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Stiff, Smooth, and Seriously Fun: Nordica Santa Ana 98 Ski Review

Female tester on Nordica Santa Ana skis
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When a brand completely redesigns its offerings for female skiers, you know there are some worthy updates on the horizon. We tested the Nordica Santa Ana 98. Teaser? They’re a blast.

Two GearJunkie editors loaded up the car and headed out to Aspen Mountain for some gear testing at the end of the 2020 winter ski season. Among the gear we tested was a new pair of women’s skis from the European brand Nordica. The Santa Ana collection, the brand’s only intended collection for freeskiing, got a huge revamp for the 2021 season.

We took our time testing these in a variety of conditions at several different mountains across western Colorado. Our editors tested these last season, pre-pandemic, before the skis hit the market.

In short: These skis have a slightly wider waist (and slightly wider than what I usually ski on), so they perform well in powder. Despite that, they aren’t too hard to turn or edge. They are a great do-anything ski, handle well on crud, packed, and powder, and best of all, offer a very smooth ride. They are available now.

First Look

For two different overnight ski trips, the Nordica Santa Anas were the only skis I needed in my quiver (leaving plenty of room in our Nissan Pathfinder for other winter gear). Why? The new construction makes these skis more adaptable for all-mountain skiing.

Previously, the Santa Ana ski had two layers of metal in its core. The new update to this ski’s construction is just one sheet of metal, tuned for specific, different terrains in each model in the collection. (The brand calls it Terrain Specific Metal, or TSM.) Because of the lighter construction, the Santa Ana 98 that I tested definitely felt a bit more playful than other skis I’ve tried.

Nordica Santa Ana women's skis
Left: Brand rep skiing on the Nordica Santa Ana 98. Right: author skiing on the Nordica Santa Ana 98.

Underneath the terrain-specific metal layer is a carbon-reinforced beech and poplar wood core (one of the more popular woods in ski manufacturing). Compared to other all-mountain skis, this construction means the ski falls on the stiffer (but thankfully not heavier) side.

The wood core provides flex and maneuverability while the metal layer provides stiffness and grip. This is a great quality for faster and more advanced skiers. That being said, the ski is 98 underfoot. It gave me enough room and power to hold my edge on firmer snow and enough float for powder.

The Santa Ana 98 replaces the 100 size model for 2021. And based on the popularity of the men’s Enforcer 104 Free, Nordica decided to add a 104 Free Ski to this women’s collection. Both models are currently available online and in stores (check with your local retailer).

Nordica Santa Ana 98 Women’s Ski

The Santa Ana collection also made design updates to the rocker profiles on several of its skis — like the narrower Santa Ana 93 and the 98 that we tested. We found that it rides really smoothly both in packed and light powder conditions; it isn’t chattery, and it makes good turns edge to edge. (The 98’s turning radius is shorter at 15.6m.)

nordica santa ana skis profile

When I choose skis, I tend to lean toward an all-mountain ski that is less playful and more stable at speed. The new Santa Ana 98 falls in the middle of the pack for this collection in terms of stability and rocker profile, making it a great all-mountain choice. The other reason I loved the Santa Ana 98s was the fit — they felt like a good match for my intermediate skiing ability.

All the new updates aside, Nordica’s changes to the model sizing is an awesome upgrade, in my mind. If you ever felt like you were falling between sizes or the skis weren’t just right, the new 98 might be for you. On the other hand, if you like a ski that can handle a wider variety of conditions, then the new 104 Free might be a better choice. (Our staff has yet to test the women’s model but loved the men’s.)

A note on women’s-specific skis: Skis are one of those tricky gear items that don’t really need to be gendered. That being said, finding a great pair of skis requires taking into consideration your height, weight, ability, and approach. (Are you a laidback or aggressive skier? Are you 5’1″ or 5’9″?)

So, when a ski manufacturer takes a specific interest in catering to women — a wide range of women’s heights, but specifically women’s body proportions and stances) — we take notice. Especially women in search of an all-mountain, do-anything ski that they can charge hard as well.

nordica santa ana 98

Santa Ana 98 Skis

  • Sizes: 158 cm, 165 cm, and 172 cm
  • Sidecut: 131-98-118 mm at 165cm length
  • Turn radius: 15.6 m at 165 cm
  • Weight: 3,680 g per pair
  • Ability level: Expert and advanced
  • Price: $700

The Santa Ana 98 Skis retail for $600-700; the 2021 Santa Ana Free retails for $750.

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