In the 100 mm ski boot category Nordica has been in flux the last couple seasons-a normal cycle in the ski business-but for 2014-2015 they‘ve back to making commendable product.
Their zig-instead-of-zag resulted in a couple ski boot models that didn’t really uphold the standard for which Nordica became a household name. That’s done.
The Nordica NRGy series is all new and at Footloose includes the NRGy Pro 130, NRGy Pro 110 and the ladies Belle Pro 105. The NRGy are 100 mm and have essentially gone back to basics; simple shells with few superfluous gimmicks.
The NRGy uses technology that Nordica actually pioneered with first the Beast and the Speedmachine of the not-too-distant past. The NRGy Pro is the direct (albeit taking the scenic route) successor to the Speedmachine...welcome news for those loyal to the brand and the boots.
The instep of the shell has softer plastic for ease of entry and exit and other than that, with the exception of the adjustable spoiler height (questionable as a necessity…from any manufacturer) there are no other gewgaws.
Nordica is also introducing “Custom Cork” liners in the NRGy series. The liners have a panel filled with a cork composite as the outer layer of both the medial and lateral sides of the liners. This adjusts by either heating in the shop (recommended) or after a few runs in the boots.
As a backing for the usual padding of the liners, the cork panels augment the fit as well as the longevity and support throughout the life of the boots.
As a matter of education: the NRGy cork liners are very good but cannot be compared to Zip Fit liners. Being likened to Zip Fit’s is complimentary as far as Nordica should be concerned-the Custom Cork liners are well made and definitely enhance the fit and performance of the NRGy ski boots.
Along with the high quality Custom Cork liners, the NRGy is well and simply constructed: replaceable toe and heel lugs, the 130 has dual cuff alignment screws-in the 110 a single, bolts at the rear of the boots that can be either taken out to soften or installed to stiffen the boots, a wide ranging buckle catch setup at the top of the boots, adjustable spoiler height (?) and burly power strap.
The ladies Belle Pro 105 has the Custom Cork liner, single cuff alignment screw; the rear liner cuff has the contour one would expect for the calf.
For tippin’ ‘em and rippin’ ‘em the NRGy has plenty of muscle. Long skis, fat skis, hard snow, soft snow…whatever you are stepping into and onto, the NRGy has the horsepower. Yet if subtlety is more your style the NRGy will not demand otherwise.
In the 98 mm ski boots we’ll carry over the Patron in a 110 flex and the corresponding ladies boot, the La Nina 90. Both have had good success and maintain simple lines and clean construction. They are taken from the same molds as the Dobermann EDT 130 that you will also find at Footloose.
The Patron and La Nina are as low a volume as can be found…low instep, intimate rear-foot and heel, commensurate mid-foot and good toe box for a low volume shell.
The Patron is power steering for the skis. The Patron 110 and EDT 130 are pretty exacting, the EDT being the more demanding by far, the La Nina perhaps a bit less so by virtue of it being a softer flex, though the shell is from the same mold as the 110 and EDT. The Patron 110 is a detuned version of the EDT 130 without the rigidity of the fixed zeppa and is better suited for us mere mortals.
The EDT (stands for “Efficient Dynamic Technology”…your guess is as good as mine) 130 is unique in that a big part of the EDT is the zeppa or bootboard at the bottom of the shells’ interior. It is a very firm material that is fixed through the boots soles. What it does is twofold; strengthen the torsional characteristics of the boots and, an immediate revelation, makes the boot so longitudinal stiff that the tail of the skis loads so much and so abruptly that, until one gets used to it, it launches the skier very forcefully out of turns and into orbit.
As one gets used to the efficiency of the EDT and catches up to it, the utility of the boots becomes apparent-the EDT 130 does uphold the standard for which Nordica became renowned.
The Patron 110/La Nina is super dependable on snow…efficient to a fault. There is good versatility for differing conditions, excellent adaptability for terrain, turn shape and speeds.
The cuff of the series is a bit lower than in a vast majority of the boots at this level; neither here nor there but functionally the skier can exert more leverage over the boots which opens the range of motion a bit so it is not uncommon to feel like the boots are somewhat softer flexing at first though the ROM is very predictable. There is no question as to the lateral strength of the Patron/La Nina… formidable.
Anyone watching World Cup ski racing last season (here in the US…whaddaya new?) may have noticed the prevalence of black boots on the podium. Count on there being good reason for that; Nordica makes good stuff! They have been doing so for a long time.
