Title: Review: 2011 Kastle MX98, or 2012 Kastle BMX98 (same ski)
Product: Kastle MX98 178cm length
Length/size Tested: 178cm
*Location of review: Bachelor for 1 day, Snowbird for 1 day, couple of runs the following day at another demo event.
*Runs Taken: 35
*Snow Conditions: 1st day: dust on crust. 4 inches of light, cold snow on top of pure boilerplate ice. 2nd day: firm off-piste conditions; re-freeze, some chalky snow in the shade, ice, sugar on ice.
Review: I was on this ski for a couple of days, in challenging conditions, to say the least. This is a ski I own, and I also had freshly tuned it (ground flat, 1 degree base bevel, 2 degree side). Mounted up with Kastle K12cti bindings (the adjustable plate, demo Griffon style).
1st day was tough skiing. It hadn't snowed in weeks, but we had seen plenty of rain. Then, we got 4 inches of light, dry pow overnight, and it was just blowing around on the hill. In the drifts and soft spots, this ski was money; it is balanced, very stable for a 178cm, has a huge sweet spot, is easy to scrub speed on, but likes to run in big arcs too. I found it to be nimble, fairly light on the snow, easy to pivot, ready to arc out bigger turns, and it has more than it's fair share of energy out of the turn. When loaded up, it releases with a nice pop. On softer groomers, as long as you don't over-pressure it, it will respond well in larger turns.
When hitting the pure ice between snow patches, the MX98 wasn't ideal. This ski doesn't have any metal and is fairly soft and surfy off-piste in any softer snow condition, but on pure ice, the MX88 is superior. I found it wanting to give way more than the stiffer skis like the MX88 (which I also was skiing) and also had a lot more chatter on pure ice. You had to be on it when going from soft snow to boilerplate; it didn't have a good feel for the latter, or at least it took me the better part of 2 days to feel comfortable on ice with it.
This ski absolutely slays soft snow; It is the little bro of the MX108 and MX128 (now BMX108 and BMX128). It skis very similarly, although more nimble, not as stable, more of a resort ski than a big-mountain ski. The flex is agreeable for someone my weight, but the main thing I really like about this ski is the substantial tail. It isn't too stiff, but stays engaged throughout the turn's finish, where other skis with more aggressive tail rocker can feel spoony and want to release too soon. On the MX98, in the belly of the turn on steeps, the ski will remain hooked up until the skier physically has planted their pole, started to relax and tip their feet, and began releasing their center of mass down the hill. It is just the right blend of tail stiffness for aggressive skiing. This ski really comes around a hurry in steeps. The tip profile is also spot-on. Enough taper to float well, enough rocker to engage predictably without feeling short, flappy, or soft. In short, it skis like a rockered ski in soft snow, but remains with a very substantial feel that you can either slarve or load up with aggressive foot-pull backs and pedal moves in the steeps and bumps.
2nd day on this ski was also a joy. It was again pretty tough conditions, this time at Snowbird. We saw 20 people skiing off-piste all day, not including ourselves. The conditions were as described above: the locals were all bitching about it, but hey, conditions like these separate the men from the boys, and it would have been considered an East Coast powder day. This ski, again, had weaknesses on the morning off-piste ice; a ski with metal like an MX78 or MX88 would have been superior. When we found the correct exposures that had reasonably decent snow (Barry Barry Steep area, some of the lower Gad Chutes, Bookends over in Mineral, some good exposures in Peruvian Gulch), the MX98 was money. I could give it just the right amount of pressure throughout the turn, get it around as quickly as necessary in steeps (within a ski length) and it would bite well on most any snow condition. It was absurdly quick for a 98mm ski underfoot Especially in the inconsistent snow over in Gad Chutes (see 1st picture, slush on top of ice), I found the MX98 to be predictable and smooth, and never to get me into a weird or scary position on the steeps. Boy, do I wish we had that terrain here at Bachelor.
All in all, we did about 15 runs (all off-piste), on every steep exposure on the mountain, so it was a great intro to Snowbird, even if the snow was way below average.
I also got it into some soft snow in Scotty's Bowl. Again, a fun ski, even in that 5-day old heavier uncut new snow. This ski is moderately turny in soft snow. You can get a longer, aggressive outer leg (pedal move) and really work the ski over the top of the turn if you want, or you can ski low-energy, middle of the ski, and it does fine. It is also easy to pivot or slarve. On the big traverse out, it wasn't problematic at all.
In some crud at the bottom of a steep chute (not skied out, surprisingly) I could let this ski open up and it ripped. One of the best crud skis I have ever tried.
I did find some skiable, softening but still-firm bumps over on Blackjack. In those bumps, the MX98 also impressed. The ski was a little slow and docile for a bump ski, but it got the job done, probably above average for a wider, soft rockered tip ski such as this. It was easy to ski over the top of the transition and back through the back side trough.
Conclusion: This is a very different ski than last year's MX98. The old MX98 was a definite wide 50/50 ski: it was great in virtually every kind of snow condition. The new MX98 gives up some performance on groomers, firm snow, and edge hold for better off-piste soft snow float, ease, and a more relaxed feel in those conditions. It is superb for what it does. I would personally ski this ski in most conditions we have here, save for truly hard snow, ice, and groomers. It does very well off-piste, and really comes alive in a couple of inches in crud and soft stuff. Not an ice skate, but a good every day ski for someone who sticks primarily to off-piste conditions and skis primarily soft snow. If you ski both soft and hard, then I recommend the narrower MX88 or MX78. If you ski mostly off-piste, soft snow, and especially if you have a narrower ski to compliment it for hardpack, I would also recommend checking out the MX108 or MX128 (reviews to follow shortly). The shorter 178cm length was an asset in tight spaces; for a big open mountain such as Bachelor, I might want the 188cm (the length I ski in the MX108 and MX128). For bumps and Snowbird, 178cm was just about perfect.
Comparison skis: Blizzard Bonafide, Elan Spire, Fischer Watea 98, Armada TST, Ski Logik Ullr's Chariot, Salomon Sentinel (please ask for comparisons in the follow-ups, I can to relate these skis, which I skied all on the same day.
Height/Weight: 5 foot 9, 155lbs
Average days on snow: 35-40 days/year
Years Skiing: 22 years skiing
Ability: low level 9, can ski anything on the mountain for the most part, still working on bumps.
Gad Chutes area, lower 1/2
Mineral Basin, wide open off-piste near Bookends
More stuff off Gad Chutes