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Nordica Santa Ana 98 Review

A great all-rounder ski that we think is the most versatile option for a one-ski quiver
Nordica Santa Ana 98
Photo: Nordica
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $700 List | Check Price at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Crud blaster, dependable, great one-ski quiver option, good for every ability level
Cons:  No wow-factor, not a lot of rebound
Manufacturer:   Nordica
By Renee McCormack ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 21, 2021
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 13
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 8
  • Carving Ability - 20% 8
  • Powder Performance - 20% 7
  • Crud Performance - 20% 9
  • Terrain Playfulness - 15% 6
  • Bumps - 5% 7

Our Verdict

Because it performed so highly in nearly all our metrics, the Nordica Santa Ana 98 takes home our most prestigious award, the Editor’s Choice. This ski is remarkably versatile, shifting skill sets between powder and hard snow with grace, and alternating between hard fast charging and precise bump skiing without batting an eye. We didn’t find it particularly jovial, lacking pronounced spring to its step, but the confidence it gave us to test our limits outweighed these missing components. If rebound and excitement are what you’re after, this ski might not be the perfect choice. This is a fantastic ski for anyone on the hunt for a “one-ski quiver” which will easily take you anywhere you want to go on the mountain.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Nordica Santa Ana 98
Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price Check Price at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$679 ListCheck Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$649.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros Crud blaster, dependable, great one-ski quiver option, good for every ability levelAwesome powder tool, fabulous fun factor even for light skiers, affordable priceGreat stability at high speeds, good on hard snow and crud, more affordable than othersSuperbly stable at high speeds, great edge holdQuick edge to edge, strong carving ski
Cons No wow-factor, not a lot of reboundGets bouncy in crud, slight tip flap, doesn’t carve perfectlyOnly for shallower pow days, needs strong skier to guide themToo burly for lighter gals, not nimbleNeed to be engaged to ski it well, not much excitement, sinks in deeper snow
Bottom Line A great all-rounder ski that we think is the most versatile option for a one-ski quiverA fun and responsive toy for powder days, groomer antics, and bumps, with a value-oriented price tagThis model will do great in everything but the deepest powder and is ideal for an aggressive skierA good choice for hard-charging speed demons that still performs decently off-pisteThough not especially playful in deep powder, this ski is our top choice for carving with its skinny waist and quickness edge to edge
Rating Categories Nordica Santa Ana 98 Elan Ripstick 94 W Faction Dictator 2.0X Volkl Secret 96 Blizzard Black Pear...
Stability At Speed (20%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Carving Ability (20%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Powder Performance (20%)
7.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
4.0
Crud Performance (20%)
9.0
5.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Terrain Playfulness (15%)
6.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
3.0
Bumps (5%)
7.0
8.0
5.0
3.0
6.0
Specs Nordica Santa Ana 98 Elan Ripstick 94 W Faction Dictator 2.0X Volkl Secret 96 Blizzard Black Pear...
Waist Width (mm) 98 96 96 96 88
Shape (Tip-Waist-Tail) (mm) 132-98-120 136-96-111 127-96-117 135-96-119 128-88-110
Available Lengths (cm) 151, 158, 165, 172, 179 154, 162, 170, 178 155, 163, 171, 175, 179, 183, 187 149, 156, 163, 170 147, 153, 159, 165, 171, 177
Length Tested (cm) 172 178 171 170 171
Radius (m) 16.3 16.2 18 27-16-22 15
Rocker Style Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail, cambered inside edge Amphibio tech Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail, camber underfoot Tip and tail rocker, camber underfoot
Weight Per Pair (lbs) 8.1 7.4 7.9 8.5 8.0
Construction Type Energy Ti W SST sidewall Sandwich Full sidewall Sandwich compound sidewall
Core Material Performance Wood & Metal Tubelite wood Paulownia & Poplar Beech and poplar True Blend Woodcore
Intended Purpose All-Mountain All-Mountain All-Mountain, Big Mountain All-Mountain All-Mountain
Ability Level Expert Intermediate-Advanced Advanced-Expert Advanced-Expert Intermediate-Advanced

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Nordica Santa Ana 98 performs well in all terrain and snow conditions. The only downside we found was its slight lack of playfulness and rebound. It provides a confidence-inducing ride for skiers of all ability levels — a quality difficult to find in women's all-mountain skis. Most skis are either too stiff for smaller or lower-level skiers to bend, or they are too soft for experts or larger women to feel secure on. The Santa Ana is a goldilocks ski in this regard. Somehow Nordica managed to make it just right for most people.

Performance Comparison


Reliable at high speed in any terrain, you can take the Santa Ana...
Reliable at high speed in any terrain, you can take the Santa Ana anywhere.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Stability at Speed


A quality companion for those who like to ski fast, the Nordica Santa Ana 98 feels far more stable than one might expect for having such a wide waist and rockered tip and tail. Nordica has taken some heavy plastic out from the tip of the ski and replaced it with an extension of the lightweight wood core. It seems their goal here has been achieved: the tip does not flop around at higher speeds, but the ski remains agile.


