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2nd Look: Nordica Wildfire

Review of the Nordica Wildfire, Blister Gear Review

14/15 Nordica Wildfire

Ski: 2014-2015 Nordica Wildfire, 177cm

Dimensions (mm): 137-107-125

Sidecut Radius: 22.5 meters

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 178.4cm

Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1987 & 1948 grams

Boots / Bindings: Lange RS 110 SC / Marker Griffon / (DIN 7)

Mount Location: Recommended Line

Test Locations: A-Basin, Keystone, Eldora, Colorado; Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont

Days Tested: 7

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 Wildfire, which is unchanged for 14/15, except for the graphics.]

This season, Nordica introduced the Wildfire to their women’s all-mountain collection. As the widest ski in this line (105mm underfoot for the 162cm and 165cm lengths, and 107mm for the 177cm), the Wildfire is marketed as a versatile ski that will “dominate” in the front, side, or back country.

In Julia’s review of the Nordica Wildfire, she placed the Wildfire “somewhere in-between heavy charger skis and lightweight, playful skis,” and I was curious to see what this ski could do on hardpack, in moguls, and in trees.

Groomers

Lapping groomers at both Smuggler’s Notch and Keystone, I found the Wildfire to be extremely well behaved and had little difficulty getting the ski on edge. Julia mentioned that she’d had some difficulty getting the skis on edge, but that the sensation of washing out “had more to do with the snow than the ski.” After getting multiple runs on the Wildfire in a variety of groomer conditions, I think she is right to blame the funky conditions rather than the ski.

On some early morning runs on fresh groomers at Smuggler’s Notch, and the Wildfire made a good first impression. I nearly had the mountain to myself, and I could completely let the skis go with no worries of flying into a human slalom course (a common occurrence on weekend afternoons on the narrow trails at Smuggler’s).

When I got the Wildfire up to speed, I maintained a forward and aggressive stance, and the ski was extremely eager to initiate and hold a consistent edge throughout the turn. The soft shovels made the ski easy to engage, whereas the firmer and more traditional flat tails maintained a smooth carve until I initiated the transition.

When I let up the forward pressure and returned to a more neutral stance, the Wildfire was not as easy to maneuver, and I was definitely able to get the most out of the ski with constant forward pressure on the tip.

Describing the Wildfire’s performance at high speeds in open terrain, Julia states, “Although I might have appreciated just a little more length, I felt pretty darn comfortable on the 177cm Wildfire at top speed. They weren’t the most stable ride I’ve been on, and a heavier ski may have eased my worry of hitting a snow chunk and being tossed.” I couldn’t agree more—the Wildfire is a fun ski to rip on, but the lightweight build of the ski creates a subtle instability in inconsistent snow.

Nordica asserts that the Wildfire’s slight tip rocker is designed to help with turn initiation by bringing the traditional contact point back 25%—this remains true if you are able to bring the ski up to speed. In contrast to the Moment Bella and DPS Yvette, I found that when I slowed down and tried to make smaller, more deliberate turns, the Wildfire was less responsive and more likely to wash out. I was unable to make quick, short-radius turns (at either high or low speeds) without compromising the carve. The tapered, slightly twinned up tails are forgiving however, so I could easily smear out smaller, quick turns at slower speeds. This aspect of the ski doesn’t at all diminish the Wildfire’s groomer performance; it merely reflects the ski’s specific sidecut radius when on edge.

As the snow became more skied out, there was less soft snow for the ski to bite into, and I struggled to maintain a clean arc. If I pressured the ski too aggressively, the tails of the Wildfire would slide out and throw off my balance. This was probably due to the icy east-coast conditions, and tinkering more with the tune would likely allow the Wildfire to work better in these conditions.

Powder

As I made my way back out west, I had the chance to get the Wildfire in 5-6” of fresh snow at A-Basin. The wide shovels proved to float very nicely in untracked snow. Unlike its performance on groomers, I found it easy to maneuver the ski from a neutral, slightly forward stance.

When I did take a more forward stance and drove the shovels in powder, I became aware at times of the minimal tip splay, and found the tips diving a little. This wasn’t some big problem, but a slightly forward stance is definitely the Wildfire’s sweet spot in powder.

