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Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free

aliwill

Diva in Training
#1
Wanted to share my experiences with the new Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free, since I was hungrily reading every review I could find before I bought them. In a normal year I would've demoed before purchasing, but that wasn't possible and I'm impatient! So wanted to share a non-technical first impression.

The Santa Ana line changed from last year (where the closest analogue was the Santa Ana 100); there are better summations out there of the upgrade, but my understanding that the old Santa Anas had two sheets of metal, while the new ones have a denser core but only one sheet of metal laminate.

My background: Lifelong intermittent PNW skier, picky as hell, 60/40 inbounds/ski touring. My go-to for both has been the Atomic Backland 102W, which was a little too heavy for long tours and a little too soft for hard-charging inbounds...and too forgiving to elevate my form past some bad habits (however I adore my Backlands, I'll never let them go; new lightweight touring setup is Backland 98s). I was looking for a dedicated inbounds ski that would make me more confident on steep, variable conditions, but still serve in the powder we find in the PNW sidecountry. I'd demoed the Santa Ana 93s and 100s in the past but was in between sizes; the 169 felt too long for me except when ripping groomers. The redesign this year, plus the introduction of the 165 length, seemed perfect. (I'm 5'6" 140lb but like a short ski.)

I mounted my new Santa Ana 104 Frees with Salomon Warden 11 MNCs (mostly due to boot requirements; I'm on my Tecnica Zero G Tour Scouts). My first run on them was fresh corduroy on a familiar groomer, and I immediately felt stability over my old Backlands—which, to be fair, are mounted with Fritschi Tectons and not alpine bindings. I let loose right away (Crystal Mountain fans, this was groomed Green Valley as one of the first skiers of the day) and after a few seconds realized I'd gained...a bit more speed than I really planned for the first alpine run of the season. Much less chatter than any other ski I've been on recently, and even at 104 I didn't feel lost in the transition from edge to edge. They're not winning any Super G races, but I probably shouldn't be going any faster than these skis let me do comfortably.

After two groomer runs we immediately hiked into the Crystal Southback because it was its first day open; it's a 20-minute hike/traverse into avy-controlled sidecountry with consistent wind-blown powder. I did notice some awkwardness in the side-stepping/duck-walking parts of the trip; the tails are bigger than than I'm used to and I stepped on my own skis a few times. Graceful!

We found an untracked section of the King and let loose; it was about 12-18 inches of loose powder over a firm base (in November!), and the skis gave me good float. I didn't stay completely above the base starting about 2/3 of the way down, the same time my ski partners were feeling it. Used to being thrown around by my touring setups, I was impressed with the control even when meeting the firm base. As we got closer to the proper runs, I had a few turns in crust and felt pretty good—with more confidence I think the skis would respond even more forcefully. Given that I was still worried about sharks and stumps, I was a bit hesitant.

The rest of the day I skied a few tracked runs and one more sidecountry run. In bumps I found them quick enough to turn, and even when I had to back up through trees—the powder behind me looked better than the avy debris in front—I didn't feel TOO awkward. Not quite as turny as the Black Crows Camox Birdies or my Backlands, but more able to get through (rather than around) crud when I found it. As someone with a tendency to backseat, I felt they rewarded my better stance with responsiveness, but unlike some skis they didn't totally leave me hanging when I resorted to a less powerful position. For that reason I feel like they're going to be a good ski to grow on; I need encouragement, not a "ski well or you're screwed" kind of ski. I'm looking forward to seeing how they respond with more confidence.

So, overall a great experience! I'm happy with the purchase, and no regrets on the 165 length (many aggressive skiers of my height/weight would go with the 172; I think they would have been okay for me, but I would not have been as comfortable through trees and bumps). I'd encourage anyone to try the whole line of Santa Anas, despite their former reputation for semi-stiffness. The 104 Frees feel like the all-mountain ski I've been looking for.
 
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#2
Thanks for the great review! I’ve felt the same as you regarding past sizing etc. in the Santa Ana line and I’m excited to get to demo the new stuff.
 

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
#3
Great review, particularly for so early in the season! I have the Santa Ana 93's from a few years back and absolutely love them. Glad you had such a good experience with the new 104's.
 

fgor

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
Great review! I loved the 2021 SA93 when I demoed it (managed to resist buying new skis so far this year, but based on my demo, the I still badly want the 2021 SA88...) and have been searching for more reviews and experiences about the rest of the 2021 Santa Ana line up - sounds like the 104 Free is just as good a ski :smile:
 

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