EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › Extended use comparo of Kastle MX88, FX 94, Gen I MX98, Gen II MX98 by a lighter skier
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Extended use comparo of Kastle MX88, FX 94, Gen I MX98, Gen II MX98 by a lighter skier

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Me: 6', 165 lbs, advanced, technical/finesse, late middle aged, like to turn a lot. Ski 10-15 days a year out west, 20-30 back east. Some undistinguished rec racing. 

 

Perfect Day: Billygoating around steep technical stuff that ends up in old growth woods with 6" of fresh.

 

Skis in this range that I like/own: Kastles, Blizzards, Rossignols, Elans.

Skis I don't like: K2's, Atomics, Fischers, Volkls

 

Thought it might be worthwhile to compare four Kastles I own or have skied on for a while, so hindsight rather than initial wow, and organized by conditions and terrain instead of model. I include the late lamented squaretail MX98 as a benchmark, since I think it's the finest all around ski ever made. Skied in 184, factory set to 1/3. The currently available MX88, also factory set to 1/3, was skied in 178. It would be decently close as a benchmark greatest, IMO, and far more folks have had a chance to ski these. The FX94, in 176 cm, factory set to 1/2, is a ski with a mission no one can seem to agree on. The Gen II MX98, set to 1/2, was skied in 178 cm. 

 

Actual powder -  Gen II MX98's are the clear winner here. Tips come up easily, tails are favorable to various kinds of turns and don't require the attention at the end of the other Kastles here. Not wide enough to be a true powder ski, but just fine for 80% of what most folks will encounter on any given day. (I'm thinking 3-6 " of fresh over some settled, drifts/pockets of wind polished up to 12"). The 98's would make a fine daily ride for bigger resorts out west and drivers who liked the backside. The ease and surfy quality reminds me of the pre-rockered Goats, but with a more reliable front end; high praise. OTOH, doesn't feel let-me-run like a big mountain ski. If you blast down the center of bowls, you might be happier on another brand, or fatter Kastle. 

 

Close call between MX88's and Gen I MX98's for a distant second; 88's are lighter and quicker, with the nose a bit hooky but it floats up and so effortless to initiate. OTOH, too narrow for real pow. 98's are floatier and imperturbable, better in big unhurried arcs at speed, still easy to start. Ultimately, both weigh too much to be at home in powder above the boot.They're built for crud, just have tips that can rise in light pow. Oddly, FX94's bring up the rear for me. Light, lively for a Kastle, and their bullet nose sans rocker gives them nice freedom from hooking, so they should shine. But that design also means they can take a bit more energy to get things started, and they want to be in, rather than rising up in, the snow. Light pow is fine, but denser or deeper stuff begins to resemble work. Reliable but not hoot-provoking. If they had a bit of rocker, with their weight, they'd rule here. 

 

Off-piste chalk, settled irregular, deep crud in bowls you hike to - Gen I MX98's win easily here. They iron out variable snow, from fresh over suncups to three day old chop, better than any ski I know, bite into 50 degree chalk and then release with no drama, slither through bigger bumps as long as there's some pitch. Not a tight places ski, but the tips are surprisingly easy to initiate and come up decently in old snow. Way too heavy to hike very far with these, though, and in sidebounds steep trees you will want to strip off your parka. Still and yet, Kastle gave the game back to Stockli when they stopped production. 

 

FX94's close second. Phil has noted that the MX88's feel narrower than they are (I agree); these feel wider. They're weirdly stabile for a 94 mm in typical off-piste chop and variable snow, as long as they're on edge, and easy to pivot and drift through difficult bumps. Not enough heft to carve bad snow at speed smoothly, though, and can get bounced around if you run flat. In reality, these behave exactly as you'd expect of a real mountaineering ski; predictable and competent in no-fall zones, not going to do anything without being told to, become happier as you become more directive, not speed demons because they're supposed to be billy-goating around couloirs, not zooming down lift served bowls. If you're after a relaxing 50/50 ride, these are not it. If you like to hike for your turns, and have to take some lifts to start the morning, these are it. As in the best out there, period. Contrary to what some have said, IMO these are neither a lighter alternative piste ski, nor a replacement for the Gen I MX98's, nor a touring ski. They're a unique ride altogether. I think the name says it all; Chris Davenport Model. I now wish I had AT's on them instead of alpines. 

