Quick Review: Nordica Hell n' Back 177cm, Nordica Steadfast 178cm
Conditions: 4-6" of light crud over groomers, soft bumps, icy bumps, skied out trees, and some grippier groomers
Skier: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, 34 y/o, primary sport is bike racing, skis 25-40 days a year, decent skill wise, can ski most anything, prefer off-piste steeps, bumps, trees, wide-open terrain.
Time used: 2-3 runs per ski
Preferred gear: Stockli Cross SX, Kastle MX78/MX83, Head Rock n' Roll, Kastle BMX98, Kastle FX94, Head Inferno, Elan 1010, Blizzard Magnum 8.5ti, Blizzard Cochise, Kastle BMX128
got a quick demo on these 2 skis last month. Very similar in feel. Just a quick run-down, as I wasn't on them for very long.
Hell n' Back: 98mm underfoot, 19m radius, rockered tip, slightly raised tail, no metal
First off, this ski jumps out at you as a real powerhouse. There is no better 177cm "go fast" ski I have found for hard snow and groomers in this width. Simply outstanding as a carver; I haven't found a 98mm ski that really even comes close for someone looking to ski their wider skis like a race ski. Just lay it over, tip that inside foot, load up the outside leg, and power across the hill. Holy cow! Very impressive. Same goes for crud in bigger turns at speed. No speed limit, insane stability for a fairly short 177cm ski. Handles the roughest snow with ease.
Bumps and tight spaces: this is where things got interesting. I had been skiing slightly softer skis most of the day prior to this, and definitely struggled on this ski in the bumps. It just felt really underdamped in bumps, and hard to control. I was getting pushed around more than I would like, and feeling a bit back on my heels. I could ski it, but had to really focus, and did struggle to recover from my mistakes. In trees, it was a little stout. I could ski it, but wasn't as forgiving, as say, the Elan 999 which I had also skied (and had similar performance, but not the groomer zip). I did think it was a lot of work; the tail just felt super substantial. This is a ski I would consider buying if I was staying out of the bumps; for bumps and trees, I would opt for something a little softer (like a 999 or Kastle BMX98) that wasn't quite as much fun on groomers, but more forgiving in the bumps. Those aren't as much fun on hard snow groomers, though, so it is all about trade-offs.
Steadfast: 90mm underfoot, 178cm length, 18m radius
Review: take what I said about the Hell n' Back, and shrink the waist width down to 90mm. Very similar skis, very similar pros and cons. Best ski I have ever been on for groomers in 90mm width, bar none. There is nothing that I have tried, at least, that matches the groomer power of this ski. Such a strong, powerful tail. Length is spot on for a guy my size. Just blasts you out of the turn. Wicked edge grip. Great groomer ski. Solid at speed in crud: again, a bit underdamped, but I could stay on top of it easily enough.
Into bumps; things again got interesting. You can take what I wrote above, and paste it here. I found this ski to be a handful in bumps. Kevin liked it, but also commented that the tail was stronger than he would like for steep bump skiing. Just felt like it was loading prematurely and making me try to always catch up with the ski.
Crudbusting on these is a hoot as well. No speed limit, Just a very powerful, aggressive ski. That is why it doesn't really surprise me that it is not a great bump ski, nor that it is pushing me around in challenging terrain. Tough to make a powerful ski that loads well, and has a small sweet spot, yet make it forgiving and non-aggressive when the terrain is challenging.
Feel of both of these: neither have metal, and neither are very damp. Both are lively, powerful, like driving a very tightly wound track-worthy, but street-legal sportscar. Felt more like the Volkl Mantra and Kendo that most skis I tried (but with tighter feeling arcs, less GS in feel). They had that similar light, snappy feel, although the Nordicas were a bit smoother than the Volkl setups; more quiet and grounded, but not excessively so.
Conclusion: very high performance boards for the right skier. I didn't find them as versatile as I would like, but they were exceedingly good at fast, powerful skiing. If I was looking for a wider ski that had to do dual groomer duty, and bumps weren't in the picture, I would be all over these models.