There are numerous ski boots from the archives at Nordica that established benchmarks in the industry; the Grand Prix has a place at the top.
The Grand Prix had a life of its own long after model changes occurred. The boot was so desirable to those at the highest level of the sport it showed up for many years with cosmetic treatments that reflected the current ski boots you could buy off the shelf.
The success of the Grand Prix was due to the simplicity of the shell, the quality of the liners and the rigorous use of biomechanics as a design stricture.
There have been some notable successors to the Grand Prix; the original Doberman and the Doberman Aggressor. Now there is the Doberman EDT.
The Doberman Pro EDT makes two changes of note; first and most significant is the EDT (Efficient Dynamic Technology (gotta have something slapped on a ski boot!), the zeppa or boot board that lies underneath the liner in each boot, is now formed with carbon. This is noteworthy because the original EDT was firm, hard foam-normal in a boot-except it was molded into an aluminum frame that was bolted through the boot soles from both sides of the toe and heel lugs. It was very cold.
The first generation Doberman Pro EDT was, despite the cold feet, very effective at what it was meant to do…turn the existing torsion at the boots soles into direct response on the skis. The current carbon EDT is as effective but reduces the weight of the boot along with keeping the feet warmer.
The other change in the Doberman Pro EDT complements the change in the zeppa-there is a bit more internal volume…better space for the instep and the girth around the heel/anterior ankle joint. Otherwise the Doberman Pro EDT is unchanged.
The Doberman series, including the Doberman Pro EDT, the Spitfire and the Patron Pro, is fairly low volume. The Spitfire and Patron Pro have conventional bootboards.
This is where numbers can be deceiving; at 98mm one might assume the Doberman Pro EDT to be as spacious as other boots in that width but, even with the changes in certain shell dimensions, the Dobermans are a very snug fit; mid-foot and heel provide solid support throughout, the instep is pretty low and the toe box becomes fairly narrow.
The Spitfire and Patron Pro feel slightly less constricted because of more compliant liner materials.
Nordica boot flexes tend to run on the burlier side; the Patron Pro 120 feels more like a 130, the Spitfire 100 feels more like a 110 or 115. Even the flex of the Doberman Pro EDT 130 is stout enough so that Nordica does not offer that boot in a 150 flex…they consider it unnecessary.
The Doberman series skis very well, they are clean and crisp edge-to-edge. The ramp angle is neutral-not as flat as some, more so than others-and with the cuff pretty straight up the stance keeps the skier fairly well stacked (skeletal).
The spoiler is robust…turn finish can be abrupt at first but because the skier can stay much more centered the fore/aft motion should be minimized and as the ROM is established this not as much of an issue.
The EDT does have a distinct function and feel on snow. Some of the abruptness at the finish of the turn is also due to the rigidity of the soles…this loads the rear binding as the ski flexes increasing the rebound as the skier completes the turn.
I am not sure how much torsional flex most of us mere mortals actually feel underfoot when skiing but what exists will never be an issue in the Doberman EDT. The EDT boots are very exacting and powerful when it comes to tipping the skis up.
The carbon composite of the zeppas gives a consistent feel for the environment while attenuating high frequency vibrations.
New from Nordica last season and replacing the Speedmachine in the meat-and-potatoes 100mm width category is the Firearrow series; the Firearrow F2 and Firearrow F3W.
The Firearrow has some big shoes to fill (pun fully intended!) and is eking its way into the consciousness of the constituency Nordica has targeted…basically the former Speedmachine skier.
The Firearrow has been designed with “new school” technique in mind. With shaped skis in general and recent wider shaped skis in particular, the real difference in their utility necessitates a wider stance-hip to shoulder width apart.
As a result of the geometry and construction of current skis, boots do not have to be as stiff flexing as they used to be. They need to be very stiff laterally.
The Firearrow from the ground up complements the functional attributes of the newest and the best of the contemporary crop of skis.
The Firearrow is a three-piece shell. The lower that encases the foot has an open throat that starts at the instep and follows the contour of the ankle and shin to the boot top. This permits an open, unrestricted flex. The flex is contained and defined by the tongue of the shell-component # 2-and the interaction between the cuff and the posterior of the lower shell-component # 3.
Creating shells with the medial and lateral flanges of the lower shell contiguous to the top of the boot provides tremendous lateral strength for tipping the skis up, transferring edge-to-edge and modulating turn shape and length.
The Firearrow has a carbon EDT zeppa fixed through the soles. This EDT is wider underfoot than that of the Dobermans. This, particularly for those regularly skiing skis over 78mm in width, augments the leverage needed to engage and hold an edge through turns and has good feel underfoot.