 

MX88's third. Surprisingly good at cruddy chutes and steep chalk, very compliant in narrow places, although bit heavy for hiking. Tails can be a bit of a bother at the end of a turn in tight quarters; they don't want to let go. Not as freight train stabile as the Gen I MX98's, but far less work when you hit the trees at the bottom. Still, no Kastle I've skied qualifies as a tree ski (current MX98 comes closest). Maybe when they get around to twins...

 

Gen II MX98's last, or maybe first. Actually very nice in these conditions, but more of a good compromise than a best-in-show at anything. Wanted more bite on steep windblown scratch, more width in settled heavy snow, more looseness yet in bumps. Still, the rocker works; easiest of the bunch to swing around, and the only Kastle I've skied that I'd call forgiving. If I could only buy one ski tomorrow, and lived out west, these would probably be it. 

 

Soft groomers, trailside trees, mild to moderate bumps. MX88's predictably first here. Nimble, smooth, no apparent speed limit but will forgive most anything except back seating. Phil thinks these are 911's; I'd pick M5's; easier around town and do more of the work for you in curves. Gen II MX98's next, easiest going and most uncomplaining of the bunch, best cutting in and out of trailside trees, very smooth, have a speed limit but it's fairly high. They don't track higher edge angles with quite the assuredness of the above, or cut into the turn as precisely, but get it done just fine. Again, those tighter radius tails are nice.  

 

Gen I MX98's third. These prefer groomers one way: SG-SG arcs at decent speeds and angles. Think M6's. Easy to initiate and smooth as silk, but not particularly quick edge to edge, and their weight, which is a good thing north of 40 mph on used corduroy, still gets to you by afternoon. Forget trees. 

 

FX94's in the rear, but it's a tight group. Require the most active management - Phil thinks these are an Elan, I'd say the air cooled 911's, after the snap oversteer was cured, but before they became toys for hedge funders whose previous ride was an Infiniti - but if you're willing and able, these can sing on soft groomers.  

 

Hardpack, wind-scoured, and ice - MX88's are your only real option here - and a very nice one; I've hit silly speeds on completely scratchy pitches and felt perfectly planted, actually surprised by the lack of drama in a ski this wide. The Gen I 98's are smooth and planted on hard surfaces, but too heavy and wide for sudden, subtle adjustments (or more likely, I'm just not quick or strong enough), so marginal here. The Gen II MX98's are just OK, not very planted feeling and their rocker's no help in defining the start of the turn. While the FX94's are grippy, they require some aggressive angles to show it, and their lightness encourages getting bounced around by ruts. This was the one time I rethought recommending these Kastles as groomer skis. Most groomers end up hardpack or worse, even if they start the morning as corduroy, and most of these skis would really rather be back exploring the soft and steep.

 

I suppose you could do a rank order for these, but IMO it's more about where you want to spend your time than which is the "best" model. They're all good, but given the similar widths, all surprisingly different. Maybe the multiple model scheme of Kastle makes sense after all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #2 of 10

Great comparison. Not to split hairs but I have compared the MX series to the 911 series, both in performance and construction. This ranges from the MX70 thought the defunct 98 (Gen 1 as you refer to it). I Can obviously see your use of the M5 sedan in place of a 911 for the versatility thoughicon14.gif. The FX was compared not so much to the Elan in particular but Lotus in general and Colin Chapmans design philosophy of "adding lightness" to create more performance. BTw, where did you come across a MX98 in the 184? that is a ski I would love to add to my quiver out here. 

 

I would be interested to hear your opinion of the upcoming BMX88 and LX92 and see how they fit in here. For next year, Kastle will be offering 5 skis in a 10mm span, BMX88, MX88, LX92, FX94 and the BMX98, as you mentioned, all are great skis in their own right but are the differences too subtle? AS a retailer, we cannot carry all of them, which did we decide on? The FX94 sold well this season, is that because it was on the cover of Ski Magazines buyers guide? The upcoming LX92 is a fantastic ski but wil it suffer from "middle child" syndrome with the older more established MX and the new shining star (advertised more and lower priced) BMX? 

post #3 of 10

Beyond and I have never corresponded or met, however, if there one Epic contributor who thinks most like me about skis, it would be Beyond. Both of us: on the east coast, fans of carving skis, mid-aged, recreational skiers and share at least 2 skis – Supershape and MX88. I can only wish to share the rest of his quiver or to get the number of days on skis that he does. He's a better skier. His analysis always balanced, reasoned and well-presented. A quiet reviewer who flies under the radar, typically reviewing skis more suited to the east.

