2020 Nordica Santa Ana 88 Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
The Santa Ana collection from Nordica has emerged as one of the most popular series of all mountain skis for women. They share shapes and design elements with the also-popular men’s Enforcer collection, with some tweaks that make them more tailored for female bodies. Earlier this year we looked at two new men’s skis from Nordica, the Enforcer 88 and Enforcer 104 Free. Now it’s the ladies’ turn, and we’re excited to share this new Santa Ana 88.
If you’re at all familiar with the Nordica Santa Ana skis, you’ll know this new 88 is the narrowest option to date, just like the Enforcer 88 for men. Like the rest of the Santa Ana line, it uses Nordica’s Energy 2 Ti Balsa construction, which features a lighter weight wood core than the men’s Enforcers. That’s the biggest difference between the Santa Ana and Enforcer skis in general. The wood core sheds some weight, which increases ease of maneuverability. There is, however, still 2 full sheets of metal in these skis, and the new 88 is no exception. The metal is thinner than we see in a lot of other metal skis (true in the Enforcers as well), which softens up the overall flex and makes them a little less demanding and fatiguing. The 88 has some new elements compared to the rest of the line, just like we saw in the men’s Enforcer model. The wood core has been extended further into the tip of the ski, replacing heavier ABS material. This effectively lowers the swing weight, while also boosting the ski’s vibration damping. Carbon is also integrated into the chassis of the ski, which again reduces weight while increasing torsional stiffness, edge grip, and responsiveness. Simply put, according to Nordica, it’s the strongest, lightest, and most playful Santa Ana yet.
The shape of the Santa Ana 88 follows the same trend as the 100 and the 93. Nordica’s All Mountain Rocker profile is rocker/camber/rocker with significantly more rocker in the tip than the tail. It’s not a flat tail, but there’s minimal rise. There is also smooth early taper ending in a blunt tip, which is an important design characteristic to both the Enforcer and Santa Ana skis. It gives the ski a very versatile feel and makes turn initiation exceptionally smooth. You’re not locked into a turn like you sometimes feel on a ski with full width tips and tails, but it also retains long edge contact when you’re up on edge. Skis with more abrupt rocker and more early taper lose edge contact when you’re up on edge, which can make them feel squirrely, but that doesn’t happen with the Santa Ana/Enforcer shape.
So, how does it perform? How does the new Santa Ana 88 fit into the existing collection? With its 88 mm waist, it’s the most focused on firm snow performance out of all the Santa Anas. That doesn’t necessarily take away from its versatility, but performance on firm snow is important to note. It is, obviously, quicker edge to edge than the wider Santa Ana skis. It’s more than just quicker, however. The new construction easily provides the best edge grip, which is something we talked about in the Enforcer 88 review. Extending the wood core into the tip and the supporting carbon chassis boosts torsional stiffness, but not so much that it looses the smooth, supple feel that we’ve come to expect from these Nordica skis. It’s also the most responsive ski in the line. You get more energy out of a turn than the 93, 100, or 110. Some of the testers we’ve had on the Santa Ana 88 specifically commented on the power and snap out of the tail of the ski. If you’re loading up a carving turn on firm snow, the Santa Ana 88 responds with energy and power that’s not necessarily lacking in the rest of the line, but is much more prevalent with the 88.
This energetic, responsive feel also comes along with a very smooth skiing experience. The two sheets of metal in these skis provide superb vibration damping. It also helps retain edge contact through choppy conditions as the ski does such a good job absorbing vibrations and changes in terrain. Aggressive skiers will love this feel, and we think a lot of intermediates can benefit from it as well. It gives it a very confidence-inspiring, balanced feel. It never feels twitchy or overly reactive. “Smooth” can also describe the way it makes multiple turn shapes. This is where the shape Nordica uses really shines. The smooth rocker and early taper allow you to pivot and smear the ski quite easily considering the torsional stiffness and stability it achieves. Now, the wider Santa Ana models do it even more easily with their increased surface area, but you still get that benefit in the Santa Ana 88. You can make long slarving turns, you can pivot it pretty darn quickly when you need to, and it all works together to provide a super fun skiing experience on groomers.
Off groomers, the wider Santa Ana models are often going to be more capable, but it’s somewhat dependent on what you’re doing. If you live somewhere that doesn’t get significant snowfall, or if your version of off-piste skiing involves more moguls and tracked-out trees than deep powder, it might be more appropriate than those wider models. It’s an exceptionally capable mogul ski. The ability to pivot combined with the quicker edge to edge feel from this narrower waist width is exactly what you need when you’re stringing together a line in the moguls. High level mogul skiers will find the stability and stiffness in the tail you need for zipper-lines, while those still learning will find enough forgiveness and slow-speed performance that they won’t feel over-powered or uncomfortable.
It’s also not completely out of place in deeper snow conditions. We’ve talked a lot about narrower skis and how much fun they can be in deep snow over the past year, and this is a good example. The smooth rocker and taper gives it a relatively catch-free feel in deeper snow. You don’t get the float of the wider models, of course, but you don’t actually lose much maneuverability as the ski can slice and smear through soft snow very well. Tree skiing in ~6 inches of fresh powder certainly isn’t outside the capabilities of the Santa Ana 88, making it a great go-to resort ski for a whole lot of skiers.
Overall, the Santa Ana 88 is a very valuable addition to the Santa Ana collection. Women have been flocking to the Santa Ana skis over the past few seasons for their versatility and overall feel, and now there’s a narrower option carrying the same theme. There is no more Astral 88, as Nordica felt that most skiers in this width range were going to prefer the shape and feel of the Santa Anas, and we tend to agree. It’s a more versatile ski, and those that like the Astral shape still have the 84 and 78 to choose from. Those skis use a flatter, squared-off tail shape, which makes more sense in a narrower width than in this 88 mm width. Anyone from upper-level-intermediates all the way up to the best of the best women skiers can really benefit from a ski like the Santa Ana 88. It’s a whole lot of fun anywhere on the mountain and has a blend of performance and an overall feel that’s unique to Nordica.