2013-2014 Nordica Hell & Back

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Nordica Hell & Back, Blister Gear Review
Nordica Hell & Back, 185cm



Nordica Hell & Back, Blister Gear Review
Nordica Hell & Back



Nordica Hell & Back Tip Profile, Blister Gear Review
Nordica Hell & Back – Tip Profile



Nordica Hell & Back Tip Profile Decambered, Blister Gear Review
Nordica Hell & Back – Tip Profile, Decambered



Nordica Hell & Back Tail Profile, Blister Gear Review
Nordica Hell & Back – Tail Profile



Nordica Hell & Back Topsheets, Blister Gear Review
Nordica Hell & Back – Topsheets



Nordica Hell & Back Bases, Blister Gear Review
Nordica Hell & Back – Bases


50 comments on “2013-2014 Nordica Hell & Back”

    • I haven’t been on a Bonafide in a while (and the pair I skied may have had a flex pattern that was off, so I’m still hoping to get on a real Bonafide…), though I did recently get some time on the Kabookie – basically, a Bonafide without the metal.

      Biggest differences are that the Kabookie / Bonafide are more pivoty than the Hell & Back, which some will like (perhaps especially in really tight trees). I also found the Hell & Back to be more fun on groomers. I like the Kabookie / Bonafide, but I really liked the energy provided by the Hell & Back’s traditional camber and lack of tail rocker.

  1. When reading your comments on how you like the shape, the rocker profile (length or rocker and amount of splay) and the flex I start to think more and more you should give the 188 Lib-Tech Freeride NAS a try (despite the magnetraction)

  2. Spot on review! I skied the Hell and Back as my primary ski this season -as I really did not have a chance to use the bigger skis in Tahoe this year- and loved them! They ski exactly as stated in this review and found them to be a ton of fun on anything except for bulletproof and icy bumps, but really that is more user error than anything having to do with the ski. Perfect travel ski as it’ll ski anything relatively well.

    I did have a chance to compare against the Bonafide and the Bonafide is definitely more damp and easier to pivot and slarve but the Hell and Back was “floatier” (for a 98mm ski) in deeper snow, probably due to the bigger, wider tip. Bonafide was better in hard conditions due to it’s metal construction and dampness, making it a blast to ski when it hasn’t snowed in a long while, but it was only slightly better. In my opinion, the Hell and Back is an awesome ski and doesn’t lose too much to the Bonafide. It’s mostly a matter of ski taste and skiing style.

  3. As usual, Jonathan, a nicely thought out review. Here is my story:

    Arrived at my late March purchase of the Hell & Backs from a different approach than you guys usually take. Get new skis once every 2 or 3 years and loved the Rosi 88s on a demo 2 seasons back. This season liked the Volkl RTM 84s at bit better but was lucky enough to get out on some other demos in an attempt to dethrone those for my daily non-powder-day ski purposes (5-9, 200lbs, 45yo, able to ski all Taos terrain pretty well, 45 days per year). My test course & TSV was the groomed blue top of Porcupine into the un-groomed sides into blue bumps into the double black Jean’s Glade and return trail to the lift. Went nuts and tried a bunch of skis, quickly- K2 Rictors, Volkl Kinks and Mantras and some stainless steel covered “engineer’s” proto, Dyna’s version of the 88s and Rossi’s S7s. Took the S7s and the Mantras to Reforma for a further demo. Was done for the day- the RTMs had not been supplanted for my need- but would have been very happy with any of them- what a difference 2 years make in ski advancement! On the way in a pal asked me what I tried and suggested one more run on some Nordica Hell & Backs…

    Went back to my course and felt “it” for the H&Bs- carving as well as the RTMs (that couldn’t be, I thought, was it just the tune or maybe conditions? as far as I can tell, no). Felt like I was on rails (maybe the most imp. factor for me in my testing- that feeling of total control), so perfect upper Porc; great in the blue bumps with lots of spring- super fun. Total control in Jean’s and below. Back up top and they passed the Reforma test, well. Up chair 2 again and found great responsiveness with them down blue Bambi and had to laugh carving so well down the wind sheered black Zagava pitch. Surprised to learn, afterwards, they were 98 underfoot! Unfortunately no powder days on them yet but they were solid in late spring chutes and I can’t wait to hike with them more next year (bonus- they are very light)- especially after what you had to say about them. cheers, d