 

Other than to agree with his thoughts on the performance of the MX88, I can’t any value to what he has written. I’m a little surprised that Beyond spent the time enough on wider skis to do this review, which I would take to the bank. It may be time to look for a gen I MX98.

 

Beyond – Here’s to us and those who think like us! Damn few!beercheer.gif

 

Ducking for cover from the incoming from those that don’t!duel.gif

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Philpug View Post BTw, where did you come across a MX98 in the 184? that is a ski I would love to add to my quiver out here. 

 

I would be interested to hear your opinion of the upcoming BMX88 and LX92 and see how they fit in here. For next year, Kastle will be offering 5 skis in a 10mm span, BMX88, MX88, LX92, FX94 and the BMX98, as you mentioned, all are great skis in their own right but are the differences too subtle? AS a retailer, we cannot carry all of them, which did we decide on? The FX94 sold well this season, is that because it was on the cover of Ski Magazines buyers guide? The upcoming LX92 is a fantastic ski but wil it suffer from "middle child" syndrome with the older more established MX and the new shining star (advertised more and lower priced) BMX? 


Bought the original squaretail 98 from Whiteroom, actually. When I reviewed it last year, it beat me up pretty good. My skiing's improved, it's just jabbing me hard when I get careless. Have never seen any even on fleabay, makes me wonder how many were even sold in America. I know Holiday has one in 174, Epic might have one. It'll be a Cold Dead Fingers thing, I suspect. 

 

As far as the retail dilemma, hear you; my wife owns a small business, lot of overlap in good product lines, always a crap shoot. Hmmm.

 

I'd love to demo the BMX 88, just to see what's up. Maybe Whiteroom will have some around. But I really see the MX88 as lynchpin, the true all-mountain that will the most folks the happiest. As you know, my wife (low advanced) has the 168 and has already declared it "amazing" (all eastern use so far, seldom serious speed), so it's not an overpowering ski. I have the same in 178, it's my go-to narrow ski for out west, and I'm definitely not a power skier. So I cannot puzzle out why Kastle would want two competing models (LX92, BMX88) that are more forgiving yet. Perhaps they're going to phase out the metal MX's over 70 mm? I can say that I think the biggest differentiator between the MX's and FX's is the dual vs single radius. Latter is more predictable, easier to pivot in bumps and tight places, but also seems to give a feel that's less differentiated from other brands. 

 

So based on my small sample, would bet the FX and MX lines will appeal to very different audiences. FX more for lighter skiers who go for trees, backside, sidecountry, but not stiff or hard snow (they are not happy on skied out sidecountry stiff crud, I can report); MX for groomer zoomers who want the ability to head off piste. If I ran the zoo, I'd bundle a Baron with each FX. Also assume the LX line is targeting a third group, the true intermediates or relaxed advanced skiers who want Kastle lite. Read that these are also single radius, so bet they'll ski like a softer, less demanding FX.

 

But that leaves the BMX 78/88 as odd man out. Trying to picture them as narrower 2010 MX98's (are they also "Big Mountain" radius?), which I can do, but who will want a soft snow non-twin that's 78 or 88 mm? Maybe they're going after the K2 crowd? If that's true, big audience of affluent boomers who'll ski them slowly on blue runs...

 

FWIW (I'm at Whistler right now), the only store that carries Kastle has only one model on sale, the 2010 MX98. Not moving well. They're nearly out of MX88's, have a lone MX128, a lone FX94, a couple of MX78's, decent selection of LX72's and 82's. Guy said they sold out of MX108's months ago. I will ask how he feels about the BMX's, LX's this week, PM you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Living Proof View Post
It may be time to look for a gen I MX98.

 


Thanks for the kind words, LP, and yeah, if I could find a decent used Gen I 98, I'd grab it. Gold standard Big Mountain if you have the legs. Some days I do, some days I don't...biggrin.gif

post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by beyond View Post




Bought the original squaretail 98 from Whiteroom, actually. When I reviewed it last year, it beat me up pretty good. My skiing's improved, it's just jabbing me hard when I get careless. Have never seen any even on fleabay, makes me wonder how many were even sold in America. I know Holiday has one in 174, Epic might have one. It'll be a Cold Dead Fingers thing, I suspect. 

 

As far as the retail dilemma, hear you; my wife owns a small business, lot of overlap in good product lines, always a crap shoot. Hmmm.

