2020 Nordica Enforcer 104 Free Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
With another week comes another review here on SkiEssentials.com! We’re wrapping up the month of January, and as you may already know, January is the Nordica month for our SkiHappy Contest! They are giving away a pair of their brand new 2020 Enforcer 88 skis, which we took a look at a couple weeks ago. Get your photos in before the end of the month for a chance to win these new skis! This week, we’re looking at another new Nordica ski for 2020, the Enforcer 104 Free. If you’ve been following our blog, YouTube channel, or social media, you probably have already heard about or seen these skis, but we’re excited to go more in-depth with this review. The Enforcer collection now has a total of six skis ranging from 88 all the way up to 115 underfoot. The 88, 93, and 100 all share similar shapes, cores, etc. The 104 Free, on the other hand, shares a similar shape with the existing Nordica 110 and Pro (for 2020 called the 110 Free and the 115 Free). These two new skis (the 88 and 104) really help round out the entire collection, which now really feels like it’s catering to a huge range of skiers. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the 104 Free.
If you read the Enforcer 88 review or watched the video, you’ll notice a trend here as there are similar updates to the 104 as we saw in the 88. The difference, however, is that it shares its base construction with the 115 and 110 Free. These skis use a lighter wood core compared to the 88, 93, and 100. We already have talked quite a bit about the performance differences between them in past reviews like the 2019 Enforcer 110. Essentially, the Free series are a little lighter and softer flexing, which helps give them a more playful and forgiving feel in freeride applications. New for 2020, however, is Nordica’s True Tip Technology and Carbon-Reinforced Chassis.
As a reminder, these construction updates are only found in the 88 and 104 Free. The 93, 100, 110, and 115 (Pro) all stay the same for 2020. Let’s do a little refresher on these construction updates incase you missed or don’t remember the Enforcer 88 review. True Tip Technology is a new tip construction. Nordica has removed heavy ABS plastic from the tip and extended their lightweight core further into the tip. This is intended to decrease swing weight, which increases playfulness and maneuverability without sacrificing stability or power. The Carbon-Reinforced Chassis is a new fiberglass layup that integrates full length carbon strips. This is also designed to shed some weight, as it’s 35% lighter than traditional glass, while also boosting the ski’s strength, energy, and stability. Lighter and stronger is a common theme in the ski manufacturing world right now. The key is to retain the right balance. A ski that’s too lightweight will lose some of its charge-ability, ability to punch through crud, etc. A ski that’s too stiff, well, just isn’t very much fun for most people. Balance is important, and Nordica feels like they got it right with this one, but we’ll get to that later.
The shape of the Enforcer 104 Free is largely the same as the 110 and 115. It has long, smooth rocker in both the tip and tail, as well as smooth early taper. It’s not abrupt early taper like we see from some other brands, it more feels like the tips and tails straighten out a bit at the very end, which helps give the ski a catch-free, forgiving feel. There is camber underfoot, which in our opinion is important for a ski like the Enforcer 104 Free. This ski is intended to be more than just a soft-snow, powder weapon, and camber helps boost performance on firmer snow conditions. It also gives the ski a more responsive, energetic feel when linking turns. We’re going to talk more about how the 104 stacks up to a ski like the Enforcer 100 a little later, but already we can point out the differences in construction and shape. While those skis are closer in width than the 104 is to the rest of the Free collection, the construction and shape sets its performance apart fairly significantly. There’s also a new length breakdown, similar to what we saw in the Enforcer 88. The 104 is available in 172, 179, 186, and 191 cm lengths.
We’ve been testing the Enforcer 104 Free for over a month now, thanks to the fact Nordica left us with a pair in early December. Luckily, we’ve had a tremendous start to the season here in Vermont (except it’s raining as I type this…), which has given us some awesome testing conditions. We’ve had the Enforcer 104 Free on top of the Chin here at Stowe (above tree-line, sidecountry terrain), we’ve had them on firm groomer days, we’ve skied wind-slabbed snow, crud snow, re-frozen snow, and just about anything else you can think of. A ski like the Enforcer 104 Free should be able to do a little bit of everything, so we’re really happy we’ve already been able to put it to the test in a wide variety of conditions.
