Ski: 2021-2022 Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free, 172 cm
Test Locations: Mt. Crested Butte, Monarch Mountain, & Aspen Highlands, Colorado
Days Skied: 15
Available Lengths: 158, 165, 172, 179 cm
Blister’s Measured Tip-to-Tail Length (straight-tape pull): 170.2 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1792 & 1792 grams
Stated Dimensions: 134-104-123 mm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions: 134.8-103.4-125.2 mm
Stated Sidecut Radius (171 cm): 16.5 meters
Measured Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 73 / 50 mm
Measured Traditional Camber Underfoot: 4.5 mm
Core: balsa/poplar/beech + titanal layer + carbon & fiberglass laminate
Factory Recommended Mount Point: -8.5 cm from center / 76.6 cm from tail
Boots / Bindings: Atomic Hawx Ultra 110 W / Marker Griffon
Reviewer: 5’1”, 100 lbs
[Note: Our review was conducted on the 20/21 Santa Ana 104 Free, which returns unchanged for 21/22, apart from graphics.]
It’s no secret here that many of us at Blister are big fans of Nordica’s Santa Ana line. Both Kristin Sinnott and Kara Williard raved about the previous iterations of the Santa Ana 100 and Santa Ana 110, and they’re both pretty psyched on the recently revised versions of the Santa Ana 93 and 98.
While I had enjoyed some of the older Santa Ana skis, I ultimately found them to be a bit on the heavy / sluggish side, particularly for someone of my size. So I was pretty excited to hear that the 20/21 Santa Ana line was getting a bit lighter and reportedly being designed to be more accessible to a broader range of skiers. Even better news was that Nordica was adding a 104mm-width ski, which I would say is my sweet spot for an all-mountain, everyday resort ski.
I was able to spend around 15 days on the new Santa Ana 104 Free (which returns unchanged for 21/22) in lots of different terrain and a variety of snow conditions, so it’s now time to discuss this new ski from Nordica.
What Nordica says about the Santa Ana 104 Free
“When the snow falls, amplify your day with the Santa Ana 104 Free. Slightly narrower than the Santa Ana 110 Free, it’s the perfect daily driver for those who love to freeski off-piste and play on the trail. This new addition to the legendary Santa Ana collection is already renowned for providing a smooth and playful attitude in a design that’s accessible and easy to ski. And while the Santa Ana 104 Free craves softer snow, it offers exceptional performance—and plenty of fun—no matter the terrain or conditions. To minimize weight and boost stability and response, it pairs a wood core with carbon and a sheet of terrain-specific metal. This also dampens vibrations for an especially smooth ride. Stable and playful, the Santa Ana 104 Free helps you discover your potential—and everything the mountain has to offer.”
Shape & Rocker Profile
The Santa Ana 104 Free looks pretty similar overall to the other skis in the Santa Ana lineup. Its shape is fairly typical for a 104mm-wide ski, with slightly less tapered tips and tails than something like the DPS Zelda A106, Prior Flute, and K2 Mindbender 106C.
One of the big areas where the Santa Ana 104 Free differs from the narrower, non-Free Santa Ana skis is its rocker profile. Compared to the Santa Ana 88, 93, and 98, the Santa Ana 104 Free has significantly more tail rocker and a more twinned tail. The idea is that the wider 104 Free and 110 Free are meant to be a bit more playful than their narrower counterparts.
Here’s how we’d describe the flex pattern of the Santa Ana 104 Free:
In Front of Toe Piece: 8-9
Behind the Heel Piece: 9.5-8.5
The Santa Ana 104 Free’s flex pattern feels very similar to the other Santa Ana skis, with moderately soft tips, a strong flex through the middle of the ski, and a tail that’s a bit stiffer than the tips.
While the older Santa Ana skis were fairly heavy, the Santa Ana 104 is nothing particularly out of the ordinary when it comes to weight. Our pair of the 172 cm length came in at 1792 grams per ski, which is in line with several other skis in its class. It’s also worth noting that the Santa Ana 104 Free is notably lighter than the Santa Ana 93 and 98.
For reference, here are a number of our measured weights (per ski in grams) for some notable skis. Keep in mind the length differences to try to keep things apples-to-apples.
