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AS SEEN IN FREESKIER MAGAZINE

COMPILED BY: DONNY O’NEILL
        
PHOTOS: EVAN WILLIAMS
YOUR SKIS ARE likely the most prized possession in your kit. But how often do you stop and think about the construction processes that make up their character? The reasons why they’re able to lay it down on a groomer, plane above deep snow, pivot like a ballerina or adequately tie all of these characteristics together. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface that’s allowing you to maximize your fun each and every ski season. Obviously, design and construction practices vary slightly between every brand on the market, but, in general, the majority of ski builds adhere to similar principles, and understanding these tactics is the key to being an informed buyer when it’s time to shell out your cash for a new pair of planks. In order to assist you in achieving this ski construction genius, we’ve teamed up with Nordica’s Ski Product Manager, Florian Seer, Pro Skier Essex Prescott and Matt Berkowitz, brand director of Boston’s premier ski shop, The Ski Monster, to help school you on the intricacies of modern ski construction, utilizing the Nordica Enforcer and Enforcer Free collections as a baseline.

What’s the most important thing to keep in mind
when purchasing new skis?

SEER SAYS:

The most important questions to ask are, ‘Where do I mainly ski? Am I skiing on-piste or off-piste? What are the main snow conditions?’
If you look at Nordica’s new Enforcer line, the traditional Enforcer and the Enforcer Free, we’re focusing on where the skis will be used. The Enforcer Free, with waist widths above 100 millimeters, are designed for more off-piste skiing, rather than the traditional Enforcers, which we see as being more for on-slope carving.
These characteristics are mainly related to the contact lengths of the ski, from contact point to contact point. The contact connection is usually longer with the on-trail, on-piste versions, like the Enforcer 88, 93 and 100, and it’s shorter on the Free shapes with longer tail rocker, like the Enforcer 104, 110 and 115 Free.
These days, I guess everyone is looking for off-piste adventures, but the big question is where are you skiing and how many days are you skiing off-piste? For example, an East Coast skier with less opportunity to ski in real powder conditions should consider something like the traditional Enforcer, rather than in, say, Colorado where you can really go off-piste and ski deeper snow, where the Enforcer Free would be a better choice.

Berkowitz SAYS:

Head into a shop with an open mind; while you may be stoked on a single pair of skis because of a sick marketing story you just saw on Instagram, there may be a ski that is better suited for your goals and what you actually do on the hill. Also, not all shops have a great staff; be sure to read reviews on your local or not-so-local shop before going.

Prescott SAYS:

Ask yourself, ‘What does my perfect day on the mountain look like?’ From my experience, this is the best way to figure out what someone really wants from a ski. Taking cues on what makes you light up while describing your perfect day can really help with the follow up questions that will narrow down what ski is right for you.
It comes down to personal preference on what style of skiing suits you best. The Enforcer Free series, for example, is going to support a more playful, newschool style of skiing, while the Enforcer series lends better to a more traditional, hard-charging approach. The Frees will be more maneuverable and floaty while the Enforcers will track or carve with a bit more traditional stability. I try to ski as fluid and clean as possible while letting the terrain dictate a lot of my actual actions and maneuvers. I find myself bending, popping and sliding the ski as much as I am edging and pressuring it. The Enforcer Free lends beautifully to this style of all-mountain versatility, while still having the guts to get you out of hairy situations and/or chase your ex-ski racer buddies around the mountain.
Don’t focus too much on the bells and whistles. All the insane, new technology is great, but make sure you are still focusing on the equipment that is best for you. Be realistic about your ability level and the terrain you ski daily. Be sure to get personalized input on what equipment is best for you. Reviews and research help, no question about it, but nothing beats going into a shop and talking to an expert about it.”

“THE FOLLOWING IS A GLOSSARY OF TERMS THAT DEFINE TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF SKI CONSTRUCTION AS WELL AS REFLECT THE CHARACTER OF A SKI.”
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Jeff Neagle lays one over on the Enforcer 88.
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Parker Herlihy demonstrates the freestyle powder capabilities of the Enforcer 110 Free - Photo by Brooks Curran.

