip through feathery mogul fields with stability and confidence.
The Santa Ana responded well to a firmer ski style, and was extremely agile and responsive. The Santa Ana has the perfect balance of flotation and shape to take advantage of the softer conditions while maintaining directional stability.
I also enjoyed skiing through deeper snow on the Santa Ana. With 8” of fresh powder, the Santa Ana planed beautifully, with little effort. At slower speeds, I did find myself getting on my heels a bit and surfing through pockets of deep powder, but the Santa Ana had enough float and stability that I could also maintain a forward position without my tips diving. This allowed me greater control in tighter areas, and I didn’t have to sacrifice my speed to maintain control in glades.
In these soft conditions, I was also impressed by how hard I could charge on the Santa Ana. Its more gradual tip rocker (especially compared to a ski like the DPS Yvette 112) gives the ski good stability (it doesn’t feel twitchy or deflect in deeper snow) and I ripped through newly opened bowls without hesitation.
Soft, Light Chop
In soft, light chop, the Santa Ana held its own. I never had any serious issues with the tips getting caught up or deflected. The tips of the Santa Ana are definitely soft and playful, but its shovels don’t flex / fold up nearly as much as something like the the DPS Yvette 112. Even in soft chop, I found myself getting thrown around by the Yvette. The Santa Ana offers a smoother ride.
Deep, Heavy Chop
This isn’t the Santa Ana’s forte. When I got the ski up to speed, I needed to really press my shins forward to maintain a level of control. Eventually, however, I speed-checked and made smaller hop turns through the heavier snow. Though the Santa Ana can maneuver through softer chop, it really lacks the dampness needed to charge through heavier chop. In these conditions you won’t bulldoze through the chop, you’ll want to stay lighter on your feet and negotiate it.
Nordica Santa Ana vs. Volkl Aura
Compared to the Volkl Aura (also 100 mm underfoot), the Santa Ana feels significantly lighter, poppier, and more forgiving. On the stiffer Aura, I would find myself getting thrown around when I was really working the ski if I didn’t stay on top of it. I didn’t feel this with Santa Ana at all. I also found that the Santa Ana’s traditional camber underfoot allows for quicker transitions than the fully-rockered Aura. Both skis, however, have nice grip on smooth corduroy and are more than willing to carve.
However, the Aura is a damper ski, and feels more stable in deep chop than the Santa Ana. (It’s important to note that I also struggled with the stability of the Aura in these conditions, but I would wager that had more to do with the shorter length I was skiing (170 cm) than the Aura’s overall construction). Both skis were impressive in deeper powder relative to their width, and are overall well-rounded skis.
I would say that the Aura is aimed at more advanced skiers who want a more directional ski with a more traditional construction (though not a more traditional shape). The Aura has two sheets of metal, which makes the ski much damper than the Santa Ana. However, if you are a taller woman (like me) then I would take the ski’s length into consideration since the Aura’s longest size offered is a 170 cm, which can affect the ski’s stability considerably.
The Santa Ana, on the other hand, is a more approachable ski for intermediate skiers, but is sturdy enough for advanced skiers, who are willing to slow down a bit or ski with a lighter touch as the conditions get rough. It offers a more playful feel than the Aura. So while the Aura is a perfect ski for a more aggressive skier, the Santa Ana is ideal for more playful skiers who value quickness and versatility more than inherent stability.
The Nordica Santa Ana’s performance on groomers, in powder, and its overall versatility are impressive. It is a very responsive ski with a nice light, poppy feel to it, yet it is still damp enough to handle some speed and light, variable snow.
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