  4. Jonathan,

    Perhaps with more time I could have adjusted a bit and gotten more out of the Mantra- of course I liked them and would be pleased to own them. They were solid but I didn’t feel as connected during gs turns and they were not as lively as the H&Bs in the bumps, especially on Jean’s- they required a little more work. Had heard so much about the Mantras- I thought it was my fault for not loving them enough, so I took them on an extra run (Reforma to Tell Glade) and still didn’t totally click with them. Maybe I approach bumps a bit more technically (OK, more slowly) than your aggressive Blister crew (e.g., Will Brown) but I ski all the runs I mentioned in one top to bottom trip and the H&Bs were more fun, more playful, on that terrain for me. Very possible I’d feel differently on the way down from Kachina Peak or on Jackson’s Hobacks.

    Again, I was looking for an every day ski and was completely surprised to find the one I liked best was 98 underfoot- so much potential for next season…

    cheers, d

  5. I was wondering how you would compare the hell and backs to the rossi 98’s? I want something a little wider than my rossi 88’s and am debating between the rossi 98 and the hell and backs. I’ve been told the rossi 98’s have a sheet of metal in them which scares me a little bit. I tried the volkl mantra’s and found them to be a little too stiff and too much work for me so after reading your review I’m thinking the H&B might be the call.


    • I haven’t skied the E98’s in a while, Dave, and the biggest qualification might be that I skied it in the 188cm length, and it felt like a lot of ski, definitely more ski than the 185 Hell & Back. And basically, if you found the Mantra to be too stiff and too much work, I’m very much inclined to think you’ll feel similarly about the E98, so the Hell & Back may be perfect. Plus, you can still push them pretty hard when you want to. Let me know how it works out!

    • The Hell and Back would be more of a playful ski. The E98’s will be more demanding and they will want to carve all the time. The H&B’s will also be more snapier due to the lack of metal where as the E98’s will be more stable at top speeds. You’ll have more fun on the H&B’s in soft snow/pow/bumps.
      Both are awesome skis, but I think you would enjoy the H&B’s just a tad more.

  6. I am interested in possibly using the H&B as a back country ski. Given its lighter weight, how would you (or anyone else) rate it compared to the Dynafit Mustag Ata super light ?

    • Hi, Kane – I’m afraid I haven’t skied the Mustagh ATA Superlight. But given that the 187 Mustagh comes in at 1490 grams and is 88mm underfoot (compared to the H&B’s 98mm underfoot, I don’t think it’s a very apples-to-apples comparison. So the question is, what are you really looking for – a skinny, light ski to go uphill quickly? Mustagh. A ski that is quite capable at high speeds in crud & variable, and that will float better in pow? Hell & Back. For how I ski and where I ski, and given that I personally care a whole lot more about how a ski goes down the hill than up the hill, the Hell & Back would be the easy choice. But your priorities may differ.

  7. HI
    i just bought a new pair of 185 cm Hell and back 2012 skis. I had an old pair of salomon 187 cm xcreams that i have skiied for years. I thought about it a few days and i kind of thought maybe 177 cm might be better for me because of my height ,but one person i talked to who is my height (5′ 8″, about 160 lbs) swears by the 185 length. I’m kind of torn between 185 and 177 and i am looking for some advice on which length might be best since i havent been on the ski itself. I loved my 187 salomons so i dont know if that helps or not. I ski back bowls like vail with them alot but also am on groomed a bit too. From reading your review, i’m convinced its a great ski for the one ski quiver variety. I was looking at the bonafide too but got the HnB instead. My salomons are a kind of damp ski so that was what drew me to the bonafide but the lightness of the noridica convinced me otherwise. Thoughts?

  8. Hi Jonathan,
    Love your reviews, how would you compare this Hell and Back to the Moment PB&J’s. I am 6’1″ 230. intermediate/advanced and ski groomed, trees and some off piste.