Enforcer 88

ENFORCER 88

NORDICA / $750
SIZES: 165, 172, 179, 186 cm
DIM: 122-88-110 mm
RADIUS: 17.5 m

The newest Enforcer, this 88-millimeter-waist-ed shredder is geared toward rip-roarin’ on-piste adventures. Its narrow width and camber underfoot translate to easy edge-to-edge transitions, while slight early rise in the tip and tail ensure you can handle a bit of off-piste action should you feel wild. Full ABS sidewalls also ensure you’re getting top-of-the-market power transmission when rocket-ing down the mountain on these babies.

Enforcer 88

ENFORCER 104 FREE

NORDICA / $850
SIZES: 165, 172, 179, 186, 191 cm
DIM: 135-104-125 mm @ 186 cm
RADIUS: 18.5 m @ 186 cm

The latest addition to Nordica’s Enforcer Free series, 104 Free is the ideal all-mountain ski for someone with freestyle sensibilities. Camber underfoot with relatively mellow rocker in the tip and tail allows the 104 Free to excel in powder or chop, moguls or bowls, trees or groomers; i.e., it handles it all. A reduction in ABS plastic and addition of lightweight balsa wood in the tips cuts swing weight for a super-boost in maneuverability.

TORSIONAL RIGIDITY

“Defined as the amount of resistance a ski has to twisting. A ski with the right amount of torsional stiffness can hold up to even the most aggressive skiing, helping to boost power and edge control."

SEER SAYS:

Torsional rigidity means that whatever pressure you give to the edge of a ski, the ski is not bending in the wrong direction.
If you initiate a turn and you put the ski on edge, the opposite edge, which is not touching the snow, should be stable and not be bent in the wrong direction. Torsional rigidity, in the end, is just a description of how stable the ski is laterally.

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FLEX
In general, a ski’s flex can be stiff, soft or somewhere in be-tween. Stiffer skis are generally relied upon for on-piste ski-ing where carving is the main goal. Those who need a more forgiving construction when high-tailing it through moguls and other off-piste obstacles covet softer skis. Many skis employ a flex somewhere in the middle of the spectrum for better versatility.

SEER SAYS:

The most important thing is that the ski is bending in a harmonic way from tip to tail. The biggest priority for us is not tweaking the flex by one or two percent, but finding the right flex curve that is working harmoniously from the tip all the way to the tail. So if you start in the turn, you never have the feeling that there is any breakage of the curve, that is the most important goal.

ROCKER AND CAMBER PROFILES

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TRADITIONAL
A traditional cambered ski’s slight upward curve allows a ski to make full edge contact with the snow when pressured by the skier. Generally, full camber skis give you top-notch pow-er transmission and control throughout a turn.

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REVERSE
Reverse-camber, aka rocker or early rise, is the opposite of traditional camber. A reverse camber build makes less edge contact with the snow and promotes pivoting, smearing, scrubbing speed and surfing, which also translates to easier turn entry and exit, and planing in deeper snow.

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HYBRID Hybrid builds utilizing a combination of rockered tips and tails with traditional camber underfoot are common these days. This shaping makes the ski playful, maneuverable and able to float in the extremities, with power and edge contact underfoot.

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SEER SAYS:

Starting from a real traditional on-slope ski where there is just camber, the contact point length is as long as you can get while still having a traditional tail of a ski. The camber gives rebound to a ski. In the end, with the camber, if you push the ski you get something back and the more camber you have in the ski, the more you get back. The rocker or reverse-camber is doing the opposite, so it’s making the ski more playful, easier to turn, but if you were to have a complete reverse-camber ski, you don’t get the rebound when it comes to the sidecut on the snow.

CORE CONSTRUCTION

THE MATERIALS IN YOUR SKI’S CORE DIRECTLY INFLUENCE ITS BEHAVIOR.