1626 & 1645 Line Pandora 104, 165 cm (18/19–21/22)
1651 & 1669 Moment Sierra, 172 cm (17/18–20/21)
1687 & 1695 Elan Ripstick 102 W, 170 cm (20/21–21/22)
1699 & 1753 Head Kore 99 W, 171 cm (20/21)
1706 & 1784 Liberty Genesis 106, 171 cm (19/20–20/21)
1709 & 1710 Blizzard Sheeva 10, 172 cm (17/18–21/22)
1711 & 1772 DPS Alchemist Zelda 106 C2, 171 cm (19/20–20/21)
1735 & 1740 K2 Mindbender 106C, 175 cm (19/20–21/22)
1762 & 1801 K2 Mindbender 98Ti Alliance, 168 cm (19/20–21/22)
1792 & 1792 Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free, 172 cm (20/21–21/22)
1797 & 1839 Rossignol BLACKOPS Rallybird, 170 cm (20/21–21/22)
1831 & 1852 Rossignol BLACKOPS Rallybird Ti, 171 cm (20/21–21/22)
1881 & 1895 Salomon QST Lumen 99, 174 cm (19/20–21/22)
1903 & 1917 Nordica Santa Ana 93, 172 cm (20/21–21/22)
1917 & 1935 Nordica Santa Ana 98, 172 cm (20/21–21/22)
1941 & 1948 Salomon QST Stella 106, 174 cm (19/20–21/22)
1955 & 1990 Coalition Snow SOS, 173 cm (19/20–20/21)
1969 & 1988 4FRNT MSP CC, 171 cm (20/21–21/22)
2015 & 2024 Blizzard Black Pearl 97, 171 cm (20/21–21/22)
2104 & 2115 Volkl Secret 102, 170 cm (19/20–21/22)
Alright, now onto how the ski actually performs on snow:
At 104 mm underfoot — not particularly wide for a pure pow ski — the Santa Ana 104 performs fairly well in fresh snow. I did not get to log a lot of powder days on this ski, but I was fortunate to catch the tail end of a storm at Monarch Mountain and found pockets of heavy / wet powder at least 15 in / 38 cm deep.
Surprisingly, the Santa Ana 104 was not as surfy / loose as I thought it would be, given its rockered tips and tails. To get it to slash sideways, I had to keep my weight more forward and put more pressure on the front of my boot, especially in the middle of my turns. When transitioning to my next turn, I had to quickly transition my weight back to unload the shovels to avoid burrowing the tips (though, again, this was pretty deep, heavy snow).
The result was that I found myself skiing faster on the Santa Ana 104 Free than I would on something a bit softer and lighter, like the Line Pandora 104, which feels more inclined to slash and surf through pow with more turns. I would be curious to see how the new Santa Ana 110 Free compares in terms of flotation and maneuverability in deep snow, but for the Santa Ana 104, I think it best suits those who like to ski fast in pow, rather than make lots of short, slashed turns.
Soft chop is where this ski is most at home. The Santa Ana 104 can charge through this snow unlike most other skis I have reviewed. While skis in this same width category, like the Line Pandora 104 and the Rossignol Soul 7 HD W (104 mm underfoot), tend to float on the top of the soft chop, the Santa Ana Free 104 charged powerfully through the softer patches of pushed-around snow. I definitely found myself being able to ski much faster in soft chop on the Santa Ana 104 Free than I could on something lighter like the Pandora 104.
When I encountered patches of thicker, untouched, heavy powder between the more skied-off patches, the Santa Ana 104 did not get bogged down and made it easy to maintain speed (and at times, almost too easy). While I do prefer a ski that’s stable in soft chop, it did take some getting used to skiing chop at the higher speeds the Santa Ana 104 Free encouraged. While it’s quite stable at higher speeds compared to other women’s skis, the Santa Ana 104 is not the most forgiving — to stay in control, I had to aggressively stay forward in my boots and balanced on the ski.
So those with good technique will likely enjoy how hard they can ski the Santa Ana 104 Free in soft, choppy conditions, but those looking to take it easy have better options.
Firm Chop / Crud
Firm and set-up crud was not a big problem for the Santa Ana 104, especially compared to the numerous lighter skis in this class.
In bulletproof, refrozen snow, it didn’t get thrown around much so long as I had enough power and speed to stay balanced on top of the ski. As in other conditions, the Santa Ana 104 wanted to go fast in crud and I often found myself either slashing it sideways to shed speed, or get as forward as I could and enjoy the ride, while the ski blasted over the crud. I think those who like to make lots of smaller turns in challenging, cruddy conditions would prefer a less demanding ski, such as the Blizzard Sheeva 10. Personally, for really firm chop, I tend to prefer a narrower ski that easier when it comes to making jump turns around the set-up, hard snow, like the Liberty Genesis 96. But provided that you stay on top of it, the Santa Ana 104 offers impressive stability in non-ideal conditions.
For its width, the Santa Ana 104 is pretty easy to get on edge and, to me, feels happiest at higher speeds. It seemed to prefer larger and faster turns down the fall line, rather than shorter, quicker, snappier ones.
Loading the 172 cm Santa Ana 104 mid-turn to make dynamic and energetic transitions required a lot of power for me — sometimes more power than I had to offer. While I used to ski race, I’m only 5’1” / 155 cm, so larger skiers might find the 172 cm Santa Ana 104 easier to bend on piste.
Nonetheless, it was easy to maintain the ski on edge throughout the turn. On occasion, when I was a bit off-balance or had too much weight on my uphill ski, the tips of the Santa Ana 104 felt a little catchy (one instance resulted in a pretty spectacular groomer crash). But for a 104mm-wide ski with a notable amount of tip and tail rocker, the Santa Ana 104 performs pretty well on piste. Ultimately, I found that the shorter, lighter, and softer 165 cm Line Pandora 104 was more intuitive on groomers and easier for me to load — but certainly was not as stable as this Santa Ana 104.
