Ski: 2020-2021 Nordica Soul Rider 97, 185cm
Available Lengths: 169, 177, 185 cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 182.25cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 134-97-124
Blister’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2,139 grams & 2,118 grams
Sidecut Radius: 18.5 meters
Core Construction: Ash/Poplar + Carbon Fiber (2-Layer) + Fiberglass Laminate
Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 72.6 / 64.7 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 2.6 mm
Boots/Bindings: Jason: Dalbello KRII Pro; Will: Nordica Firearrow F1 / Marker Jester Demo (DIN at 10)
Mount Location: +3cm from “classic” / -4cm from true center
Test Location: Las Leñas Ski Resort
Days Skied: 5 collectively
[Note: Our reviews were conducted on the 12/13 Soul Rider, which was not changed for 13/14, 14/15, 15/16, 16/17, 17/18, 18/19, 19/20, or 20/21, apart from graphics.]
Formulating a full review of any all-mountain “one-ski quiver” demands that we evaluate a ski’s performance in a particularly wide range of conditions (hardpack, groomed, bumps, soft chop, crud, fresh snow, etc.), the full breadth of which can be hard to come by in a matter of days. Jason Hutchins put some time on the Nordica Soul Rider in Las Leñas. Will Brown did too, along with a few more days on the ski during the North American season. While they have not been able to test the ski in all relevant conditions, they’ve tried to assess the skis’ performance as thoroughly as possible so far.
Per our usual MO, we’ll fill in the blanks with an Update on this ski as soon as possible. For now, here are Jason’s initial thoughts on the Soul Rider, followed by Will’s.]
As Jonathan mentioned in our preview of the Nordica Soul Rider, you can find skis targeted toward many different individuals in this ~100mm class. There are very traditional-feeling skis like the Blizzard Bonafide, as well as more modern 5-dimension skis like the Rossignol S3 and DPS Wailer 99. Then, of course, there is my favorite portion of the class, where the Soul Rider fits in perfectly: the do-it-all, freestyle-oriented play sticks like K2 Kung Fujas and Moment PB&J.
Having ridden the Soul Rider only a single day, I am obviously cautious of saying too much. Luckily, that day was a fantastic one in which I was able to expose the skis to quite a variety of terrain, so I can at least offer some insight concerning the skis’ feel.
As usual, I started things off by hitting up Vulcano for a couple of quick groomer laps down Vulcano 1. Because I had a fairly early start, the snow on the upper third of the mountain was a nice, shallow layer of corn atop of a frozen base layer. I immediately could tell the Soul Rider was razor sharp, so I let them run, carving aggressively with confidence.
Much like the other Nordica’s I have ridden so far this year, the Soul Rider does an exceptional job of holding an edge, feeling very torsionally stiff when railing down firm snow. The skis preferred carving turns rather than a long-radius skid at higher speeds. This wasn’t a problem because the 18.5m sidecut allowed me to control speed simply by arcing railroad tracks from one side of the trail to the other. The Soul Rider was easily the most fun ski to carve down these groomers, given its tight turning radius and energetic bound from turn to turn. When it came time to shed speed quickly by breaking the tails free, however, the Soul Rider became much more nervous and chattery feeling at the high speeds. I would also attribute those sensations to the skis’ aggressive sidecut and energetic feel. Sometimes you can’t have it all….
With the snow quickly warming, I made my way south to the Caris lift so I could spin a few off-piste laps while waiting for the upper mountain to thaw. I alternated laps on el Casaco, Cenidor, and el Gasex, where I found exceptional corn on top of a firm layer, on a moderately steep, lightly bumped aspect. The Soul Riders loved the tiny erratically formed bumps as long as I kept the speed under control. The skis were the most fun when setting a firm edge on one small pile and bounding over to the next. Just as on the groomers, the skis were very energetic. When I tried a more aggressive, high-speed style, laying out much longer-radius turns, and attempting to drive through the snow irregularities, the Soul Rider quickly let me know it was uncomfortable with that particular style.
