2014-2015 Nordica El Capo

Review of the Nordica El Capo, Blister Gear Review
14/15 Nordica El Capo

Ski: 2014-2015 Nordica El Capo, 185cm

Dimensions (mm): 137-107-125

Sidecut Radius: 25 meters

Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 186.0 cm

BLISTER’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2,421 & 2,420 grams

Mount Location: factory recommended line

Boots / Bindings: Nordica Patron Pro / Marker Jester (DIN at 10)

Test Locations: Alta Ski Area, Snowbird

Days Skied: 7

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 El Capo, which is unchanged for 14/15, except for the graphics.]

When we first saw the El Capo at SIA, it was lust at first sight: great graphics, solid construction, smart-looking rocker lines, equally smart-looking amounts of tip and tail splay, nice camber underfoot, great tip and tail profiles. In short, we seemed to be looking at the perfect charger.

But I will wager that this is going to be the most mischaracterized ski of the upcoming season, and I guarantee that most of the Buyer’s Guides are going to get the story wrong. They’re going to say that it destroys the whole mountain, crushes crud, has no speed limit—the usual.

The El Capo isn’t that straightforward. It’s a good ski, but despite appearances, it is not simply (or merely) a classic charger like the Moment Belafonte or the Blizzard Cochise.

My first few days on these skis were confusing, so bear with me as I describe my learning curve with them, because I think it’ll be the best way for you to figure out whether the El Capo sounds like the right ski for you.


Alta had picked up about 12-16″ of fresh, and I was hoping that I wouldn’t regret taking a metal charger to the mountain. But I was quite surprised by the El Capo’s performance in pow, and how easy it was to navigate through steep tree sections of Eagle’s Nest, even at slow and moderate speeds. I didn’t have to be flying to get these things to turn, and a ski like the 187cm Belafonte wouldn’t have been as docile in the same conditions and terrain, at the same slower speeds.

In another surprise, I was having difficulty really driving the shovels in pow. The shovels felt soft enough that they would fold a bit when driven, and it left me feeling like I wanted to get more forward on the ski to control the shovels. (Again, I was still operating on the assumption that I’d need to drive these like a Belafonte.)

By the end of the day, I finally had backed off a bit and was maintaining a more neutral stance, and the skis responded better. That was pretty key for me.

Soft Chop / Crud

I fully expected these skis to be at home most in chop and crud, and couldn’t wait to find some.

But surprisingly, I felt better on the El Capo in a foot of pow than I did in deep, soft chop and baked chop.

Two days after that 12-16″ spring storm at Alta, I spent a good chunk of the day around Ballroom and Baldy Shoulder. But I found it difficult to open up these skis and just let them blow through chop. I wasn’t comfortable making big, fast GS turns, and the more speed I picked up in bumped-up chop, the more I would default to running bases flat, hanging on for the ride.

I still didn’t feel like I could get over the shovels and drive them as much as I wished, so I tried moving to +1 of the factory line. But that didn’t really change my experience, and I can’t say that I preferred +1, so I ended up moving back and settling on the factory line.

I also found that if I got on the tails of the El Capo, I was in trouble. In short, these didn’t feel at all like three of our favorite chop / crud skis: the Belafonte, Blizzard Cochise, or Volkl Katana. For as stiff underfoot and heavy as the El Capo is (and those aren’t pejorative terms in my books), I expected them to smooth out the terrain more, and feel far more damp and stable at speed.

Nordica El Capo, Blister Gear Review
Jonathan on the Nordica El Capo, Wildcat Bowl, Alta Ski Area.

9 comments on “2014-2015 Nordica El Capo”

  1. Pretty disappointed to read this review – I was really liking the look of the El Capo if it had been pretty much a Cochise with camber. Any opinion on the Vagabond (same as the El Capo but no metal and lighter core)? Could make a good soft snow touring option.

    • I hear you, Lorne, and I’m with you. Change the flex pattern, and I could see this becoming one of my favorite skis. Having said that, there are lots of people who like the flex pattern of the Patron / Helldorado, and I bet those folks like this ski.