    • Thanks, Luis. The PB&J and Hell & Back are quite different skis, with the single greatest difference being the tail: the Hell & Back is a beautiful carver. The PB&J can’t finish a turn like the Hell & Back, but the Hell & Back doesn’t have that loose, pivot-y feel of the PB&J. The PB&J is a pretty loose ski with a lot of tail rocker that is designed to handle a little park or hit jumps. Having said that, It’s still very capable around the mountain.

      Nobody has ever taken the Hell & Back into a park. Beyond that, I hope the 2 reviews themselves give a good sense of the 2 skis.

      • Jonathan

        I’ve tried and loved the H&B’s as a demo several times. I’m 5’6″ and 170lbs in very good shape. I was wondering when mounting the bindings is there a benefit to not mount them standard and to go .5 or 1 cm forward?


        • Hi, Don – as I mention in the review, mounting a little forward is going to make the ski feel a bit quicker. These are not ‘super quick’ skis with more heavily tapered tips. But such skis are often less good in variable snow. In any event, I would be happy skiing the Hell & Backs anywhere from 0 to +1cm of the line. I would have no interest in mounting behind the line.

  9. Great review and couldn’t agree with you more about the hell and back’s skiing characteristics. I used it as my one ski quiver(185cm) this year which was my first season in Aspen and loved the way it skied the whole mountain. It did everything I needed except deep powder. It worked, but a fatter ski is definitely appreciated. Adding the 2012-13 Line Influence 115 to the quiver, which should make it complete. My only problem with the hell and back is its light construction seems to have compromised its toughness and durability. Near the end of the season, I hit a bump relatively hot and the binding ripped out. 3 screws completely out, binding dangling from 1 screw. The rep gave me next years pair and I was very excited as the graphics are so much improved. The last week of the year we got dumped on, so I took out the new skis. I noticed at the end of the week, the edges were compressed in multiple spots. I ski somewhat aggressively but spend very little to no time in the air and the snow was good. I’ve never had such problems with past skis. Its disheartening because I love the feel of the skis so much, but they seem a bit weak in surviving off-piste situations. I wish they made a tougher version-maybe get my hands on the Nordica enforcer? So, I agree its a great skiing ski, but very concerned that my first pair lasted almost a season, and my second pair 1 week.

  10. Hi, what an excellent review, as always!! Thank you. Tossing up between these and Praxis 9D8. Can not find any review on the 9D8 though so might go for these. Anybody been on the 9D8 yet? I am 166cm and 71kg so maybe 177cm? Thank you again

    • Hi, Brendan – we’re actually getting time on the 9D8s now. The biggest differences right now is that our 185cm 9D8s come in 1906 and 1920 grams, so ~100 grams per ski less than the Hell & Back. And that is noticeable. I’m also still playing with the mount on the 9D8s – they feel too far forward on the line, and I’m still tinkering with mount point – and tune. Anyway, hope to have more info on the 9D8s up in the next week or two.

  11. I have the Enforcers and love them. They are definately more damp than the Hell and Backs, and are snappier than the Mantras. Awesome crud ski for midsize GS turns and railing on hardpack. I am 190lbs and ski it in the 186. They are findable online for cheap and worth it. The rocker in mine look a little less than the Hell and Backs. I think the Enforcers were only rockered the last two years of production.

    I trade back and forth with a buddy the has the Hell and Backs. The crapper the snow gets the more he likes the Enforcers.

  12. Just curious about the weight of theses skis. I have them and love them but with all the talk about them being light for touring or side country, they are the same weight as the mantra with 2 layers of titanal. I’ve been looking at your measured weights if skis and these seem average. Can you comment. Ps. I have and love these skis, just curious if weight has much to do with it.

    • Hi, Andrew – I guarantee that weight has a lot to do with why you and I like these skis. And I feel extremely confident that I would be less happy with their overall performance if you started to cut 100 grams, 200 grams, etc. I seem to be turning more and more to the “weight” discussion – see my DPS Wailer 112RPC review & my LINE Supernatural 108 review. But this whole notion that we can make skis lighter and lighter without compromising their stability or lowering their speed limit in all but very smooth conditions… no. (But light skis are nice to go uphill on, and they tend to be manageable at slow speeds, if that’s what you’re looking for.)