On the 172 cm Santa Ana 104, it took a little getting used to when navigating a tight line in the troughs of medium to large moguls. The ski was not particularly intuitive to me, especially at first. I had to focus on driving its stiff-feeling tips when maneuvering through bumps, whereas the lighter, shorter 165 cm Pandora 104 made it easier to execute precise and quick turns without requiring me to transition my weight as far forward.
Again, the 172 cm length might have been a bit on the long side for me, but once I established a rhythm, the Santa Ana 104 became fairly playful and very enjoyable. And in smaller, more spaced-out moguls and on less steep terrain, the ski encouraged higher speeds and aggressive skiing. I’ll be curious to see what Kristin and Kara think, given that they typically ski longer skis than I do. (Though it’s worth noting that I really like the 172 cm Rossignol Soul 7 HD W and find it notably easier in tight terrain; that ski is very similar to the Santa Ana 104 in terms of weight, though it has a more forgiving flex pattern and more tapered tips and tails.) Anyway, for me, the Santa Ana 104 seems best suited to skiers who ski bumps with good technique and a pretty forward, aggressive stance.
Trees/ Tight Terrain
I was initially intimidated to take the Santa Ana 104 in tighter trees because of their hankering for high velocities and because the ski felt a little on the long side to me. But after a few runs, I found that I was able to keep fairly good control of my speed and ski through tight trees similarly to how I skied between moguls by shifting my weight to the rockered tips and then dynamically transitioning to the next turn. When all was said and done, I decided I would have preferred the shorter 165 cm length when skiing such tight terrain. But especially in trees that aren’t moguled-up (i.e., with fairly smooth snow), I think the Santa Ana 104 makes for a fairly maneuverable, stable ski.
Despite how demanding it could be in tight, moguled terrain, I was totally impressed by how well the Santa Ana 104 handled more open, steep terrain.
My first run on this ski, at the advice of other reviewers, I went right to Headwall at Mt. Crested Butte. Over the past few years and certainly during the Blister Summit, that’s become our main testing ground for relatively open, steep, sustained terrain. I immediately noticed that the Santa Ana 104 was very stable when making precarious turns across the fall line and I did not experience any tip chatter.
I found the Santa Ana 104 to be fairly easy to whip around, even though it’s not the lightest. In chalky steeps where there weren’t huge moguls and deep troughs, I found that I didn’t need to be as dynamic or aggressive to pivot the ski and get the tails to release, but it still held an edge when I needed it to.
I would not consider the 172 cm Santa Ana 104 to be particularly playful, given its propensity for speed and its power requirement. Once I got used to the ski, I did find that it made skiing moderately tight trees and more open bumps feel somewhat playful in terms of the dynamic skiing style it encouraged. But for the most part, this ski certainly felt directional and oriented toward aggressive skiing. For those looking for a more playful ski that’s still pretty capable at high speeds, I would recommend checking out the Line Pandora 104, Blizzard Sheeva 10, or the Icelantic Nia that I was able to take some laps on at the Blister Summit. With that said, the Santa Ana 104 is definitely more playful and forgiving than something even heavier, stiffer, and with less rocker, such as the Volkl Secret 102. I’d also be curious to A/B test the 172 cm Santa Ana 104 against the 172 cm Santa Ana 98 to see how playful the 104 feels in that case, given that the 98 has less tail rocker and is heavier.
Who’s It For?
The 172 cm Santa Ana 104 strikes me as a powerful all-mountain ski that requires quite a bit of input to maximize its potential. Early in the season when my legs were not in top ski shape (due to laziness or less than average turn executions), the ski could be punishing. While I’m guessing that the 165 cm length would be more accessible for someone my size, I still think this ski is best suited for a strong, advanced to expert skier who’s not afraid of speed and who wants to ski hard in a variety of terrain. It requires a good bit of skier input, but this ski is quite versatile across most conditions you’d typically encounter at the resort.
The Santa Ana 104 is more manageable at moderate speeds than the Volkl Secret 102, so it could be a good choice for those who found skis like that to feel too demanding and one-dimensional, but I think those looking for a very playful, easy ski have better options.
The 172 cm Nordica Santa Ana 104 Free had me skiing faster and harder than most skis I have tested in some time. It required a lot of power and liked to go fast no matter the terrain, which was nice when I was on my A-game but less ideal when I wasn’t staying on top of the ski and focusing on my technique.
The caveat here is that I think the 165 cm length would have been a better choice in the case of this ski, and I’m very curious to see how it would compare to the 172 cm length in terms of playfulness, maneuverability, and stability at speed. We’re hoping to have some other, taller reviewers try the 172 cm Santa Ana 104 Free and see what they think, and we’ll report back if / when we have any updates to add.