Title: Reviews: 2012 Kastle BMX 78, MX78, FX84, LX82, BMX98, Blizzard Bushwhacker
Environment of Conditions:
*Location of review: Stowe, Vt.
*Runs Taken: 2-3 per ski
*Snow Conditions: 3-6" of fresh medium density over crust, scratchy centers of groomers.
*Demo or Purchase: Demo
Skis I like: Kastle, Stockli, Blizzard, Rossignol, Elan
Middle aged, low advanced, call it level 8; 6', 170 lbs; 30+ days on snow, 30+ years skiing
Technical rather than power, like to turn a lot, prefer trees or steeps, no air, still working my on bad habits, mediocre rec racer.
Thanks to Skiershop for arranging the demos, and to Epic and BushwackerinPA for giving me and my wife a great tour of the mountain. Super day, really enjoyed meeting them.
Skis I tested:
Kastle BMX78 (178 mm) – I tried this first; available in my length and curious about how a rockered 78 mm ski felt. Answer: More usable than I assumed. On soft cut snow along the sides of Nosedive, this was effortless, just tip and turn, slide, pivot, pretty much anything you desired. In the scratchy center, surprising grip. Not as much solidness on edge as a metal ski with traditional tip, but better than any other woodie I’ve skied on hardpack. In cutup and soft forming bumps in tight trees, very quick edge to edge, good energy but Kastle smooth. Only issues were tips feeling looser than I’d like cutting through clumps of crud. This may have also reflected starting the morning on an unfamiliar ski; by my third run I had discovered they wanted more forward pressure than I was giving, and some – not all – of the looseness disappeared. The natural comparison here would be to the late lamented iM78. These were more precise, lighter, grippier, just as smooth at moderate speeds, but with better snowfeel, quicker in bumps and tight places – which is high praise - OTOH not as planted at north of 40 mph or transitioning through variable snow. IMO a great one ski quiver for lighter intermediates through advanced who tend to ski tighter groomed terrain and nearby trees, aren’t training for SG.
Kastle FX84 (176) – I own the FX94, but had never tried this on the assumption that it would simply be a narrower version, so I knew all about it. Yes and no. The yes: quicker and a little easier edge to edge, but still the FX feel, midway in silky between the all wood BMX78 and the .5 x 2 metal of the MX’s. Seemed to have superior bite to the 94’s. This might have been tune, or the more efficient transfer of pressure in a narrower ski. My hunch: the width produces a slightly more harmonious flex balance with the thinner (.3 mm) sheets of metal. Less work in the bumps. The tip (traditional rise, but contact well back) makes this pretty hook-proof, but requires more active decision making from the skier than some skis. What you ask the ski does. In variable snow at speed, it was ready to react while I was still setting up. It lacks the ultimate stability at serious speed of the MX78 or 88, but beats both in tricky tight places with limited choice of lines. If you like to dictate what your ski’s up to next, want predictable responses, and can do something with feedback, these would make a superb one ski quiver for lift served, including sidebounds, anywhere lacking big dumps in big back bowls.
Kastle MX98 (178) – Previously I had tried these briefly at Whistler, reviewed them here, summary: Superior in soft crud and trees, not as unshakeable on ice as I‘d like, bit vague in the front. Decided they deserved an extended tryout. And they were my favorite ski of the day. Biggest surprise was grip on increasingly scratchy, polished conditions at Hayride, downside of bumps on Goat, where these had a lighter edge with more snowfeel than an MX88 or old MX98, but nearly as secure and just as precise. Again a better ski than I was capable of exploiting fully, could have increased the grip with more edge angle. More forgiving than any of its Kastle peers, but still wanted proper positioning. Doing long radius ankle rolls at moderate speeds, the rocker was unobtrusive. Not a hint of vagueness in the front, actually less of the assertive “dive into it” feeling of the normal tip MX88 or 98. In the belly of the turn, lighter feeling than a MX, not quite as rock solid on irregular hard features, but still very precise. At the end, a much cleaner, easier finish, probably because of the dual sidecut in reverse (shorter radius in back). They tuck in quickly. For folks like me with the bad habit of hurrying their initiations and getting the skis ahead of the upper body, this helps by saving time for lingering at the top of the next turn. In the trees, these were not as light, low swingweight, or springy as a Blizzard One or S3, but they had a calm fluid feel that worked as well in the end and was nicer on the legs. MX98’s encourage you to just keep flowing down a line, have the potential to make more subtle changes midstream than I’m capable of yet. A good ski to grow with.
