Ski: 2016-2017 Nordica Soul Rider, 185cm
Available Lengths: 169, 177, 185 cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 182.25cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 134-97-124
Blister’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2,139 grams & 2,118 grams
Sidecut Radius: 18.5 meters
Core Construction: Ash/Poplar + Carbon Fiber (2-Layer) + Fiberglass Laminate
Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 72.6 / 64.7 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 2.6 mm
Boots/Bindings: Nordica Enforcer / Marker Jester Demo (DIN at 10)
Mount Location: +2.5cm
Test Locations: Alta Ski Area, Park City Mountain Resort
Days skis: 25[Editor’s Note: Our reviews were conducted on the 12/13 Soul Rider, which was not changed for 13/14, 14/15, 15/16, or 16/17, except for the graphics.]
I’ve now been able to spend a good amount of time riding the Nordica Soul Rider all over Alta and PCMR, and in numerous conditions. This is good, because a ~100mm-underfoot, freestyle focused, all-mountain ski like the Soul Rider is destined to be subject to heavy use anywhere on the mountain. Here’s what I’ve come to learn about the ski.
I expect a ski like the Soul Rider to be fun both off-piste and on, and in Argentina, I was definitely impressed with how the ski railed carved turns, as well as feeling effortless while skidding through various turn shapes at slow to medium speeds.
Since bringing the ski home, I’ve logged what feels like a million groomer laps teaching lessons in Park City for the National Ability Center, and during my usual warm-up/random laps bombing down Alta’s exceptional corduroy, and my impression of the Soul Rider hasn’t changed one bit.
As depicted in our initial review of the Nordica Soul Rider, the skis have a traditional sidecut shape, and although they have a good length of rocker both at the tip and tail, the splay is rather shallow. This provides access to a large portion of edge during moderate or larger carves and ample edge hold in all but the very iciest conditions.
The Soul Rider’s soft flex also contributes to the experience of railing down groomers. It is easy to bend the ski deeply into short-to-medium-radius arcs and release stored energy into the following turn. This makes cranking out slalom and GS style turns on a steep pitch like Collins Face quite fun. The skis don’t offer nearly as much energy out of the turn as, say, the Line Sir Francis Bacon, but there is a subtle boost as you exit hard carves.
The Soul Rider isn’t the most confidence-inspiring tool for rallying down steep, icy groomers at top speed, but for the type of skier who should be considering this ski, that shouldn’t be a huge concern or surprise. At top speed, the ski definitely feels best laid high up on edge, driving through large arced-out turns rather than soft, drifting scrub turns.
Skidded turns at slower speeds, however, have felt exceptional. I have been using the ski for most of my lessons, and demonstrating movement patterns has been very easy. Even at the slowest speeds, the tip and tail rocker, along with the aggressive sidecut profile, make for effortless, catch-free transitions and turns.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to ski lower-angle but nicely shaped moguls like I’ve been able to find at PCMR. It may come as a slight surprise that I had been having a blast pounding out the bumps on the Line Opus earlier in the season, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise the Soul Rider offered a more crisp feel through the zipper lines.
What was very surprising, however, was that the Soul Rider felt considerably softer than the Opus, especially through the tails, and required much more concentration to stay balanced. In fact, during my first run back on the Soul Rider, I nearly wheelied myself onto my back, only saving a humiliating tumble by some cat-like maneuver I instinctively pulled off.
Once I became accustomed to the smaller sweet spot, the Soul Rider performed well in the moguls, but the super soft flex of the tails continued to punish any slip up in fore-aft balance. This terrain also started to shed light on the lack of energy provided by the rear quarter of the ski.
With a neutral stance on the Soul Rider, I have been able to ski everything I’ve wanted to at Alta while having lots of fun doing it. This includes all of my favorites like Lone Pine, Eagle’s Nest, and High Rustler in all sorts of hard-pack. One attribute I did always find myself wishing for, however, was a little more snap and support from the ski, especially from the tail region.
Just to give an idea of where I’m coming from, absolutely none of my favorite skis have stiff tails—I actually prefer skis that have a softer progressive flex and offer a decent amount of rebound from a flexed position. But with the Soul Rider, I felt when I wanted a good kick from the back of the ski, it just didn’t deliver the energy I was after.
In super hard-pack (what West-Coasters would consider “icy”) off-piste conditions, the Soul Rider felt under damped for skiing aggressively. Considering that the ski felt nervous trying to dump speed on firm groomers, this was pretty much expected. Keeping speed in check with short-radius skidded turns is the best way to conquer true “firm” conditions on the Soul Rider.
Chalky conditions eased the sensation of the ski feeling under damped. In the chalk, I felt comfortable with more speed, thus allowing the use of smaller moguls and terrain changes to facilitate some additional energy from the ski when I wanted it, which was really fun.
I also felt very comfortable drifting out medium- and long-radius turns on the chalky surface, smearing out many high-speed turns from launch pad to launch pad on a perfectly buff High Rustler.
Overall, I would consider hard-pack off-piste to be the Soul Rider’s weakest link in all-mountain performance. That is not to say it is bad in these conditions, it’s just much better in others.