Let’s start with soft snow performance. Afterall, the Enforcer Free collection is designed more for soft snow than the 88, 93, and 100. The theory behind this collection is fairly simple. The deeper the snow, the wider ski you should have. Now, there’s more to it than that, as the 115 (Pro) is stiffer than the 100, and the 104 obviously uses some new construction techniques, but it is basically that simple. So, within the Free collection, the 104 is intended for soft snow conditions, but not super-deep powder days. That said, I skied it on some super-deep powder days and was really happy with its performance. Do wider skis have more float? Of course, but in ~20 inches of fresh snow, I didn’t find my tips were diving or that it lacked flotation. I ski the 110 a lot, and we’re going to talk about some direct comparisons in a little bit, but overall the powder performance of the 104 is pretty close to the 110. One of its benefits is its quickness. The lighter swing weight is noticeable, more noticeable than I expected. The 104 loves to slash, smear, and play in soft snow.
On firm snow, the 104 Free is actually pretty quick edge to edge. The carbon strips integrated into the fiberglass really seems to have boosted responsiveness, edge grip, and overall performance on firm snow. It’s probably more noticeable on firmer conditions than in soft snow. In soft snow you feel the lighter swing weight more than anything else. On firm snow, when you’re not pivoting or tossing the ski around, you feel the increased energy more than the lighter swing weight. That being true, it’s still really playful on firm snow. It doesn’t feel like you’re locked into a turn, but it will hold an edge through a relatively powerful tun if you want it to. It still has tremendous vibration damping from the two sheets of metal, and definitely has that powerful, smooth Enforcer-feel, but for me, it’s noticeably more responsive on firm snow than its wider brethren.
So, let’s do some direct comparisons here. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Enforcer 110 over the past couple seasons, so am very familiar with the performance of that ski. I also had the opportunity to put both skis in the back of my 1999 Jeep Cherokee and choose one or the other based on the snow conditions of the day. On really deep days, I was still reaching for my 110. While the 104 does handle powder well, if you’re looking for a true powder ski, the 110 is probably the ticket. What I found refreshing about the 104, however, was its versatility compared to the 110. Here at Stowe, things get tracked out pretty quickly on a powder day. After a couple runs, you’re basically forced into tight trees if you want to find fresh snow. So, while I was happy to have my 110 on the first run or two, I quickly wanted to be back on the 104 on most days. As soon as I found myself skiing tracked out runs or in tight trees, the 104 really shines. It’s nimbler, it’s quicker, it’s a little easier to maneuver because of the lighter swing weight, and is arguably a better overall ski for a powder day here in Vermont. It also feels like it has slightly better torsional stiffness than the 110 too, and definitely links turns on groomers better. The 110 feels like it needs a pretty high edge angle when you want to carve, the 104 is a little easier.
Now, as we mentioned before, the 104 is actually closer in width to the Enforcer 100, so it’s natural to want to compare it to that ski too. In my opinion, this comes down to skier style. The 104 (and the 110 and 115 for that matter) have some obvious freeride/freestyle influence in their design and performance. They’re basically twin tips, and anyone that wants to argue that they’re not, that’s fine, but I disagree. The 88, 93, and most importantly in this comparison, the 100, are all directional skis. No one is going to ski switch on the 100, at least not for a long time. No one is building backcountry jumps and choosing the 100. If that kind of skiing sounds like you, or if you’re more into playful freeride skiing than directional charging, the 104 is probably a better ski for you than the 100. If you’re a hard charging, ripping all mountain skier who’s looking to drive their tips with a lot of power and wants a stiffer tail, you’re probably going to want the 100.
So, what do we think of this new ski? To put it simply, we love it! Our staff has basically been fighting over the pair that we have kicking around as we’ve had some fantastic snow conditions for it. I found that it has a really fun mix of performance characteristics. For me personally, it’s a more appropriate daily driver than the 100 because it allows me to be more playful, which I like. I’m willing to give up the additional power and stability of the 100 in favor of the playfulness, maneuverability, and soft snow performance of the 104 Free. Will everyone feel that way? Most certainly not. The 100 is still a fantastic all mountain ski, and will still be a favorite among a lot of skiers. Remember, the Enforcer 100 isn’t that challenging in soft snow. It’s still a very versatile all mountain ski, but now with the 104 Free you can match the subtleties in performance to the subtleties in your own personal skiing style. And that could be our favorite thing about the new Enforcer collection in general; it feels like you can really personalize your choices.