Skis have arguably seen more innovation in the past 15 years than at any other period in the history of the sport. Boots? Not so much. Nordica is setting out to change that in one fell swoop.
The tradition-rich brand unveiled its new 2011-12 boot technology--conceived to catch up with and complement new ski technology--at Beaver Creek Jan. 4-7, 2011 to strong reviews from 50 top retailers from across the country. The three-buckle, 100mm-last boot ushers in a host of significant features: carbon-fiber EDT technology, borrowed from the World Cup, in the boot board; a new three-piece shell design aimed at increasing lateral power and precision; a 45-degree instep retention buckle for maximum heel hold plus forefoot comfort in a roomier toe box; adjustable progressive flex that stiffens as it moves forward; and high-traction soles.
Branded as the Firearrow and the Hell&Back (aka Sidecountry) to couple with Nordica’s respective ski collections, the boots represent a significant investment and commitment from the company. “These are the first boots we've designed specifically to go with the new skis: shaped skis, fatter skis, even rockered skis,” explains General Manager Willy Booker (pictured right). “We built a boot that specifically addresses the new modern style of skiing. Skiing is much more lateral; it used to be up and down. It took a lot of thought and a lot of engineering. The end result, we think, is fantastic.
“It is very expensive to build new boots. And it’s risky. That’s why you see much less innovation in boots than in skis,” Booker adds.
Nordica even developed a new way to rate boot performance that goes beyond the flex index, which the company believes is little more than a price point separator and is largely limited to addressing fore-aft stiffness. Its Dynamic Performance Code, developed in conjunction with an Italian university, measures three performance parameters tied to new ski technology: traditional stiffness plus progression of forward flex and rebound. The DPC covers the elements Nordica believes critical for a boot to get the most out of new ski technology.
“We felt the need for a lot more ankle flexation,” says Andy Hare, Nordica’s director of product. “You need to be able to get your body in a dynamic position, to bend the hips, knees and ankles. And at the top of the turn you need flex, but the boot gets stiffer and stiffer by the time you hit the end of the turn. We also have a rebound effect that gets you back so you are ready to link up to the next turn.”
The Firearrow Series includes six models, the F1, F2, F3 (all with dual-density soles) and F4, plus women?s versions of the F3 and F4. The Hell&Back/Sidecountry series, with a Hike/Ski quick release cuff and rubber insole, is comprised of the Hike Pro, Hike EXP, Hike and two women’s models, the Hike EXP W and Hike W.
On snow at Beaver Creek, the flagship Firearrow F1, which seemed to be a 130 or 135 on the traditional flex index, delivered on its promise. Traditionalists may scoff at its three buckles, but they’ll get over it. The 45-degree instep buckle offered excellent heel hold, and the three-piece shell delivered a seamless, powerful and precise connection through the entire turn, with great rebound. EDT is a wonderful thing, and the high-traction soles make walking around fun. This tester did not want to return his pair.
Boots are the big story at Nordica, but the company is certainly not skimping in the ski department. The all-new Hell&Back/Sidecountry four-model collection features CamRock, the merger of camber and rocker, plus the lighter I-Core for easier hiking but high performance on groomers. Nordica goes the extra mile by also offering pre-cut skins. The Steadfast, at 90mm, promises to make a strong impression as an ultimate one-ski quiver model, while the fattest ski, the Unleash Hell, measures 113mm at the waist.
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