  13. Just picked up a pair of these in 185. There were some close contenders, yet I felt for my style of skiing and the mix of conditions I ski in it will be a good choice. I’ve been skiing on 180ish X-Screams for over a decade. I’ve always liked them in bumps and for the old-school carving feel, but they have also felt too short and unstable at speed. In steep powder, they were okay, but a recent 30″ day on moderate terrain they were just work.

    My reality, despite living in Montana, is 2-3 powder days a year. The 2-hour drive to Bridger isn’t something easy to time with snowfall when you have family and work obligations. I like the Soul 7s but an 80% powder ski isn’t going to cut it. Some of the best fun I had this season was shredding GS gates left up by the local ski team. I’m thinking the H&Bs will provide plenty of good times for an aggressive, fit skier.

  14. Hey Jonathan, how much overlap do you see ibetween the hell&back and the cochise? I’ve spent the last two seasons on the Line Prophet 98 and I had myself more often than not wishing for a stiffer more capable ski! I got a Cochise and thinking to replace the P98 by hell&back, also considered the bonafide but I can see quite a bit of overlap on the cochise/bonafide!

    This would be used for deepish on piste days, groomers and not that deep offpiste! But looking for a more traditional ski to avoind too much overlap with the cochise!

    I’m 5’5 / 147 so thinking the 169cm should do for me, my Cochise is 177cm and I also have a 13/14 176 Billy Goat! My Prophet is 172 which is actually 170 tip to tail!

  15. Thanks for this review. I could pretty much tell by looking at these skis that I would probably love them. But I found your review in my iPhone and appreciated the detail and depth of analysis. I demo’d them yesterday and bought the last pair of 169s when I got back. My first experience with rocker skis was the Atomic Access (I am an 85% backcountry skier). I really hated them. They are fine in the deeps and okay enough in consistent conditions but not a lot of fun in anything but powder. Whereas I used to actively seek out crud on my K3 Axis Mods (and Schi Devils if telemarking) and I thought they were fine in powder, too (honestly, what ISN’T fine in hero snow?). I guess I am too much of a tip skier for the Accesses. I also really liked the sidecut on the Nordicas. They skied a lot like my Axis Mods did (I kept them for about 10 years, they were so fun–and I still see them at the area, even at Aspen). I didn’t have to change my skiing style at all. As you said, no balancing for the sweet spot. And when my friends were tired toward the end of the day, I didn’t feel any burn at all. I would get tired on the Atomics. I also found the Accesses to be very unpredictable–and one particularly disappointing area of (non) performance was in light-but-deep chop… IE cut-up powder, even FLUFFY cut up powder. They hit a line of spray and wanted to come right back in my face, or toss me back onto that stupid soft tail.

    HOWEVER, the Atomics were GREAT for the uphill and in the backcountry around Aspen you’re likely to find mostly powder (they also sailed over rocks and downed trees). I may keep them for longer outings.

    FYI yesterday was mostly corn, with some frozen-over spring conditions (where I thought they rocked, btw… No problem turning them at speed in rutted up junk). I’m 51 and weigh around 145 pounds. They were quick in the trees, even icy trees, rutted up trees. Great in the soft stuff, great in the bumps, and they LAUNCHED on the steeps. I love that feeling of turning in the air on a steep wall. I even had the confidence to take a cornice, which I would dare on the Atomics–wouldn’t trust the landing. As you said, great turn finish.

    No opportunity to try them in powder, but I’m sure they’ll be fine. My husband’s Bluehouse totally trad camber 102 (?) underfoot twin tips seem great in all conditions, including powder. So I’m not worried about the “narrow” waist on the H&Bs.

    Question–know anything about how the H&Bs ski with AT bindings? I see people skiing all kinds of big fat heavy things in the backcountry on the dynafits, but I will use these in the area too. (I used the dynafits fine the past 3 years, but I probably only ski 5-7 days at the resort.) Just wondering how much of my hate for the Atomics may have been the way the dynafits ski. Again, love them on the ups, but wondering about Marker Barons or whatever those Salomon/Atomic bindings are called. (At my age I don’t want the version that starts at 7 DIN).