When Marte opened, I immediately made my way to the top. When I reached the top, however, most of the upper mountain was closed, so I decided to take a run down Jupiter (another groomer) and try out different turn shapes at different speeds.
The Soul Rider proved to be very easy to skid through short-, medium-, and long-radius turns and slow and medium speeds. The tip and tail rocker made the ski feel much shorter and easy to pivot at soft edge angles, while a more aggressive move would quickly engage most of the ski’s edge, bend the ski deeply, and provide energy into the next turn. Again, when I let the skis run, they felt great as long as I kept carving. Breaking the tails loose at speed still didn’t offer the most comforting ride.
I contemplated for a moment whether it was going to be worth heading back up the Marte chair, then thankfully decided to head back up. Upon reaching the top, once again I was greeted by a friendly Las Leñas Ski Patroller who through a mixture of Spanish and hand gestures signaled they had just opened the upper front face of the mountain from Eduardo to Mercurio. I was stoked since this portion of the mountain had been closed for the past few days because of the “slide-for-life” snow conditions.
As I made my way over to Variante Eduardo, however, it started to sink in that I was on a 97mm underfoot, fairly short and playful ski. I started to question the skis’ ability to handle what I may be getting myself into. I proceeded slowly into the steep, narrow upper section of Eduardo and was greeted with perfect spring snow. I quickly gained confidence in the Soul Rider and starting ripping short and quick turns down this lightly moguled section.
Veering left into Variante Eduardo, the slope eased and opened up while the corn gradually became deeper. Still gaining confidence in the skis, I slowly opened up the turns until I was full-on flying down the mountain, leaving Super G tracks behind. Much like at slower speeds on the groomers, I could control the turn radius by softly feathering the edge angle and smearing the shape of turn I wished. In these conditions, the Soul Rider’s tip rocker and moderate flex gave me confidence I wouldn’t stuff a dip when encountering the random soft spot. When I reached the bottom, I realized I had just completed one of the best runs of the trip. I went top to bottom without stopping, had super fun tight turns on the upper steep section, and raced “mach loony” the remainder of the run over perfect corn. I was all smiles. (Thank you, Mr. Ski Patroller!)
I quickly started making my way back to Marte for another lap, running into Jonathan and Ryan along the way and making them tag along. Lap 2 was equally as fun, and the Soul Riders proved their prowess on run 1 wasn’t a fluke. With the sun getting low, we called it a day and made our way to the Innsbrook for a pre-dinner snack, which, as usual, involved Torta.
After this single day on the Soul Rider, I am most inclined to reference one of my favorite skis of the past, the 09/10 K2 Kung Fujas. I loved that ski because it was a blast everywhere on the hill, including groomers, trees, park, and steep technical lines. Of course with its size, length, and flex, it had limitations, but all skis do in one way or another; it’s about knowing them. The Soul Rider reminds me of that ski, only better. The skis share a very similar rocker profile, with the Soul Rider being a little bit wider, especially in the tip, and having a slightly firmer and more progressive flex. Overall, the Soul Rider offered a ride that instilled more confidence skiing all over the mountain.
One aspect I can’t comment on, or compare at this time, is the Soul Rider’s jumping abilities. As usual, I can’t wait to give them a twirl in the air to see how they feel. I did have trouble nose pressing the skis at the given mount location. With more time, I will play around with the mount (moving forward and back) to see how that affects various aspects of the skis’ performance.
Jason’s Bottom Line:
My time on the Soul Rider is obviously very limited, but they have made a very strong first impression. If you are looking for a ~100mm underfoot, poppy, twin-tipped, all-mountain ski that feels very comfortable on both very firm and soft snow, I already feel the Soul Rider should be near the top of your list.
See Jason Hutchins’ Update on the Nordica Soul Rider
NEXT: WILL BROWN’S IMPRESSIONS
I’ll start with a bit of a preface, which should serve to communicate some expectations I had before jumping on the Soul Rider. Bear with me….
