Ski: 2014-2015 Nordica Wildfire, 177cm
Dimensions (mm): 137-107-125
Sidecut Radius: 22.5 meters
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (Straight Tape Pull): 178.4cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1987 & 1948 grams
Boots / Bindings: Shiva MX / Marker Jester (DIN at 8)
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Days Skied: 7
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 13/14 Wildfire, which is unchanged for 14/15, except for the graphics.]
This season, Nordica is introducing the Wildfire, a light and versatile ski that they call an “all-mountain ski dominator.” The Wildfire has a tapered, flat tail with a short, subtle rocker line and the rockered tips have wide, rounded shovels with minimal splay (see the rocker profile pictures on page 3).
I have ridden a lot of skis in the all-mountain, 100-110mm underfoot range, and I was interested to see how the Wildfire would compare. Upon my initial inspection, I predicted that the Wildfire’s tapered, flat tail with short, subtle rocker might ski similarly to the directional Salomon Stella or Blizzard Dakota. But the Wildfire is lighter than the Stella or Dakota, and in that regard, feels more like the Rossignol Savory 7 or the Moment Bella. And yet, unlike the Savory 7 or the Bella, the Wildfire has those wide, rounded shovels with minimal tip rocker and splay….
I was also interested to see how the 107mm-underfoot Wildfire compared to the Nordica La Niña, one of my favorite skis of all time. While the La Niña is marketed as powder-oriented, all-mountain ski, I’ve found it to be a great one-ski quiver option. Despite being 113mm underfoot and 185cm long (it also comes in lengths of 169cm, 177cm , and 193cm), the La Niña is much more accessible than I initially imagined, it is versatile in a wide range of conditions, and I found that I enjoyed skiing it every day.
One of my favorite things about the club fields of New Zealand is that pretty much all of their inbounds terrain can be considered off piste, since there is no grooming. My first day on the Wildfire was spent exploring the expansive, above-tree line terrain at Craigieburn Valley, which includes big, aesthetic bowls and steep, rocky chutes.
No crowds and warm temps made for some great spring skiing, with a wide variation in the snow’s consistency on each aspect. As I dropped into some of the east-facing bowls, the snow was a little more condensed and I had the sensation of skiing through softened cream cheese. It felt very natural to sweep big, clean turns on the Wildfire. The soft snow was tracked, but not too bumpy, and the ski was impressively stable at speed over the uneven surface.
The Wildfire was happy to make high-angle carves through the mild spring chop at medium-to-large turns. Smaller turns were not as intuitive, but definitely still possible without much additional effort.
While the Wildfire prefers to go fast, it still responded well to slower slides and smears when I was in the narrow chutes of Middle Basin. The tips, though softer than the tails, worked through the variable snow nicely whether I was smearing a turn or on edge, and were only slightly deflected by larger, firmer chunks I encountered later on.
And though the Wildfire doesn’t have the same dampening quality as the heavier Blizzard Dakota or the crud-busting Moment Bella, it could still hold its own at speed, and remained predictable through the completion of the turn.
A Note on Nordica’s Wi-CORE
Both the Wildfire and the La Niña are made with what Nordica calls “Women’s i-CORE”, or “Wi-CORE.” The ski has a middle layer of ultra light polyurethane and beech stringers sandwiched by two strips of poplar (the newer Wi-CORE has ash instead of beech). And I was happy to see that the Wildfire, like the La Niña, flexed smoothly and skied predictably in tracked-out snow.
Refrozen Crud / Chunder
When I first examined the Wildfire, the ski’s tip shape looked like one that could handle chop well, but I was concerned with the flatter tail’s ability to release quickly in grabby snow or during faster turns. New Zealand offered up a wide variety of crud-related conditions, and I’m happy to report that I was happy with how well the Wildfire handled them.
There were several mornings when the previous day’s slush had frozen overnight and didn’t thaw, which made for a pretty rough ride. In this sort of snow, I tend to slow things down a notch or two, but I still like to have the ability to drive the ski and not feel like I am going to lose it completely. I had been skiing the super light Rossignol Savory 7 for most of the day at Mt. Olympus, but was frustrated at how much I was getting tossed around. I decided to swap them out for the Wildfire, and was relieved to feel more in control on the frozen variable hardpack.
The Wildfire felt great at slow-to-medium speeds. When I skied fast, however, I did experience some tip chatter and deflection through the bumpier, firm sections of death cookies. Because of the Wildfire’s lighter weight, I wasn’t expecting to be able to rage full speed through chop like the heavier, damp Dakota or Stella are able to, but if I maintained a strong, athletic stance with good edge pressure, the Wildfire was solid, maybe just a little less powerful. In some instances that required a little more agility, I actually preferred the lighter Wildfire, which allowed me to be quick on my feet to avoid death by cookies. And in heavier snow that required sudden direction changes, I was pleased that the tails were never grabby.
We were able to find a few groomers at Treble Cone, but to my annoyance, I was having trouble getting the Wildfire up on edge. Any sort of slarve or slide was ok, but each time I tried to pressure the edges, the skis washed out. If I took a wider, almost unnatural stance, I could trust the skis a little more, but then I was totally off balance.
But I hope to update this section, because I think this actually had more to do with the snow than the ski; the snow was really slick and covered with tiny frozen balls (Jonathan Ellsworth named it “Slurpee Snow”). I believe that on more typical groomer conditions, the Wildfire will rip. With its long effective edge and flatter tail, I would be surprised if it wasn’t a good carver, especially since it had done so well on smoother, variable snow.
Big Mountain Performance
I was incredibly fortunate to get the opportunity to spend a day exploring Canterbury’s extensive backcountry with Mt. Hutt Helicopters. The previous day, high winds had scoured the 20cm of new snow from the ridgelines, depositing most of it down in the basins. The mountain hadn’t gotten too much sun before we dropped into our first run, so the buttery new snow was covering up a slick layer of ice.
On that first run, I didn’t open up the Wildfire completely just yet since my tails were a little squirrely when they cut through to the ice, but as I looked around at the big faces and quickly warming snow, I began to wonder what the Wildfire’s speed limit might be.
By the next run, the snow had started to soften into perfect corn. There was so much room to ski, and with the untracked hero snow, it was impossible not to lay the hammer down.
I looked back up at my tracks after my second run, and they were easily super-g-sized turns. Although I might have appreciated just a little more length, I felt pretty darn comfortable on the 177cm Wildfire at top speed. They weren’t the most stable ride I’ve been on, and a heavier ski may have eased my worry of hitting a snow chunk and being tossed, but I still was impressed and could not have had more fun.