  16. I have too many skis (both tele and alpine) but don’t have anything I love for firmer (for Colorado) conditions. My old model 184 bibbys are my go to ski if it’s even a little soft and I tele on 186 Soul 7s … both based on strong advice from these reviews. I also have a pair of 186 nordica steadfast mounted tele – these I like but don’t love, but I think the length and stiffness are a bit much for my tele skiing style.

    So here’s my conundrum. I can get a 2014 H&B for 50% off and call it good. They sound pretty much like what I’m looking for. However, some of this year’s new skis sound pretty intriguing. Your review of the 177 mantra in particular sounds great. So basically, I can spend this season trying out some of these new skis, or just jump on the 1/2 off H&B and go have fun.

    I’m 5’10”, 160#, aggressive expert. I like skiing fast and making big turns, but do spend a fair amount of time in tight terrain so need to have a ski with some degree of quickness. I’m also a bit torn between the 177 and 185 length.

    As an aside, I love the sound of the supernatural 108, but think I’ll probably go with something narrower for a bit firmer conditions. I love my bibbys and ski them most of the time so I think a 2 ski quiver might be the ticket without needing something in the 108mm range.

    • To put it more concisely … would you prefer the H&B or the ’15 177cm mantra for a firmish conditions all around ski. Or is there something else you would recommend to pair with the Bibbys

      • Hi, Jack – just a couple of notes & distinctions: Given the metal in the Mantra, it offers the slightly (but noticeably) damper ride in firm conditions. On soft groomers, I would happily ski either ski. And as those groomers get more bulletproof, I’d rather be carving on the traditional camber underfoot & tail shape of the Hell & Back. So take your pick for firm conditions: do you want the damper Mantra, or the traditional camber & bite of the Hell & Back?

        • Thanks for the quick reply. That sounds about right.

          Thoughts on size … would you go up or down on this one? I’m 5’10”, 160#, strong skier.

  17. Winter must be close, because all of a sudden my email lit up with notifications about this thread. :D My husky’s winter coat came in mid-August, way early….

    Meanwhile, I was told that Nordica is discontinuing this ski. So if you think you might want them and can find them they should be cheap. Better get em.

  18. Hi Jonathan,
    Fantastic review as always, really appreciate what you guys do to help the skiing public make more informed choices. The Hell and Back sounds like a great all mountain ski and I’d be interested to see how well they complement my 190 Bibby Pro’s in a 2 ski quiver. It has however been discontinued, and I presume replaced by the NRGY 100? Any plans to demo this ski early this season? Thanks again, you’re my go to place for ski equipment buys.

  19. Just chiming back in to say that I’ve had a few days on these skis now (apart from the demo day at the end of last year). I kept my old skis for early season backcountry, but have now switched my bindings over. WOW. They are fantastic skis and just tons of fun in everything including deep powder. Thanks again for a review that really helped me decide.

  20. I realize this is an old thread, but I picked up a pair of use H&B’s a couple years ago and totally love them. They are my hard snow ski in a two ski quiver for Colorado. They really hit the sweet spot for me as a light-weight expert skier. Unfortunately, they will be used up soon, I’m sad. Is there any ski that comes close to this? I’ve skied the Bonified and found it felt ‘clunky’, the PB&J washed out too easily, the old Mantra is gone and still a bit more ski than I need.

    Anyone have thoughts on what ski could replace the Hell and Back?


  21. I dread the day when mine die. I looked all over for a used pair for my husband… no luck. Maybe the Sick Day Line or their other one that’s close? My son demo’d the Line yesterday and loved them. We skied 6″ over frozen crud in the Hanging Wall gated areas at Snowmass, with frozen bumps stuff to get down below that, and he felt like they could handle anything, not to mention the frozen blue on the lower mountain end of day. He’s 5’11” and weighs about 135, expert skier.

    Last year when he was visiting he demo’d the Nordica that’s one down from the HellnBack, can’t think what they’re called, but really liked those too. Enforcer maybe? But maybe look into the NRGY too.

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