2023 Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free Review
A tried and true favorite that delivers in crud
This article was first published by SkiMag.com.
The Scores (out of 10)
- Overall Score: 7.8/10
- Rank: #3
- Versatility: 7.8
- Crud Performance: 8.4
- Flotation: 7.6
- Playfulness: 7.2
- Responsiveness: 8.2
- Quickness: 7.2
- Hard-Snow Integrity: 7.6
- Stability at Speed: 7.8
- Forgiveness: 6.8
- Price: $750
- Lengths: 158, 165, 172, 179
- Dimensions: 134-104-123
- Radius: 16.5 (172cm)
- Weight: 1,900 g
- Level: Strong Intermediate to Expert
In a Nutshell
- Pros: Crud Performance (#2), Responsiveness (#2)
- Cons: Quickness (#8), Forgiveness (#5)
One tester compared the Santa Ana 104 Free to a German Swiss Mountain Dog—it’s got a big bark, but it also delivers big love. This ski trends on the burlier side, but if you’re willing to push it, the Santa Ana 104 Free will impress you with its impressive crud performance and responsiveness.
The Santa Ana 104 Free features Nordica’s True Tip technology, which means the wood core extends further into the tip than in other models, cutting back on the amount of heavy ABS plastic used in the tip. This shaves weight, which makes the ski more playful and easy to maneuver. Testers appreciated the ski’s playfulness, reporting that it likes to explore terrain features and bounce off side hits, especially when the snow is softer. The ski comes by that playfulness thanks to its freeride rocker profile, where both tip and tail are rockered to promote more playful turn shapes.
Sometimes playful and energetic skis are dismissed as “soft” or “too noodly,” but you’d never use those words to describe the Santa Ana 104 Free. Quite the opposite—for all its energy, this ski is quite stiff and has some serious backbone. “It’s a burly ski for someone who needs a burly ski, but it’s playful enough to help you bop around,” said tester Abby Ghent, a former U.S. Ski Teamer. “She’ll help you out when you need it, but she wants to be skied hard and fast.”
That said, testers reported this ski didn’t feel quite as stable when railing on the hardpack as past iterations of it did, perhaps because Nordica tweaked the rocker depth in this version. It might also come down to the lighter tip. Regardless, testers were quick to dismiss the chatter as a true weakness, since all-mountain skiers are less likely to be ripping groomers at speed. Plus, testers noted the problem goes away when you pick a longer size of this ski.
“This ski will make you a better skier if you’re willing to put in the work,” said tester and SKI Editor in Chief, Sierra Shafer. “It’s fast and maneuverable, easy to get on edge and in and out of larger radius turns. It’s not for the butters or grabs, but if you want to keep your skis on the ground and rail the resort on groomers, crud, or soft snow, this is your ski.”
The verdict: Strong women skiers will love the smooth ride on the Santa Ana 104 Free in the soft stuff as well as any other conditions the mountain throws at them. Strong intermediates can have a blast on this ski, too—it’s a confidence-inspiring crud crusher.
Kelly Klein is an associate gear editor specializing in skis and bikes. She lives in Bozeman, Montana.