Nordica Ski Boots
Nordica has been an important boot brand, if not outright market leader in unit sales, for most of the last fifty years. They lost their footing a couple of seasons ago by trying to be something they were not, forcing the brand to fall back on its time-tested strengths: no-nonsense race boots and their derivatives, alongside comfort cradles that coddle the entry-level and intermediate skier.
Last season Nordica shored up its medium- and wide-lasted core collections of men’s and women’s boots with the arrival of the NRGy and NXT lines. This year Nordica is refreshing their narrow-lasted offering, creating the GPX line for advanced skiers and introducing a kinder, gentler Dobermann that delivers race-room performance without the hassles of carving out foot space inside a 92mm plug boot.
If you’ve been skiing for 30 years or longer, you may think you “have a Nordica foot.” Or you may think the opposite. Either way, you’re wrong. There’s no such thing anymore as a “Nordica foot” or a “Tecnica foot,” or even a “Lange foot.” Every brand makes a multitude of last shapes, meaning they all make boots, as Nordica does, in narrow (GPX), medium (NRGy) and wide-body (NXT) iterations.
Anyone who races knows that Nordica doesn’t need to inflate its resume to establish street cred. Great racers of a bygone generation hoarded secret stashes of the venerable Grand Prix, and if Nordica ever stops making their Dobermann line of undiluted race boots, they’re also likely to become black market booty the instant they’re officially retired. The new GPX line fills an interesting market need: a really good boot for the thin-profile foot that, while imitating a classic race paradigm, subtly softens the vise-like grip of a true race boot.
Nordica is at its best when it doesn't stray from its roots in traditional, overlap shell design. Purists will applaud how the new Dobermann GP 130 delivers the support and power of a true race boot in a flex more suitable for freeskiing on today’s rockered skis. Any skier who likes sensation in all his toes will appreciate that the rounder radius of the new GP’s toe box has room enough for five digits.
We toss a bouquet Nordica’s way for a boot the 2016 line doesn’t have: Nordica again resisted the urge to slap a hike mode on any of its 4-buckle boots and declare it ready for the backcountry. It’s nice to see a brand that won’t throw together a shortcut solution just to plug a vacant slot in its line, which usually results in surplus SKU’s in an already an over-served market niche.
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Flexes: 130, 120, 110, 90
If you fit ski boots long enough, you discover that people have vastly different tolerance levels for what we’ll call “fit tension.” Some feet crave the confinement of a shell measuring 92mm – 95mm at its widest point; others may love the extraordinary support the narrow shell provides but can’t tolerate the compression and don’t need a flex over 130. The new (98mm) Dobermann GP was made for the feet in Group B, the slightly wider sort that still want to snake through gates.
The Dobermann GP 130 borrows its fundamental features from the new GPX 130 but for a few subtle differences that together elevate the Dobermann into the race realm, where it belongs. Its sole is a World Cup DIN sole, i.e., no tread and no replaceable pads. The zeppa (shell footbed) isn’t made of shock-sucking PU but rigid plastic that’s 2mm wider for more accurate energy transmission. And the Cork Fit liner in the Dobermann is of the minimalist/race sort, not the more padded, Primaloft® environment of the GPX’s.
The Dobermann GP 120 (note: the GPX family skips the incrementally softer 120 flex) shifts to dual-density PU, high-traction, replaceable toe and heel pads, but retains the race zeppa and cork inner boot. Whether you’re climbing the racing rungs or descending them (due to the annoying aging process), the Dobermann GP in its stiffer incarnations will provide the feel, fit and performance attributes you’re looking for.
Flexes: 130, 110, 100
The focus of Nordica’s efforts for 2016, the GPX line of men’s and women’s boots, marries the take-no-prisoners attitude of race boots with the slightly more relaxed fit and shock-absorbing properties of all-mountain shoes. The inner boot and its attendant fit sensations are the biggest differentiators between the men’s GPX line and their race-bred spin-offs, the Dobermann GP’s. The GPX liners are imbued with Primaloft® so they’re automatically guaranteed to be warmer than the denser, bare-bones affairs that inhabit the insides of the Dobermann models. They’re also injected with a larger dose of malleable cork in fit pockets around the ankle and heel, so the liners will auto-mold in these critical fit zones.
The best boots for technical experts who no longer have to wear a start number to demonstrate their prowess have always been derivatives of World Cup boots, what we in the boot industry analysis trade call race clones. Nordica’s new GPX models fit squarely in this tradition. They’re made on the bones of the original Grand Prix, one of the iconic archetypes of classic boot design, and the top model, the GPX 130, is all the footwear the all-mountain expert will ever need to strut his stuff.