 

I'd love to demo the BMX 88, just to see what's up. Maybe Whiteroom will have some around. But I really see the MX88 as lynchpin, the true all-mountain that will the most folks the happiest. As you know, my wife (low advanced) has the 168 and has already declared it "amazing" (all eastern use so far, seldom serious speed), so it's not an overpowering ski. I have the same in 178, it's my go-to narrow ski for out west, and I'm definitely not a power skier. So I cannot puzzle out why Kastle would want two competing models (LX92, BMX88) that are more forgiving yet. Perhaps they're going to phase out the metal MX's over 70 mm? I can say that I think the biggest differentiator between the MX's and FX's is the dual vs single radius. Latter is more predictable, easier to pivot in bumps and tight places, but also seems to give a feel that's less differentiated from other brands. 

 

So based on my small sample, would bet the FX and MX lines will appeal to very different audiences. FX more for lighter skiers who go for trees, backside, sidecountry, but not stiff or hard snow (they are not happy on skied out sidecountry stiff crud, I can report); MX for groomer zoomers who want the ability to head off piste. If I ran the zoo, I'd bundle a Baron with each FX. Also assume the LX line is targeting a third group, the true intermediates or relaxed advanced skiers who want Kastle lite. Read that these are also single radius, so bet they'll ski like a softer, less demanding FX.

 

But that leaves the BMX 78/88 as odd man out. Trying to picture them as narrower 2010 MX98's (are they also "Big Mountain" radius?), which I can do, but who will want a soft snow non-twin that's 78 or 88 mm? Maybe they're going after the K2 crowd? If that's true, big audience of affluent boomers who'll ski them slowly on blue runs...

 

FWIW (I'm at Whistler right now), the only store that carries Kastle has only one model on sale, the 2010 MX98. Not moving well. They're nearly out of MX88's, have a lone MX128, a lone FX94, a couple of MX78's, decent selection of LX72's and 82's. Guy said they sold out of MX108's months ago. I will ask how he feels about the BMX's, LX's this week, PM you.


Thanks for the kind words, LP, and yeah, if I could find a decent used Gen I 98, I'd grab it. Gold standard Big Mountain if you have the legs. Some days I do, some days I don't...biggrin.gif


Nice review!  Thanks for taking the time to write it.  It basically mirrors my thoughts after skiing the whole lineup again, from the RX12 up to the MX128.

 

BMX88 was a fun ski, basically just as advertised, a shrunken BMX98;  I wouldn't trade one for an MX88.  If I am going to ski an 88mm, 50/50 ski, I want something with some serious bite and power as well.  I have wider skis for soft snow, don't need a narrow one too.  The BMX88 was too relaxed, and doesn't hook up like the MX. It felt like a soft-snow oriented 88mm ski.  If you are a skidder or lower level technical skier though and found the MX88 a tough ski because it always wants to hook up, you may love the BMX.  I could see it working for many of our customers who would normally go for something like a Watea 84/94, maybe a K2 Aftershock, that sort of ski that is pretty relaxed but has pretty good performance.  Still, there are a lot of skis like that out there.  It may be a good "east coast soft snow ski", but then again, so is the MX88, and it is also better on hard snow. 

 

Grab those 1st Generation 98's!  Great ski, one of the best skis ever made for a Western 1-ski quiver.  I wish I had gotten a 184cm back in the day: the 174cm always felt a touch short.  Actually, a 178 or 180cm would have been money. There aren't many skis that perform that well on hard or soft snow, bumps, crud, or ice.  In fact, I don't know of a single one.

post #6 of 10

I've been meaning to do a review of this nature for some time. My quiver this year has largely consisted of my RX and MX78 both in 176. I've also borrowed Whiteroom's demo MX98 (old) 174s and his MX88 178s and skied the FX94 and the new MX98 (which I will now refer to as BMX98 so I don't have to keep differentiating them) a bit, but not in the snow I'd like to ski them in. I thought the MX98 was a really great ski, but I like the BMX better. I don't see why I need a race ski that is that big and that straight. I think it is a really fun ski in the right place, but I didn't think it could really do things the 88 couldn't, and when I get to the point where I want a ski as big as 98, I prefer the rockered tip and mellower personality of the BMX (which still skis groomers and hard snow very well IMHO). I also can see where the BMX88 could be a very good ski for so many people. People that really do want that 50/50 ski and plan to ski trees and what-not.