In my mind, these worked their way up to a virtual dead heat with the Stockli Stormrider 95’s I reviewed last week for a western 50/50 or eastern powder ski. Two different approaches, two different feels, two equally superb outcomes. IMO comes down to taste or mission, not which is “better” in a quantifiable sense. Open to the possibility that the Bonafide will make it a triad with a third distinct feel and mission. Which brings us to:
Bushwackerin’s Bushwackers (180) – Ended up swapping BMX98's for these, had a couple of runs, mid-afternoon, same formula of tops of frontside four, then off into the woods. OK, I surrender, I can see why everyone is talking up Blizzards for next season. This ski is very light, and weirdly easy to maneuver. And yes, I could definitely feel the flipcore. Once the edge angle increases, the ski feels noticeably longer and more stable. Then as you flatten out the ski, it gets shorter and easier to to tip, pivot, whatever you have in mind. Flash to old Tom and Jerry characters changing shape as they get smushed, then springing back. But I can’t decide whether I like this. Really fun to feel the ski changing length. But also distracting, like having it shout:” Hey! Now I’m doing my trick!” Maybe you get used to it. You must, judging by everyone’s reaction.
This ski was preternaturally easy edge to edge, whatever terrain, and has typical Blizzard bite on hardpack. It’s very easy to shape different types of turns on; BWPA affirmed that it’s a great teaching ski. Also seems to get damper as you increase the forces on it, vaguely like Head i-technology. It was the easiest ski of the day in the trees, combining lightness and tossability with secure bite when we encountered crust under the new snow. Oh yeah, and its graphics are pretty decent in person.
On the downside, it wasn’t as smooth as any of the Kastles, and it had it a speed limit for me in variable groomer snow. The ski doesn’t get unreliable or loose as much as the front and rear start getting interested in each clump of snow, providing more feedback than I want. Now BWPA loves ripping on these, meaning that he knows what to do with all that information. I don’t. These will capture folks who want smooth, but will trade a bit for more pop, quicker reactions. I see this as what the old Rossi B3 could have become if its engineers hadn’t decided to go for K2’s demographic with the S86. Overall, superior product that I’d expect from Blizzard, both in execution and feel. Definitely deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the MX88 and Apex, have a hunch it will compete more directly with the BMX88. And at its low price point, could be the best deal out there next year.
Blizzard Atlas (173) – Finished the day on my own east coast crud/powder skis. Last season’s, no rocker. And got a seminar about in how much ski design has improved in just two years, how the order of what you ski influences your take-away, how your observer error from fatigue increases as the day goes along. These are blasters, not floaters, but nimble if you’re assertive. Great grip, OK for bigger bumps but not where they want to be. My last few tree runs on these were not pretty. I had adjusted to the demos, and my legs were toast anyway. Ended up mostly pointing and shooting, hoping if I hit something it flexed. It did enough that I’m here to write about it. But sadly, these skis felt dated.
My wife's demos (late 30's, 5' 8", 135 lbs, Level 7, 10-15 days a year, skiing for 12 years):
Kastle MX78 (160) – Her first comment, halfway down Haystack, was “These are fast!” Her second was, “I love these!” She said they had similar or slightly better grip than her beloved 5*’s (161), but were a lot smoother and easier to manage in broken snow. Not as quick edge to edge. They would work fine, she said, as a narrower ski for the east, which to me also indicates their carving chops since she demands complete security on the worst ice. In the trees and bumps, they were nimble and slithery, but a touch stiff. Overall, her second favorite ride of the day, and if she were ever to part with her 5* (good luck on that), a definitive replacement.
Kastle LX82 (172) – She found these very smooth, and easy to initiate for a ski that seemed a bit long to her. They felt distinctly softer and lighter than the 168 MX’s she owns, although not quicker. Nonetheless, she never found her zone with this ski, especially in big bumps or the trees, where it was unwieldy to get around. All in all, they seemed interesting to her, but she preferred the handling of the Stockli LXL in 170 she tried last week. To be fair, other female skiers in the group who had tried it in shorter lengths raved about this ski, and even more about the LX92. (Which I was also interested in trying since the one there was in my length, but I didn’t get to it.)
Kastle BMX78 (168) – This was a shorter version of the same ski I tried at the beginning of the day. It was my wife's favorite ski. She raved about its work in the woods. “It just makes everything here (trees) easy,” she said. She also liked its versatility, finding it just right in light crud and chop along the side of the groomers. It engaged nicely on scratch, solid without being abrupt. No real complaints except that it wasn't as secure at speed on the groomers as the MX78, and she couldn't justify buying it just for trees. She felt it would make a perfect one ski quiver for the east.
Edited by beyond - 3/26/11 at 11:02pm