      As for the Vagabond, I haven’t skied it yet, but would like to. I do know a couple of other people who have, and who have said it skis well. My 100% pure speculation: if the Vagabond is roughly the same (softer) flex pattern in the tips and tails as the El Capo, but a bit less stiff underfoot as the El Capo (given the lack of metal), seems like the Vagabond might feel like it has a less abrupt flex pattern, and in turn, a larger sweet spot. I.e., it might have a more uniform flex pattern than the El Capo? I don’t know, but I’d really like to find out.

  2. It seems like it just needs a stiffer tail. would going up to the 193 help some of the speed and crud issues? I know sometimes companies up the stiffness as the size goes up, and the extra ski couldn’t hurt in busting through the chop.

    • Hey, Ryan – personally, I’d prefer to see the El Capo’s stiffness underfoot go less soft, less abruptly, through the tail and tips. But again, Nordica created a pretty similar flex pattern with the Helldorado, so they are clearly going for a particular feel here (read: not pure charger). If you read my Helldorado review, in that instance, I note that I’d personally stick with the 185 over the 193, because I didn’t feel like the extra length of that ski accomplished what you’re proposing with the El Capo. (I.e., the flex patterns of the 185 and 193 felt very similar.) So I think you’re right to some degree, but if the 193 keeps the same flex pattern / the same transitions, the longer El Capo won’t be a traditional charger, either.

  3. After demoing the ski (193, I’m 6’0 160lbs) I would agree with the review totally, really stiff underfoot and weird everywhere else. I usually like twin-shaped chargy skis, but not this one. I love to ski moguls but I am the back-seat-funk type and I just never felt supported enough on this ski, and not enough stability to freeski as I like. I could bump bump’s faster on my Blizzard zeus 185 (severely underrated ski). It carves pretty good though, switch as well. The base also seems really soft to me,I scored a rock coming down and it ripped to the core about a foot long, but that is a demo ski that has been ground down.

  4. Really disappointed to hear that the Enforcer replacement has a soft tail. One of the things that made it such a great ski was it’s big stiff tail. I don’t understand the direction Nordica is going with skis that can’t help you out if you get knocked into the back seat.

  5. I did a full day demo on the 185 cm El Capo’s today at Whitefish MTN resort, I think your review was right on. I enjoyed them on the groomers, they lay down nice predictable turns-frankly felt like a nice intermediate level groomer ski. I had a lot of trouble getting them through soft chop and slightly skied out pow runs… I just kept thinking I needed more ski-stiffer tips and tails. It felt like the ski didn’t want to finish the turn. I’m used to flexing (driving) my skis at the bottom of the turn and using that flex to pop me into the next turn and I really couldn’t do that very well or predictably on these skis. I went back to my 2011/2012 Nordica Hot Rod’s and was back in my happy place.

  6. I was under the impression that the 2014-15 El Capo had changed significantly from 2013-14. The new model has a full length titanium layer and a second one that just goes under the camber. The old one only had titanium under the camber. This is from talking to the Nordica Europe reps at the end of last winter having just demoed the 14-15 prototype and liking it lots for skiing hard in a variety of snow types. I have never ridden the 13-14 model.

    Would someone be able to confirm whether I’m mistaken here? I am probably going to buy the El Capo based on what I found when I tested the prototype last winter, but I’d reconsider this if they had changed it to a ski that is only titanium underfoot. Has anyone handled this year’s production models? Thanks.

  7. Interestingly, if you want to make a ski more docile, and you have too much tail, it works better, at least for me, to move the bindings BACK. This way the ski’s center is farther ahead of you, and you can ski it more forward, on the ball of your foot, also allowing some ankle action to take up some of the shock.

    The farther forward on the ski, the more you have to sit back to ski on the center, which puts you on your heels and beats up your knees. I firmly believe that the popularity of back seat skiing is the best thing that ever happened for knee replacement surgeons. It started with ski racing, where some jetting off the tails helps increase speed through the gates.

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