I found the Wildfire to be quite comparable to the Moment Bella in terms of powder performance. The Wildfire is only 1mm wider in its waist and both skis are constructed with a wide shovel. Though the Wildfire lacks substantial tail rocker, it makes up for it with its reduced weight. Not surprisingly though, the lightweight DPS Yvette 112RP, constructed with substantial tip and tail splay and a wide, soft shovel floats more efficiently than the Wildfire.

Tracked-Out Powder

Given the Wildfire’s weight, I was quite happy with its performance in tracked-out powder. I anticipated getting thrown around quite a bit, but I found that the flatter tail provided the ski with additional stability that the DPS Yvette lacks in heavier chop.

As the snow became more tracked out, it was important to take a more aggressive, forward stance.

Morgan Sweeney on the Nordica Wildfire

Morgan Sweeney on the Nordica Wildfire.

The Wildfire probably wouldn’t be my first choice in choppy conditions, because though it proved to ski more fluidly than expected, it isn’t quite damp enough to aggressively charge through uneven snow.

Trees

The glades are one of my favorite areas to hit on a powder day. So when the bowls started to get tracked out, that’s exactly where I headed, and the Wildfire proved to be quite suitable. In an effort to control my speed, I maintained a slightly forward, centered stance (the ideal position for the Wildfire in soft snow), and I had a huge smile on my face.

Because of the ski’s extremely light swing weight, it is easy to manage in tight spaces. The soft tips effortlessly engaged at the top of the turn, while the tails were happy to smear at the completion of the turn.

Only when the trees became considerably dense did I run into some slight issues; in super tight areas, I had to slow my speed down considerably in order to control the ski. In variable snow, the tails would occasionally not release, and I was forced to use the weight of my body to pivot the skis. Skis with more exaggerated tail rocker, like the Yvette, release more easily in tight areas.

When the trees opened up, however, I had a blast ripping through them. With some speed, the Wildfire tracked through the wind-blown powder with ease. With a little bit more space, I never felt I had to throw the skis sideways or make any major speed checks to stay in control. The Wildfire was definitely most responsive when taken up to speed.

Moguls

Though I didn’t find myself in any runs with huge mogul, I had a great time exploring some smaller bumps at A-Basin. Its low swing weight makes the Wildfire a great ski for these conditions, especially for a ski that is 107mm underfoot. The shovels are soft enough to keep the ski in control when pivoting through the bumps, giving the ski a more playful and poppy feel than I had experienced on other hardpack conditions.

The Moment Bella, due to its shorter length, was a bit more responsive in the bumps, but I felt that the lightweight Wildfire proved to be a more playful ski. The Yvette, however, still remains as my go-to trees and bumps ski—even at 112mm underfoot.

In tight, hard bumps, the Wildfire was more difficult to handle at high speeds. Lacking considerable dampness, the Wildfire was more likely to get tossed around when I attempted to charge through the moguls. This didn’t prove to be a huge issue for me, as I prefer to pivot and make smaller, deliberate turns; however this is something to take into consideration. As I mentioned above, the Wildfire performs best at high speeds, so maneuvering the ski slowly through tight areas took some intermediate understanding of when and how to pressure the ski for optimum functionality.

Bottom Line

After getting the Wildfire into some more variable conditions, I couldn’t agree more with Julia. She writes, “As an all-mountain ski, I thought the Wildfire did handle everything well, however, I never felt like it did one thing in particular great. To be fair, an all-mountain ski is supposed to be a jack of all trades, and Nordica did nail that. I always had fun on the Wildfire, but I never felt completely blown away by its performance.”

In designing an all-mountain ski, there are going to be some compromises. Nevertheless, Nordica successfully created a ski that performed really well in a multitude of conditions.

Constructed from lightweight materials, the Wildfire was not intended to be a damp, hard charging big-mountain ski. The Wildfire provides just enough stiffness and stability to allow you to charge at high speeds, while it also maintains the flexibility for a unique, playful feel in soft snow. To reiterate Julia’s point, you will definitely get the most out of the ski the more you put into it. I have been impressed by its range of capabilities, and I would recommend the Wildfire to intermediate to advanced ladies looking for a lightweight all-mountain ski.

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