As Jason mentioned, not all ~98mm underfoot all-mountain skis are created equal, made for the same level of skier, or suit the same riding style (though you might think that by reading a lot of manufacturers’ standard “powder-to-park” product descriptions).
The Soul Rider is a ski I’ve been looking forward to getting on for more than a season now. It’s obviously marketed toward the freestyle all-mountain crowd (like the Moment PB&J and Rossignol Scimitar), but I was still very excited to see where the Soul Rider stands in this “one-ski quiver” sub-genre. The last ski I reviewed in this all-mountain class was the Scimitar. It’s an awesome one-ski quiver that you’ll also want to consider if you’re in the market, and I was especially interested to see how the Soul Rider compared in two specific respects.
I was really impressed with the Scimitar’s versatility as an all-mountain tool. The full reverse camber profile makes for a ski that is incredibly intuitive and suits an impressive range of abilities and skiing styles. Yet there were two aspects of this design that I noticed (I don’t see these as faults at all, simply characteristics of the Scimitar): The ski wasn’t quite as energetic through carves as a ski with traditional camber might be, and its flat underfoot profile was not the most stable at high speed through tough, chopped conditions. The chop/crud performance was not horrible by any means, and really wasn’t much of a surprise considering the ski’s design—it just requires that an expert skier expect some of that “swimming” feeling when hauling through inconsistent or cut up conditions. (I don’t think an intermediate skier would even notice it.)
I thought those two slight tradeoffs with the Scimitar were relatively small prices to pay for the ski’s impressive versatility, and its still a great ski, well suited for a lot of people. Still, I was curious to see if the Soul Rider could offer some of the same nimble, and playful qualities of the Scimitar while maintaining more energy for carving and pop for jibbing around the mountain. So far, I’m inclined to think it does. (OK, extended preface over. On to the data.)
My time on the Soul Rider has been primarily on groomers. In Las Leñas, this meant very soft, spring slush conditions off the Vulcano lift. Jason and I had the the ski mounted at +3 from Nordica’s classic/traditional mount, which was -4cm from true center. There is no Nordica “factory” or “team” line (at least on the 11/12 Soul Rider we tested, which returns unchanged for 12/13). This is the mount point that I chose initially, and after experimenting with the -7 traditional mount I think this is where I would keep it (more on this in a bit).
While I haven’t been able to take the ski into any steeps like Jason did, I do feel I have a very good sense of how this ski does on groomers and in bumpy, wet slush, and can second much of what he has already said.
The first thing that struck me about the Soul Rider was just how quick it was edge to edge. Even in very soft, warm conditions where you might actually expect a lighter ski to get bogged down, tipping the skis over and getting them to bite into a carved turn was a breeze. As Jason mentioned, the Soul Rider sports a 18.5m sidecut radius, which seemed to work very well with a flex profile that struck me as even and moderate—certainly not soft, but not stiff or medium/stiff, either.
While making quick carves, nothing about the edge hold felt insufficient or worrisome on the soft groomed runs. I was able to really bend and work the ski through each carved turn even on fairly low-angle terrain. The snow in Las Leñas wasn’t the slightly firm, tacky corduroy ideal for really driving a ski through a carve, but I was still able to get a nice, fun snap from the Soul Rider. In this respect, the ski did seem a little more energetic than the Scimitar, which sacrifices some pop for ridiculously easy turn initiation, even at 5 mph.
Since Las Leñas I’ve had the chance to get the Soul Rider on some colder, faster groomers in Colorado. The ski does have some early rise in the tail, but I can’t say I’ve noticed any subsequent lack of stability while on edge as long as the snow is reasonably soft – with any amount of soft snow, the camber underfoot feels sufficient. In very icy, bulletproof conditions, the ski’s shorter effective edge becomes much more noticeable and carving confidently can be difficult, however controlled skidded turns are still impressively stable and predictable. (For these reasons I would not recommend the Soul Rider as an all-mountain carver to someone on the East Coast.)
