It’s Nordica month here at SkiEssentials.com! If you didn’t already know, Nordica is the sponsor in our December SkiHappy Photo Contest! If you haven’t already done so, head on over to that page to learn how to enter and you could walk away with a pair of 2020 Enforcer 100 skis. To continue the Nordica theme through December, we thought we’d take a closer look at another 2020 Nordica ski, the Spitfire 80 RB. Nordica revamped their consumer-based carving ski collection for 2020. Gone are the skis in the GT series, and they’ve been replaced by the Spitfire collection that is heavily influenced by their Dobermann race skis. In recent years, the GT series, while being a lot of fun to ski, didn’t quite have the race mentality or feel that a lot of skiers look for in their carving skis. Enter the Spitfire.
There are essentially three skis in the Spitfire collection, the 72 RB, 76 RB, and 80 RB. In the 80, which is what we’re focusing on today, you have two options. You can either buy it with an FDT plate and Race XCell 12 system binding, or you can buy it flat. By flat, we mean flat. No plate, nothing. Just flat. That is pretty darn rare in the ski industry these days in terms of frontside-specific, carving-focused skis. Just the fact that Nordica offered this ski flat really sparked our interest.
Before we dive into performance, however, let’s talk about how this ski is designed and constructed. It is, refreshingly 100% cambered. Camber in a carving ski like this is hugely important. Some skis in this category use a little bit of tip rocker to make them slightly more user-friendly, but Nordica is much more focused on precision and performance than forgiveness. Its construction consists of a dense, performance wood core that’s sandwiched between two full-length sheets of metal with vertical sidewalls. Nordica also includes their Carbon Race Bridge construction, integrating carbon into the tips and tails to increase stability and edge grip and also to make the ski quicker when initiating turns. That is, simply put, race construction. Go take a look at Nordica’s World Cup Dobermann skis, you won’t spot many differences between those and the Spitfire 80 RB. Of course, the Spitfire 80 is much wider than those skis at 80 mm underfoot and has a turn radius that ranges from 13.5 to 17 m from shortest to longest length.
So, how does it perform? Simply put, it rips. We’ve tested the Spitfire 80 in a lot of different conditions on a bunch of different mountains. On firm snow, it has all the benefits of a race ski, but the width and turn radius make it way more fun. Is it slower edge to edge than the Spitfire 72 or a WC GS ski? Sure. Is it noticeable? Not really unless you’re forcing yourself to think about it. Is it harder to achieve a high edge angle? Again, sure, but it’s barely different than those narrower skis. And the benefit of the wider footprint? It charges through choppy snow and doesn’t get bogged down in softer snow conditions. One of my least favorite feelings on skis is booting out on a carving ski in slightly soft snow. Just having a little bit of extra width in the Spitfire 80 lets you ski like you’re in a GS course even when things get a little soft. You’ve probably heard us talk about that performance before in relation to skis like the Enforcer 88, Brahma 88, etc. Those skis can lay down impressive carves in soft snow too, but they don’t have the precision, responsiveness, and true race feel of the Spitfire 80.
Now, being able to purchase this ski with or without a system binding is interesting. On groomed, firm snow, you don’t notice a huge difference between the two options. The system binding works really well as a carving-specific tool, and it lifts you up off the ski a little higher, which gives you more leverage. So, if you’re picking up the Spitfire 80 as a carving-specific ski, the system version is just fine. If you want it to be more of an all-mountain ski, however, there’s some benefit to the flat version. First, you’re lower to the snow. This gives you a better connection to the snow surface and a lower center of gravity. For skiing anything other than perfectly groomed slopes, it’s a much better feel. Trying to ski moguls or trees on a carving ski with a plate can feel a little like Bambi on ice, you’re never quite comfortable or stable. Also, depending on what binding you choose, you’re going to get more elastic travel out of the binding and better flex underfoot. System skis or skis with plates can sometimes feel like they have a dead spot underfoot. The FDT plate Nordica uses is actually really good, but if you put something like a Look Pivot on a flat Spitfire 80 it gives it a more natural flex underfoot.
And, all of a sudden, it starts to feel like a different animal. There’s some amount of playfulness to the Spitfire 80 mounted flat. Granted, it’s still a carving ski more than anything else, but it’s a carving ski with attitude. It’s a carving ski that you can also throw some old school tricks on in the middle of a mogul line. Of course, with its stiff flex and 100% camber, it’s not the easiest ski in moguls or that type of terrain, so intermediates or those with timid technique likely wouldn’t have the same experience. Advanced and expert level skiers who are comfortable driving a ski and giving it a lot of skier input, however, will find they can do a lot of different things on a ski like the Spitfire 80.
There are a lot of skis I want to compare this to, but the ski that feels like the most important to talk about is the Brahma 82. Nordica and Blizzard are sister companies under the same Tecnica Group umbrella. One of them took a system binding off their widest carving ski. The other made a narrower version of a popular flat all-mountain ski. Are they the same thing? No, definitely not. The Spitfire is still more of a carving ski, the Brahma 82 is more of an all-mountain ski. But are they similar? Yes. Most interestingly, and most excitingly, however, is two of the biggest influencers and most important brands in skiing right now are making really fun, narrower-than-usual, flat skis. There’s somewhat of a trend in ski design and skier choice right now of going narrower, and the Spitfire 80 and Brahma 82 are great examples, and they’re both an absolute blast to ski.