Ski: 2015-2016 Nordica Patron, 177cm
Dimensions (mm): 143-113-132
Turn Radius: 16m at 177cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail length (Straight Tape Pull): 177cm
Weight Per Ski: 2,450 grams / 5.40 lbs.
Boots / Bindings: Dalbello Krypton Kryzma I.D. / Salomon STH 12 / (DIN at 10)
Mount Location: Factory recommended
Test Location: Alta Ski Area; Snowbird; Kirkwood, California; Antillanca, Chile
Days Skied: 80+
[Editor’s Note: BLISTER reader Hannah Follender started skiing when she was 2 years old, is a former D-1 ski racer and park rat, and is now a big-mountain comp skier who has logged a lot of days on the Patron. Hannah skied the 11/12 Patron (which was not changed for 12/13, 13/14, 14/15, or the 15/16 season) and this is her take. (For more information about our Reader Reviews, click here.)]
Like any good East Coast transplant, I spent the bulk of last season on the hunt for a fat ski to add to my quiver. In true Coastie form, my search was never dampened by the lack of snow—after all, I’m a seasoned veteran when it comes to one-inch powder “toe-shots” on wind-blown crust. So as a ski shop employee at Alta with demo fleet access, I set out to find The One.
My testing ground for the bulk of last season included Alta’s Collins Face, Ballroom, various shots in Wildcat, and a bit of West Baldy. By the time I finished demoing and had decided on my ski, it was nearing the end of March, finally snowing, and I was putting in more time at Snowbird.
Just to give you an idea of the terrain I was working with early season: by Collins Face I mean a selection of moderate groomed runs where I could get my racer turns on with an 80% less chance of running into a rock; Ballroom is a bowl area that consisted of gritty bumps for the bulk of last season; Wildcat was always somehow its own wonderland with top-to-bottom vertical, trees, and soft snow.
The first few pairs of skis I demoed included the 2011-2012 Atomic Bentchetlers in a 183cm, 2011-2012 Atomic Blogs, 2011-2012 4FRNT Turbos, 2011-2012 Line Influence 105 in 179cm, and the 2011-2012 K2 MissDirected in a 179cm. (To be fair to all of those skis, I only had the opportunity to demo the MissDirecteds and the Influences in their ideal conditions, thanks to a much needed January storm.)
Call it coincidence or kismet that by the time I demoed the Nordica Patrons, conditions had begun to improve, yet slick and choppy faces still abounded. As a former East Coast Racer turned park rat turned big-mountain skier, I was in the market for an all-mountain ski with a twin-tip profile, ideally with rocker for all the powder floating I assumed I would be doing.
The Patron features what Nordica calls a “Cam-rock” profile. This is Nordica’s take on a ski that features camber underfoot and rocker in the tip and tail. The shovel and tail don’t look like your average turned-up twin. The rocker is much less apparent—in fact, the shovel and tail are reminiscent of a flat spatula shape and are surprisingly soft.
Jonathan Ellsworth noted in his review and comparison of the Nordica Patron & Helldorado that the tips of the Patrons could be pushed all the way to the ground with just the press of a ski pole when you’re clicked in. That’s entirely true, and it’s also what initially surprised me and later frustrated me with the ski’s performance. More on that in a bit.
This ski is meant to be an all-mountain freeride ski. The tips and tails are softer to allow you to ollie, butter, and pop off features. The jibby-nature of these skis is what drew me to them. The Patron has a full-wood core without any metal reinforcement, which makes for a light and stable ski. For 2012-2013, Nordica developed a women’s version of the Patron called the La Niña (Julia Van Raalte was impressed with this ski and wrote a review of the Nordica La Niña). The La Niña profile is the same as the Patron and the Helldorado, only with a lighter core to reduce the swing weight and make it more “lady-friendly.” I have yet to ski the La Niña, but I’m also a bit skeptical because I personally find the Patrons to be a very light ski for my aggressive style of skiing; I think an even lighter ski might have a hard time holding up.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I give the Patron a 10 for maneuverability. This is my favorite feature about them. Their moderate weight and rockered tip and tail make it incredibly easy to ski trees and pick through less-than-ideal terrain. Many times last season I found myself surprised by a subtle patch of ice, rock, or shrubs and was able to move around and through them like a champ. They are also very easy to hop around on in tight spaces like in Little Chute at Alta, which opened later in the spring.
From March through the late spring, I spent the bulk of the season skiing in sub-par conditions. At the end of March, the sky opened up and dumped 30+ inches of snow in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and I finally got to test out the powder capabilities of these skis.
First of all, it’s very difficult to have a bad day when you have powder in your face every turn. From first tracks on Tower 3 at Snowbird to an incredible afternoon on Supreme at Alta, the Patrons did not want to sink, albeit the snow was light and easy to move through. The 143mm shovel did a great job keeping me afloat, though there were a few times when I would’ve preferred to have an even wider ski.
Once the snow from that storm packed down and more terrain opened up, I had a chance to test these skis in a myriad of conditions. I’ve never been a super turny skier, and I prefer to let my skis run if I don’t have to navigate tight trees or rocks. At Snowbird, I spend a lot of time skiing the upper Cirque, and Great Scott and Jaws are two of my favorite shots. Great Scott takes a few tight turns to get in to, and then it’s a completely open shot. Jaws, on the other hand, requires a short straight-line or mandatory air before you hit the apron. Both of these lines can send you flying down the hill, and it helps to have a stable ski underfoot.
As I mentioned before, the Patrons get an A+ for maneuverability, so those few tight turns at the top are cake. However, once you pick up speed, the soft shovel and tails don’t absorb any chatter and the ski becomes sort of jumping-bean like. It takes a turn or two to knock back the speed and have the skis perform the way they ought to.