Wood should be the foundation of your ski, period. Wood types vary in their characteristics, of course, and each one dictates different performance when skiing. Paulownia, for example, is utilized for its light weight, but can’t absorb vibrations well. In the middle of the spectrum lie woods like bamboo, aspen and poplar, which balance weight savings with dampness and response. The most powerful, stiff skis on the market will likely lean on woods like fir, ash, maple or beech for their strong properties.
Manufacturers are constantly tinkering with various composites to complement a ski’s wood core. Titanal, an aluminum alloy, and fiberglass are both commonly used to dampen vibrations and stiffen up the ski, although Titanal, generally, yields a more affordable final product. Carbon fiber is leaned on heavily for its high strength-to-weight ratio, but comes with a steeper price tag.

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LAMINATE SIDEWALL CONSTRUCTION

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FIG. A | HALFCAP

The core materials are protected by a topsheet (or cap) that folds down over the edge of the ski. Cap is an economical build that promotes turn initiatio

FIG. B | CAP

A combination of an upper cap and lower sandwich construction. The result is a combination of weight savings with power.

FIG. C | HYBRID

To provide the best ratio of swing weight savings and power underfoot, generally, ABS plastic sidewalls are built underfoot with cap in the tip and tail.

FIG. D | SANDWICH

All layers of the ski are placed down flat and sandwiched between vertical ABS or P-Tex sidewalls for protection, yielding the best power transmission.

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SEER SAYS:

First of all, a full-length sidewall is definitely giving the most stability to a ski. For us, every ski where we want to have true performance, we are using full sidewalls, especially in the areas where there will be contact with the snow. The sidewall is supporting all of this. For us, it’s clear there is only one material to use when regulating that ski, which is an ABS sidewall.

SKI CONSTRUCTION

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A NORDICA SKI BUILDER REACHES FOR THE CORRECT BLENDED WOOD FOR THE CORE OF THE ENFORCER.
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SIDECUT, TAPER AND TURN RADIUS

The curvature of a ski’s edge from tip to tail affects the way in which it will turn. A deeper curve is ideal for quick turning, while shallower sidecuts promote bigger, lengthier turns.
Taper is the thinning of width in a ski’s tip and/or tail. Often used in rockered skis due to their shorter effective edge, taper helps avoid the tip catching in deeper snow.
The distance from the center of a circle to its perimeter is its radius.
Hypothetically, if you skied a perfect circle around a center point with skis each boasting a different sidecut, your tracks would form circles of varying sizes. A ski with stiffer materials and less sidecut yield a larger turn radius, while softer materials and a deeper sidecut produce the opposite. Ski radii below 16 meters allow for snappy turns, 17-to 22-meter radii promote versatile turn techniques invaried terrain and radii above 22 meters are geared towardlonger turns in more open terrain.

SEER SAYS:

Tapered tips and tails would, in theory, make skis more playful in powder conditions. As everywhere in life, you need to find the right balance. As a rule for us, the sidecut should pass the contact point to really get the full support of the sidecut through the whole turn. That is key both on- and off-piste—being able to control the turn in every single moment.The sidecut is more than just the radius of a ski. The contact length is very important, and the sidecut is really the proportion of contact point in the tip and tail to the widest point, which changes the turn initiation of the ski. Like always, if there is a written radius of 20 meters on a 190-centimeter ski, that means there is a range of radii, depending on how much pressure you give to the tip through the whole turn. In general, the sidecut alone is not describing the whole shape concept of a ski. The turn radius is the difference between a calculated radius of, say, 20 meters, and what the skier can accomplish out of that, whether it’s following the given sidecut or forcing the ski to its maximum bending and shortening the radius significantly.

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fig. 1 | A deeper sidecut allows for quicker turns

fig. 2 | A shallower side cut promotes long, arcing turns

fig. 3 | A sidecut that’s not too shallow and not too deep allows easier engagement of turns of all shapes and sizes

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Wrapping your head around how all of these materials come together to make a ski can be confusing. A ski press, pictured here, uniformly distributes super high pressure that compresses the materials, which are bonded with the use of epoxy. Special molds are used to create the wanted shape and sidecut profiles that will marry all of these ingredients.
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