The Firearrow F2 and Firearrow F3 W are three buckles. The top and instep buckles are in the usual spots on the shell; the middle one is mounted to the shell in front of the hinge rivets so that it pulls the feet into the rear of the boot. It works well.
The forefoot and toe box are roomy. Last season the room over the instep was pretty limited-in this year’s boot it is much better. Mid-foot and heel are not as compact as in the Doberman series yet support through the area is not lacking…just not as close.
The heel cup is not as severe as in the Dobies however once the shin presses into the tongue the purchase at the rear of the heel and the stability improves.
The medial wall is conducive to foot steering-there is just a little room for the mid-tarsal joint to roll into.
The Firearrow F2 and F3 W reward current technique. I repeat this because skiers in love with the Speedmachine and still skiing with a narrower stance will have to adjust some things to benefit from the design parameters of these boots. Once that is accomplished however, the Firearrow will put a big wide grin on your face.
There is some very cool stuff coming your way for the 2012-2013 ski season. There are big improvements in shell customization, lasts-the shape boot makers use for the internal shape of the shell-get better and some manufacturers are improving liner material for better fit and durability.
We will always talk about biomechanics when related to ski boots because, though the subject seems a bit like turning a dead horse into Alpo, strict adherence to biomechanical principles translates to functionally better and more comfortable ski boots.
The reason the discussion is ongoing is that for every piece of knowledge gained by science there is a demonstrable benefit for the boot designer, the skier and the bootfitter. All things evolve. Skis certainly have!
For a number of years ski designs were well ahead of the boot guys when it came to creating new, more effective, more fun and popular products…shaped skis became a driving force behind the resuscitation of an industry that was bordering on flatline. In the relatively recent past there has been a commensurate evolution in boot designs predicated on sound biomechanical principles.
This ensures that the products we put out will give skiers the greatest opportunity to enjoy the sport. We, bootfitters, retailers, ski instructors, coaches, are also assured that when the client needs real solutions for fit problems, stance dilemmas and performance issues we have a much better platform upon which to realize a resolution in good time…after all, skiing is why people go to ski resorts!
With the precision built into skis and boots there is less tolerance for ill-fitting ski boots. Controlling foot function is absolutely the first step (2/3rds of a pun) in a good boot fit.
With a biomechanically correct footbed a huge number of problems that have plagued skiers for decades simply do not occur.
Superfeet have been at the forefront in developing insoles for every walk of life. Starting with the “Insta-Ski-Thotic” in the late -70’s, Superfeet’s product line reflects their adherence to strict biomechanical principles. Now known as the “Kork”, it is the flagship of the Superfeet product line and the best ski specific custom footbed on the market. For problem solving and comfort there is nothing better…almost everyone from beginning skiers to the most proficient advanced professional should have aSuperfeet Kork under their feet in their ski boots.
The Demo thing!
In 1980-1981 a unique idea emerged from brain of the founder of Footloose, Sven Coomer; trying ski boots before buying them. “Try before you buy” became the byline of a program that allowed skiers to ski in boots before they made their purchase. At the time it was a novel concept that was roundly maligned although ski demos had been around for some time prior.
Many ski area specialty shops have successfully emulated the Footloose ski boot demo program. What better way is there to figure out if a ski boot will work?
Try before you buy!
Ski boot testing
There is a distinct methodology to testing ski boots; first is skiing on the same skis through the process.
For boot testing the skis I use are; the Nordica Top Fuel, 178 cm 78mm underfoot, a 185 cm Nordica Hellcat 90mm underfoot, then a 185 cm Nordica Enforcer @ 98mm underfoot…basically covering the gamut of available ski widths apart from really wide, full rockered skis.
All the boots are tested throughout a ski season as opposed to one or two runs. This enables me to find the differences between the boots in all the conditions and on all the terrain Mammoth Mountain has to offer.
Of course I ski all boots with my Kork footbeds.
The first few runs on any boot are structured insuch a way as to find out how a boot will ski at different speeds, turn shapes and turn lengths. Then it’s pretty much “go skiing”!
Testing ski boots is not to determine if one is better than another, it’s to find the differences between them. All the boots at a given performance level or price point are good…period.
Ski boots are the critical link. The products available to us now are so much better that it is virtually assured that all types of skiers can find a ski boot that will give them all one can ask for. To quote a noted haberdasher; “I guarantee it”.
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