Whoever said "Good things take time" must have been waiting for a pair of Nordica's new Grand Prix Exopower boots. Nordica didn't have the boots at the ski industry's annual on-snow test fairs and trade shows, but did get them to us at Mt. Bachelor. They seem to be worth the delay (see reviews below). After decades of living with a high-performance, high-pain image for its vector Grand Prix collection, Nordica may be on the verge of shattering that belief. Using a process that enables two densities of plastic to be injection-molded simultaneously, the Exopower shell combines a rigid energy-transmitting skeleton of hard plastic with a pliable "skin" of softer plastic that wraps the foot with minimal pressure. It's groundbreaking technology.
Returning medal winners from the world's largest boot company include the much improved GP boots (not to be confused with the Grand Prixs!) and the popular Next convenience series. Latching onto the carve phenomenon, Nordica has dressed up one Grand Prix (the C-Xtreme) with carve features and the GP C-Xtreme with a tricked-out liner. One other note: Testers with normal- and low-volume feet were disappointed with the Nordiform custom moldable EVA liners we tried this season, finding them too roomy and too cushy for performance skiing. Unless you have a high-volume foot, the stock liner may perform better than the Nordiform.
Grand Prix Series
Exopower RT $635/$675 w/ foam liner
Exopower C-Xtreme $595
The all-new Grand Prix boots (only the name is the same) benefit from a new, more generous last in the heel, ankle and forefoot-traditional hot spots for the line-and a soft Exopower skin. The line also finally has a cuff cant and the RT and R have a two-position flex adjuster.
A couple of other niceties in a group better known for its brawn than its balm: micro-adjustable buckles with dual hinges for easy low-torque operation, an overlap wrap liner with flo pockets around the ankle, and a band of slippery nylon down the spine to ease entry and exit. Yes, Virginia, these are the Grand Prixs. The line has five models, but because of late production Nordica was only able to furnish us with RT and C-Xtreme models in one size. They each earned a gold and we expect good things from the rest of the line.
The RT's thin skin left Evans feeling "naked! The connection from foot to ski was uniquely supple. It was stable and quiet, but with the responsiveness of an Indy car." It reminded Gleason of his recent ride on a roller coaster. "A solid, friction-free, accelerating ride. With all the hype about 'carving' boots, here's one without the label that's a true carving machine."
The C-Xtreme was only a step behind the RT. Said Thompson: "A plentiful supply of power and control. This is the only 'carve' boot I skied that was still fully powered." Evans called it "'The Natural.' It allows the ankle to extend and flex so the boot has an extended sweet spot. The hook-up is powerful and precise."
Key Features Exopower shell, cuff cant, macro-adjustable top buckles and flo packs around the ankles.
Thumbs Up More generously lasted heel, ankle and forefoot than in traditional Nordica race models. Exopower frame mimics foot function.
Beware Late to market means some kinks may not be worked out. Ask around before buying.
Who They're For RT: Racer, All-Mountain Expert
C-Xtreme: All-Mountain Expert, Executive, Supercarver
GP O9/L $415 GP O7/L $375 GPS C-Xtreme $435 GPS2 C-Xtreme $395
Last year, we found the GPs to be a stylish and well-conceived bunch that lacked hardiness when pushed. No longer. Now the materials match the design. Nordica provided a stouter flex in the 09 and 07 and improved the flex device, which now has a discernable difference between the soft and hard positions. The women's versions now have 4 mm heel wedges and female-ffriendly adaptations in the forward lean, calf and arch areas. The men's-only C-Xtreme models are identical to the GP 09 and 07, respectively, but with additional removable heel lift and cuff spoiler.
The GP 09 is a pleasantly surprising package, providing quick response with the comfort of a security blanket. "Lightweight, offers an easy but snug fit and plenty of energy and rebound when you push on the front of the tongue," said Thoren. "One of the best in its class." Sounding more like a sommelier, Cygielman highly recommended the 09. "Sweet with a robust flex that teases the palate of the demanding skier," said the poetic Cygielman.
Thoren was also a big 07 booster. "This boot has three great things going for it: 1) It's featherlight in a world of Frankenstein heavyweights. 2) The soft/firm flex adjuster is a snap to adjust and works noticeably well. On soft it's beginner buttery, but it bumps up with the flip of a lever. 3) The upper buckles extend out far enough to fit even my honker of a calf muscle. It's also great for women with shorter legs because the cuff is so low. Bravo, Nordica."
Key Features Macro-adjustable top buckles. Two-position flex- and forward-lean adjusters, cuff adjuster.
Thumbs Up Bulletproof features.
Beware It's tough to choose between this and the Next series.
Who They're For GPS/GP 09: Executive, Player GPS2/GP 07: Player, Aspiring Carver, Newcomer
Next 87/L $465 Next 77/L $425 Next 67/L $365
Remember that plain-looking girl at the sock hop who surprised everyone by dancing like Ginger Rogers? These Next medal winners are similarly surprising. Said Cutter of the 87: "It's a great steering boot. It had a moderate flex medially and was responsive to proper angulation. It's one of my favorites." Thoren also was hot on the flex.
Steinberg high-fived the 77, calling it "a broad application boot, the sportiest of the series. It has great lateral support and snow feel, making it exceptionally quick and precise for a boot in this class."
Key Features Shift-on-the-fly, three-position flex device and cuff cant. The 67 has no cuff cant and only two micro-adjustable buckles.
Thumbs Up Great wide calf fit. Available up to a Shaq-worthy size 34 MP (16 U.S. approximately).
Beware Cuff may be too low or too wide for skiers with long or skinny legs.
Who They're For 87: Executive, Player 77: Player, Aspiring Carver, Newcomer 67: Aspiring Carver, Newcomer