2023 Nordica Santa Ana 88 Review
This year’s category winner makes everyone who skis it feel like a star
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This article was first published by SkiMag.com.
The Scores (out of 10)
- Overall Score: 8.15/10
- Rank: #1
- Hard-Snow Integrity: 8.14
- Stability at Speed: 8.29
- Carving: 8.56
- Quickness: 7.57
- Responsiveness: 7.86
- Playfulness: 7.43
- Forgiveness: 7.14
- Crud Performance: 7.14
- Versatility: 7.14
- Price: $650
- Lengths: 151, 158, 165, 172
- Dimensions: 119-88-107 (165)
- Radius: 15 (165cm)
- Level: Strong Intermediate to Expert
In a Nutshell
- Pros: Carving, Stability at Speed
- Cons: Crud Performance, Versatility
Make way for this year’s champion in the women’s frontside ski category—the tried and true Santa Ana 88. Everyone knows Nordica makes a great groomer ski—the brand came in third in the carving ski test last year and second in Frontside, and this year the brand leapfrogged to the No. 1 spot in the latter category. Testers all agree—dang it, this ski is fun.
Gear testers across the board agreed that the Nordica Santa Ana 88 is the perfect ski for all women on any mountain. Ex-racers and experts loved the ski’s desire to get on edge and arc turns, while intermediate skiers felt like heroes at all speeds and turn shapes thanks to its stability. “This would be a great ski for intermediates to grow into and gain confidence on,” said SKI Test Director and tester Jenny Wiegand. “But it’s also a great ski for experts because it’s built to go fast.”
The Santa Ana 88 showcases Nordica’s Terrain Specific Metal. Each of the brand’s Santa Ana skis—ranging from an 84mm waist to 110mm—have a wood core, and Nordica increases the amount of metal in the skinnier, more groomer-focused skis and decreases the metal as the skis get wider. The result is that the Santa Ana 88 has a good amount of metal in it, which allows for stability at speed—something testers could verify while nuking turns down Sun Valley’s corduroy. Yet despite the metal, the ski is still soft and forgiving enough to make a quick turn or dart into the soft stuff. “This ski knows how to lay an edge but is happy to smear and slide its way down the hill too,” said tester and Jackson Hole local, Lily Krass. “It’s approachable yet capable.”
It’s to find the pop and play out of each turn with little effort and quickly put that energy back into the next turn, making every skier feel like a star on the mountain. And thanks to the Santa Ana 88’s rocker in the tip and tail, it can handle all types of snow conditions—fresh cord, soft snow, or crud—and it will match the ability of the skier and the conditions. “It’s a hero ski,” said tester Courtney Harkins.
The ski’s solid hold on the snow inspires confidence to drive the ski hard down the mountain, snagging the number one spot in the Carving skill category and second place in Stability at Speed. Additionally, its quick edge-to-edge transfer made it playful and versatile—which was a little surprising given its all-mountain shape and construction build—and enabled skiers to make their choice on terrain and turn shape. “Incredibly zippy and easy to drive while maintaining stability,” said Krass. “Cruise or charge, the choice is yours.”
Courtney Harkins grew up ski racing, starting on the icy slopes of New England and finishing at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She now lives in Park City, Utah and works as the Director of Marketing & Communications at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team. She also freelance writes and consults in the skiing and Olympic industry. When she’s not traveling with the team, her home mountain is Deer Valley Resort, where she loves to arc turns on groomers, but also knows all of the secret spots for days-old powder. Harkins has been testing skis since 2016 and has been a SKI gear tester for three seasons.