Date: Feb. 17, 2015
Location: Sunday River, Maine
Weather: cloudy; calm; teens F.
Conditions: typical Sunday River: overgroomed mix of decent packed powder, boilerplate , a few sections of hard overskied bumps, sugar piles and the occasional stash of old thick crud on out-of-sight-line trail edges ... one run, at least, was alternately glare wind-blasted ice and hard, chalky, near-coral-reef windpack (There may have been decent conditions over in the Oz / Jordan pod, but circumstances did not allow me to navigate over there.)
Terrain: Green / Blue / Black groomers and bumps, packed-out trees
Me: 5' 7" (171cm), 135lbs (61kg); 52 years old; east coaster; beer leaguer; 40 days a season; home mountain: Saddleback, Maine
Ski: 2014-15 Nordica NRGY 90 @ 169cm
Own or Demo: Demo
Number of Runs: 8 - 10
This ski needs a little more love. Most of the reviews I've seen have a "backhanded compliment" quality. For example, RealSkiers says,
Well, yeah. It's called carving. If it were a piece of cake you wouldn't see a clutch of posts in our instruction forum every year from people asking why they have such a hard time keeping speed in check when skiing arc-to-arc, and you wouldn't see so much time spent on the part of instructors here, talking about how to tighten the radius of said turns.
Okay, rant over. The folks at Ski Depot like this ski, and talked me into trying it, against my better judgment. Good on them. Had a blast on it.
Boy was this ski a contrast to the Fischer I skied immediately previous. When you hand-flex it, it bends pretty easily. The tail is notably narrow, even before accounting for the tapered section. My expectation was that when I put it on edge it would be a long-turns-only game. Not at all. True, short slalom-style arcs with whip-lashing, skier-launching turn endings are not something I managed to pull off. But medium radius clean carves were cake. More importantly, they were yummy cake. Cake I wanted more of. Very relaxing cake, too, which is really the point I want to make about this ski: It is smooth. Coming off the Motive 86, I could feel my blood pressure drop within a couple turns on the Nordica. Sierra Jim describes this ski as "compliant," which is spot on. Push it harder, it bends deeper; back off and it straightens out. But it does both of these things in an extremely controlled, predictable, quiet way. It has none of the on/off quality that many rockered skis display when put on edge. This knife is a slicer, not a chopper. Going edge-to-edge is surprisingly quick and easy for a 90mm ski. If you had told me it was 80mm I would have believed it. The 90 does have a speed limit, but it is not a low speed limit. When you exceed it you start to get bounced off the edge by minor surface irregularities, and the ski needs a moment to regroup and find its arc again. I can live with that in my all-purpose ski, given the places I normally ski. If you're one of the people who can't, you probably wouldn't have clicked on this review in the first place.
On reviewing my mental notes I find a gap around brushed turns on steeper groomed terrain. Oops. I simply don't have a clear memory of this. Like most readers, I don't spend the whole ski day skiing only RR track arcs and bumps. Therefore I'll have to assume that these skis were at least competent in making everyday semi-skidded turns on groomers.
In moguls, again, the NRGY 90 was super friendly. On easier pitches with smaller bumps it wants to zipperline, and it does that extremely well. In the bigger moguls I actually found myself wanting a little more sidecut on occasion, since I tend to ski a rounder, more high-amplitude line in those circumstances, and want to finish the turn fully. (This begins to touch on the one weak point of the ski, which is that the shape it does have doesn't really come into play until it's fully on edge. And of course in bumps you don't spend a lot of time at high angles. At least I don't.) But that is a bit of a quibble: It's a fun ski in bumps. Since the River has such a good base right now, I eventually made bold to ski Agony, a challenging, ledgy, double fall-line bump run that's right under one of the high speed quads. In truth it's not a run I have any affection for, but they had groomed out so many of the better bump sections for the school vacation week, and ... I was testing, right? I guess I skied it as well as I could have on any ski. It did not get in my way, which is a compliment.
Next I slid into the packed-out trees of Last Tango. Basically it was the same story as the bumps: Supremely easy to slither around on in the easier pitches. This would be a great ski for someone just learning to ski bumps and trees given the forgiving progressive flex and light swing weight. I would have preferred a bit more tip/tail engagement on the steeper sections, but it's a minor complaint.
The one area where I felt let down was in some thick semi-consolidated soft chop off hiding out of most skier's awareness behind a ridge on the side of one trail. In this stuff the tip of the ski was very squirrelly and did not inspire confidence. I found myself back on my heels and off balance as I couldn't quite find "the spot". Given how much I liked everything else about this model, I would like to go back and play with this some more to see if I could make it work for me. Linking back to my comment above about the ski's shape kicking in only when on a significant edge, perhaps I need to ski this kind of snow with a more carve-y movement pattern.
Honestly I can totally see how the NRGY 90 might look different in the eyes (and feet) of a 200-pounder. What I think of as "compliant" might well be experienced as "limp" by someone applying a lot more force. But I'm totally happy to have a ski like this available, just the way it is. I'm one of the ones who did not get along with the Hell & Back. This is not that ski, for sure!