We noticed that the ski felt slightly less stable in a shorter turn, which was surprising given its 16.3-meter radius. Once we opened up the speed as well as the turn size, the ski came into its own, feeling steadier in a larger high-speed turn.

We felt confident dropping into steep terrain on this ski.
We felt confident dropping into steep terrain on this ski.
Photo: Scott Rokis

On very firm, spring morning snow, we felt some chatter in the steeps, but it would have been difficult to find an all-mountain ski that would not have in that setting. Overall, the Santa Ana feels like a strong, stiff ski underfoot that will easily charge at speed over most snow conditions.

The Nordica feels like there is solid construction underfoot and all...
The Nordica feels like there is solid construction underfoot and all along the length of the ski.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Carving Ability


The Santa Ana 98 is a wide ski for this task, yet it performs it with relative ease. It moves quickly from one edge to the other, much smoother than might be guessed given its width. We did not feel like it turned true to its 16.3-meter radius, however; it wanted to make a slightly larger turn, perhaps closer to 17.5 meters. When we aimed for this larger turn, both skis tracked effortlessly. If we tried to arc a shorter turn, occasionally we weren’t leaving perfectly clean tracks.


There is not much rebound to speak of, though the ski is not too difficult to bend. We just didn’t feel it propel us back in the other direction when we finished our turn. For making a medium radius, cleanly cut carved turn, the Santa Ana is more than capable.

The Nordica slices meticulously clean lines through the snow...
The Nordica slices meticulously clean lines through the snow, especially for such a wide ski.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Powder Performance


Once again, the Santa Ana 98 made us feel confident and secure. It stays mostly afloat in deeper snow, and when it isn’t quite on the surface, it still manages to feel maneuverable from just beneath the surface. The Santa Ana is fairly fat, at 98 millimeters underfoot, but it isn’t a life raft. The 30% tip rocker allows the front of the ski to maintain a close connection to the surface, bringing us back up to breathe between turns. In both heavier and lighter fresh snow, the Nordica felt reliable and kept us moving.


The manufacturer discusses using “terrain specific metal” in their line of skis, putting more metal in their narrower skis for greater stability on groomed terrain (for which those skis are intended), while putting less metal in the wider skis to allow for more levity in softer snow. We felt the combination they blended into the 98-millimeter width was about perfect; it had enough strength to handle well on-piste while having enough lightness to feel fun off-piste.

The 98-millimeter waist is sufficient for all but the deepest powder...
The 98-millimeter waist is sufficient for all but the deepest powder days.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Crud Performance


Chopped-up, day-old powder is where the Nordica is boss. This ski can handle crud in any manner you prefer to ski it; it can blast through with determined force as easily as it can pop airborne and avoid the worst of the chunks. We loved the feeling of setting this ski on a course through a minefield, and not feeling a single bounce as we cruised.


The carbon chassis Nordica uses in this ski seems to find the perfect balance in choppy snow; it is stiff enough to simply plow through it, while also being flexible enough to bend into it when you need, or spring up if you want.

This ski doesn't care what the conditions are like, it's going to...
This ski doesn't care what the conditions are like, it's going to crush anything in its path.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Terrain Playfulness


There is not a very pronounced or consistent rebound on this ski. However, it is such a dependable tool all over the mountain, the confidence it inspired in us made us feel playful ourselves on it, even if the ski didn’t exude this characteristic.


The Santa Ana is easy to turn and to carve, as well as being stable at high speeds and a crud-crusher. The knowledge that we could take this ski anywhere and feel surefooted gave us a certain joy. It is light enough to get airborne easily and is reassuring to land on afterward.

We could go sky-high on the Santa Ana and know we could rely on it...
We could go sky-high on the Santa Ana and know we could rely on it when we came back down to earth.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Bumps


For such a wide ski, we were impressed by the Nordica’s agility in a mogul field. Despite it feeling like it preferred making a longer turn, it seemed to be perfectly happy making quick and agile turns when bumps were involved.


Even some of our smallest testers enjoyed the Santa Ana in this terrain, commenting that it felt easy to bend, initiate a turn, and maneuver through the bumps.

Despite being a small creature in a big bump field, Hilary kept the...
Despite being a small creature in a big bump field, Hilary kept the Nordicas cruising along.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Value


A ski that does everything as well as this one does could probably sell for much more, but fortunately, it isn't outlandishly expensive. If you’re in the market for a single ski that can take you in all types of terrain and at all speeds, this ski provides great value and versatility.

Pretty top sheets are icing on the mountain for this...
Pretty top sheets are icing on the mountain for this Jill-of-all-trades ski.
Photo: OutdoorGearLab Review Team

Conclusion


Despite not having one particular “wow-factor”, the versatility of the Santa Ana 98 still wowed us. We were also impressed that this ski seems to strike an almost incredible balance in terms of its intended audience - both our expert level and less experienced testers loved the confidence this ski inspired. It somehow manages to be stiff and strong enough for hard-charging women, while also being accessible and easy to manage for intermediates.

Our testers cruised happily on any terrain on the Santa Ana.
Our testers cruised happily on any terrain on the Santa Ana.
Photo: Scott Rokis

Renee McCormack

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