If the GPX skier were an active racer, this marriage would never be consummated as the GPX, with its gummi-bear zeppa and replaceable toe and heel pads, intentionally muffles some of the communication between pilot and piste. The GPX models surrender a certain degree of precision in order to achieve a larger measure of adaptability and unapologetic comfort.
A couple of design details the GPX 130 shares with the Dobermann GP 130 deserve mention. The 60mm tall, pre-curved, plasticized power strap on these shoes functions more like a fifth buckle than a fabric closure, directly (and positively) affecting energy transmission. To reduce some of the struggle associated with getting in and out of a 98mm, mono-injected shell, both models meld a single, soft flap of bi-injected plastic to the lower shell that facilitates entry/exit without raising the roof over the instep.
♀ GPX W
Flexes: 105W, 95W, 85W
If you believe that classics never go out of style, the GPX W is your kind of footwear. The narrow, 98mm last was born in the race room, although the GPX 95W and 85W aren’t competition caliber. The flagship GPX 105 W is an all-business boot with a little more give over the instep, where women often have fit issues.
The competition in the women’s narrow-fit, performance boot market has never been more fierce. There’s more of everything to entice the athletic lass: custom-moldable shells, powerful race boots, and hike-mode options up the ying-yang. What differentiates the GPX W’s from the pack of potent competitors is its inner boot. A cork-and-goo mix circumnavigates the ankle and heel, creating a custom fit that is both forever malleable and solid as can be once set. The liners are all outfitted with Primaloft® so even ladies with a history of cold feet should be able to stay warm—assuming they put their boots on warm, as we always advise.
Flexes: 130, 120, 110, 100
Ignoring the current fashion in boot line structure, the 100mm-lasted NRGy Pros aren’t declined, 98mm race models in a wider footprint, but built from their grippy soles up for recreational skiers. This is evident from the moment you aim your foot at an NRGy Pro, for separate pieces over the instep practically leap out of the way to let your foot in.
The NRGy Pros are roomy enough that most skiers will be able to ski them comfortably out of the box - with an acceptable insole underfoot, of course, - but should the need for modification around the critical ankle area arise, pockets filled with malleable cork material can be heated to adapt to almost anyone’s ankle shape automatically. The buckles are big and easy to manipulate with gloves on. Removing the rear spoiler shim will both give a lower calf relief and allow for a slightly more upright stance. The addition of Primaloft® insulation throughout the NRGy Pro line assures the best heat retention you can buy.
♀ Belle Pro
Flexes: 105W, 95W
A few of the features that make the NRGy Pro series for men well-suited for the mainstream male are even more a propos for the fairer sex. First among these are the flaps over the instep that make putting the boots on less of a workout. The double-sided lateral cuff cant is also more likely to be engaged for the knock-kneed lass than for a lad. An effective buckle system that’s easier to manipulate with mittens is another plus.
The primordial requirements of enveloping comfort and the warmth that comes from an unconstricting fit and Primaloft® insulation in the liner are these Belles’ best attributes.
Flexes: 120, 100, 90, 80, 60
The NXT N1 could pass itself off, literally, as the big brother of the NRGy Pro 1. It’s listed as 2mm wider in the forefoot than the NRGy Pro, and it feels every bit this much bigger everywhere else, as well. But in case big isn’t big enough, the rear spoiler incorporates a mechanism to expand the shell circumference in the calf area to create a space large enough for condors to nest in.
Nordica has a long tradition of delivering sound fundamentals in a comfortable fit environment for wide feet. The NXT series continues this heritage. While it doesn’t have a hike mode, with the upper buckle loosened it has as much range of motion as some models that do. More importantly, all NXT models use Primaloft® insulation to keep feet warm and a “weather shield” over the toe box to keep them dry.
♀ NXT W
Flexes: 105W, 95W, 85W, 75W, 55W
Women with wide feet who feel like half their leg is being chewed off by the cuff of their current boots should consider one of the NXT W’s. The shell aperture at the top of the boot can be mechanically opened to accommodate about any calf circumference. The roomy liner rests on a solid foundation that puts the intermediate skier in a stance position that sets her up for success.
New this season is the addition of Primaloft® in the liners of the N1 W, N2 W and N3 W. The NXT N1 also includes a Cork Fit liner for greater steering precision and fit accuracy in the critical heel and ankle area.