WORDS Donny O’Neill (as seen in FREESKIER MAGAZINE) - PHOTOS Evan Williams

When you think of ski boots, you think of Nordica. At least that’s what Luka Grilc, the company’s global brand manager, conveys to me over an international telephone call. He’s in his car, making the commute from Nordica’s global headquarters in Giavera Del Montello, Italy, to his home in Slovenia—a three-hour drive.

He explains, nonchalantly, that he works four days in Italy and spends Friday through Sunday at home with his family, but still, I can’t help but focus on how that reflects his serious dedication to his job. What I’ll soon discover is that this dedication and passion for the art of ski bootmaking radiates throughout the entire company.

And it’s derived from almost 80 years of striving to be the very best. In that vein, the three-year rollout of the brand’s Machine family of ski boots, highlighted now by the release of the Promachine for 2018-19, is a culmination of that quest to be number one, achieved by Nordica playing to its strengths, listening to consumers and innovating, but not over-thinking, its designs.

The Nordica boot factory then.

The Nordica boot factory then.

The Nordica boot factory now.

The Nordica boot factory now.

The Vaccari brothers, Adriano and Oddone, founded Nordica as a premium footwear compa- ny in Montelluna, Italy, in 1939, after many years spent as hide traders. With the increased popularity, and thus, business opportunity, in skiing following World War II, Nordica began manufacturing ski boots made of hand-stitched leather. The brand’s first big product innovation came in 1960, when it applied the Swiss-invented buckle fastening system—yes, the same buckles you use to cinch your boots tight, today—to ski boot design. Three years later, Nordica pioneered the production of plastic ski boots, allowing the bootmaker to manipulate different stiffnesses of the material within a mold to ensure the boot’s flex catered to its performance goals.

“A major technical breakthrough for ski boots and skiing in general was the development of the plastic shelled boot,” explains Ethan Korpi, product manager for Nordica USA. “Nordica was a pioneer of this innovation.”

Throughout the next three decades Nordica would continue to embrace its role as an innovator in the then primitive era of ski boot development. In 1972, with the help of respected bootfitter Sven Coomer, Nordica released the Astral Slalom and sold 400,000 pairs. It featured a leather inner boot—the first use of a liner in a ski boot—with a high shell wrapped around it and five ratcheting buckles to cinch it all together. It was dubbed “The Banana,” for the shell’s bright yellow color. But Coomer wasn’t done improving. Seeking a lighter boot with a more responsive flex, he engineered internal and external ribbing that solved the tendency of ski boots to bend and warp when flexed. The Grand Prix boot offered unprecedented heel retention, response and lateral stiffness, and would be the ski boot of choice for multiple World Cup ski racing champions over the next two decades. This type of boot—stiff, responsive and high performing—would prove to be Nordica’s bread and butter moving forward, which is still true to this day.

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Amarin Cannon