The Soul Rider’s rocker profile in the tip and tail is relatively conservative, with a decently deep rocker line but only a small amount of splay. The skis remained nice and stable while making long, fast, but controlled smeary turns, and were able to plane nicely over small ridges and soft, consolidated piles of slush. I was a little surprised by how damp the Soul Rider was at higher speeds, especially given the conditions, its 97mm width, and a flex profile that seemed very forgiving initially.
The skis flex feels on the softer side, but it never felt flimsy, weak, or chattery to me (on edge, or in a skidded turn), as long as I maintained a light, more upright stance.
Like Jason, I also noticed that “breaking the tails loose at speed still didn’t offer the most comforting ride.” At -4 a light, more centered stance provides the best feel and feedback from the ski, but it is possible to overpower the shovels and wash the tails out after pitching the skis hard sideways to scrub speed. Also, the ski seems to lose some edge stability in long-radius carves, likely because of the more aggressive sidecut that makes it so fun at slower speeds. However, this isn’t quite the case with the ski mounted farther back at a traditional -6 or -7 cm. There the Soul Rider is more stable through faster turns in soft, consolidated snow, but the stability difference isn’t so dramatic that I would chose to mount the ski there. Personally I’d rather maintain a more balanced feel in the air and better switch carving performance (which, so far, I think Soul Rider can do well at -4).
At slower speeds, my stance/posture seemed less important, and the Soul Rider didn’t demand much in making slow, smeared turns in the soft slush. I wouldn’t say it felt quite as surfy as the Scimitar, but was still very intuitive and precise. Given how easy the ski is to maneuver and its forgiving but snappy flex, I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun in moguls (which either Jason or I will speak to in the Update)
For a do-it-all all-mountain ski that’s very easy to ski and work around at low speeds, the Soul Rider does just fine during slightly more aggressive, fast skiing, even at a progressive mount point. (Across the board, when not on edge the Soul Rider feels less “swimmy” than I found the Scimitar to be running bases flat or skidding through a turn in chop.) Advanced/expert skiers will just have to get used to feathering their speed and working with the skis’ softer flex and playful feel, rather than standing on them, expecting a stiffer flex that will bust through crud or firmer piles of snow at a high edge angle.
I haven’t gotten the Soul Rider in 3-4” of fresh chop yet—the kind of conditions you might expect at lunch on a light pow day in-resort or in the days following a storm—but I’m inclined to think it’s going to do well there too for its width.
As far as strict soft-snow performance goes, I noticed that the Soul Rider’s tips are very conventionally shaped. This might help the ski float quite a bit, but I have to think that the ski might benefit from a little taper in the tip shape in order to combat hookiness. Obviously, that’s only an inkling, and I may be proven wrong. We’ll see.
The Soul Rider is an all-mountain twin-tip after all, and the freestyle world has every reason to be interested in this ski. I haven’t had the chance to explore this too much, but with such a fun, snappy flex, I’m sure it will show some strong flippy-spinny capabilities in the park and on side-of-the-run jibs.
Personally, I’m just as excited to get on this ski as any other I reviewed so far this season, even the big-mountain/pow-day boards. Like Jason, I’ve also put a couple of seasons on the 09/10 K2 Kung Fujas. I loved that ski for ripping around the whole mountain, but found the flex to be too soft, making the ski outright scary and chattery at higher speeds (no matter what your stance looked like). The Soul Rider is every bit as fun as the old Fujas, but seems even more practical and willing to ski fast, thanks to a little more width and a bit firmer flex.
Will’s Bottom Line:
So far, I’m really happy with the Soul Rider. It seems to be a really forgiving everyday ski for the intermediate skiers out there, and a carve-capable, seriously fun one-ski-quiver for advanced/expert riders. I’ll always look forward to getting back on this ski, and won’t be surprised if we see it in this season’s one-ski quiver selections. Is it better than the Scimitar? No. The Soul Rider is comparable, but different all-mountain ski. It seems tweaked for a skier who prefers more traditionally edged turns by default, rather that smeared/surfy ones, and still wants a lot of pop through a carved turn.
NEXT PAGE: ROCKER PROFILE PICS
(Click on images to enlarge.)