 

I think if I could have just one Kastle it would be the MX88. It really is that good. Add the RX for some more zing when it hasn't snowed. I know that Phil thinks that the BMX98 and the MX88 have too much overlap. I do not, I think the 88 is great for killing crud while the BMX would be the one I'd choose for skiing trees when I don't want to go with a huge ski.

post #7 of 10

Anyone else noticing a difference in opinion based on region? 

 

I've got to say that I agree with Epic for the east, I can see why the old MX98 is so a appreciated... but I think anyone who 'thinks' they wish it was still around should have tried it. One of the very best technical skiers I know skis the 184cm old MX98... he thinks it's too much ski most of the time on trails like Goat and Starr. He's about 6'1" and I'd guess 210lbs and a tremendous skier. There is a reason they changed the ski- that reason is: there is a very limited number of skiers that live at mountains that the MX98 makes 'sense' for, who have the skill and the willingness to spend the $$$. If you really wish you had stepped up, I still have one pair, it's a 194. (I also have a 174cm demo that isn't really a 'demo' anymore, since the ski is gone. Make an offer if you want 'em).

post #8 of 10

I've got the old MX98, and it is hands down the best ski I've ever skied.  It is absolutely versatile.  I can ski it in bumps, on the groomers, in the trees, in windblown manky snow, in crud, and in powder.  I find it to be a very forgiving ski, although that big honking tail can be a tool or a problem if you pressure it too much.  I'm about 195, live in Colorado, and ski it in a 174 (my shortest ski in 10 years -- I was skiing in the mid-180's before dropping 60 pounds).

 

I love the MX98 enough that I'm looking for a MX78 in a 176.  Tough to find at a price I'm willing to pay.

 

Mike

post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post

I've been meaning to do a review of this nature for some time. My quiver this year has largely consisted of my RX and MX78 both in 176. I've also borrowed Whiteroom's demo MX98 (old) 174s and his MX88 178s and skied the FX94 and the new MX98 (which I will now refer to as BMX98 so I don't have to keep differentiating them) a bit, but not in the snow I'd like to ski them in. I thought the MX98 was a really great ski, but I like the BMX better. I don't see why I need a race ski that is that big and that straight. I think it is a really fun ski in the right place, but I didn't think it could really do things the 88 couldn't, and when I get to the point where I want a ski as big as 98, I prefer the rockered tip and mellower personality of the BMX (which still skis groomers and hard snow very well IMHO). I also can see where the BMX88 could be a very good ski for so many people. People that really do want that 50/50 ski and plan to ski trees and what-not.

 

I think if I could have just one Kastle it would be the MX88. It really is that good. Add the RX for some more zing when it hasn't snowed. I know that Phil thinks that the BMX98 and the MX88 have too much overlap. I do not, I think the 88 is great for killing crud while the BMX would be the one I'd choose for skiing trees when I don't want to go with a huge ski.

I can see the two skis (MX88 & BMX98) being different enough for the east, but on the more open trails (and trees) here in Tahoe, the skis ski close enough. 
 

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Will chime in with an update. Skied middle density pow from lower calf to above knees today, both open bowl and trees, on my FX94's. Better than I expected. Didn't dive or hook, although didn't come up without some unweighting, surprisingly solid lower down hitting big islands of 2' pow, then giant clumps of soft crud, then openings of pack, repeat. Actually more impressive in those conditions than in pristine pow, where I longed for another 10-15 mm and some rocker. Did some modest air off of lips in Harmony Bowl, rock solid landings. Very nice in trees, where unpreturbable fronts and single radius made for very predictable maneuvers. Big forming bumps below the bowls, with piles of chop, were easy. But it's not a push button ski; you need to stay on it and tell it what to do.Then it does it, no drama. It was fine today,everywhere, but suspect the BMX98 would have been more fun, and the 108 better in the open pow and chop. Think the FX94's a little superior to my MX88 in comparable conditions; bit lighter, little more predictable, less push-pull in front. Close call. FWIW my squaretail 98's would have been useless at reasonable speeds.

Re these, think what Whiteroom said above is dead on. I have never and probably never will ski my squaretail 98's back east. But they're perfect for places like JH between storms, with big serious steeps where you can let a ski run a bit. Nimble enough to make me feel like a hero in chalky chutes at Mammoth. But not an everyday ski, IMO, and not a powder ski. A better Stockli SS. Whereas the BMX98 could be everyday, for sure. Overall, that would have been the perfect ski today, given that I skied all over, not just bowls.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Member Gear Reviews
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › Extended use comparo of Kastle MX88, FX 94, Gen I MX98, Gen II MX98 by a lighter skier