Product: Kastle MX78 with VIST TT plate/614 bindings
Length/size Tested: 176cm
Environment of Conditions:
*Location of review: Sugarloaf, Maine
*Runs Taken: All day
*Snow Conditions: Classic Maine Powda Day (ie: windswept compressed powder/ice)
*Demo or Purchase: Purchase
Much has already been written about this ski which has carved out an enviable reputation in a short time. But less is known about the VIST system which is a very well conceived and executed product and very well matched, in my opinion, to this splendid ski.
Like many, I have been reading about the Kastle phenomenon since the brand resurfaced a few years ago. I was intrigued by this old name from my youth that built its past rep, in typical fashion, on the racing circuit. On its revival, Kastle has built its recent rep on its recreational products, not on the power of racing endorsements or spin.
I did not set out to get a pair of these. The price point violated my sense of Yankee thrift. But a couple weeks ago, a guy who sells demos put a few pairs up on Ebay. I got the MX78's for cheap, and a couple other Bears scored as well.
The skis arrived week before last. Tops were a bit marred, but the bottoms were in great shape. Not from an Eastern shop I suspect. A Salomon demo binding was mounted. Since I am "invested" in the VIST system, with two pairs of Harts and a pair of VIST carvers with their plates, I sent the Kastles off to Tom at the Norse House in Vermont. He is a US distributer for VIST. High points to him. I sent them from Maine on Wednesday and got them back two days later with a shiny TT plate. I did look into getting the Kastle Kti plate, but it would have been more than $500, almost twice what I paid for the skis. The TT plate, mounted, was $160. And I already have the VIST bindings. That is one of the beauties of the VIST system. One set of bindings for the entire plate-mounted quiver.
The other major advantage of the VIST system is that you can instantly remove the toe and heel pieces and move them forward or back, in appx 13mm increments, to taste. While it may not seem like much, the difference can be very noticeable. I have the plate on a pair of Hart Phoenix carvers. Because I was having a hard time getting this 16.5m ski to initiate the turn sooner, I moved the binding forward one click. Result - better initiation.
The third advantage unique to the TT plate is the custom made 4mm riser that fits seamlessly under the toe piece. I like a flatter ramp angle. This plate, along with the 5mm toe riser under my Doberman's has me just where I want to be. There is no similar plate available for the other VIST plates, so far as I know.
This is a shot of the VIST TT/614 binding on the Kastles.
And a shot off the plate. The black plastic plate is the 4mm riser under the toe. You can see two sets of notches on the toe pins. The lower set accommodates the 4mm plate. Brilliant.
The TT locking mechanism consists of a metal collar. You slide it and pull up the tabs.
The TT plate has two metal rods that flex ( I assume) as the ski flexes. The other plate I have on the VIST RC Teams (116/66/101) is the Speedlock Pro version. This ski is the identical twin to the Hart Phoenix which I also have with the TT plate. The Speedlock plate definitely adds some stiffness to the ski. I can ski the Hart all day, the VIST, not so much, even in the same length (174cm). Tom at the Norse House tells me that he puts the TT on everything. I suspect it is the right choice for most non-race/carver skis.
The bindings come off when you press the metal tab and slide the black rubber stoppers from under the plate. I find that more cumbersome than the TT mechanism, though it can be stiff when cold.
So I put the 614 binding (DIN 6 to 14) on the Kastle at mid point on the boot, just as I do whenever I take a ski out in its maiden voyage. Up the SuperQuad and over to Tote Road. This is a classic New England cruiser and one that know from when I was a kid. The surface was hard. Not really packed powder, but wind burnished. Rock hard. Would have been boiler plate if there was enough water content. First impression, wow, these skis are loooong. They are an honest 176cm. I have been skiing longer boards these days. Booted out last year on a pair of 167 Blizzard Supersonics and dislocated/tore up shoulder. Told myself I needed to slow down....or get longer skis. So I have been on the VIST RC's and Hart Phoenix's in an honest 174cm, and Hart Pulses in 180cm, which ski shorter with turned tail. Of course, the RC/Phoenix are 66mm and 16.5 m. There is a lot more ski under you with the Kastle. Speed is no problem with this ski. Let me put it another way. It can be a problem if you are not paying attention.
So I started making some long radius turns. First thing I learned. You must keep this ski under you. No back seat. I made that mistake once, while trying to change edge angles faster than they wanted. Once ski turned and the other didn't. OK, I get it. An 18m ski with 78mm under foot is not a race carver. The ride down Tote was fast and interesting. Right off I felt this ski feels different - and not just the length.
Rest of the morning I tried different parts of the hill with different terrain. One thing I did after the second run was to move the bindings forward one hole (appx 13mm). This made the turn initiation much better and I felt in better balance over the ski.
As the day wore on, I became less concerned about the length as I figured out what this ski could do, even for a 165lb guy. And we became pretty good friends. That "feel" I felt on the first run is confidence - not me, the ski. This is the most dependable ski I have ever been on. It is utterly unflappable, almost in a mystical way. I skied Skidder, a relatively steep bump trail, and one I know well. The conditions were perhaps the most challenging that you could ask of any ski. In a matter of three turns, I hit wind scored hard pack, stashes of powder on soft bumps and boiler plate. This ski never faltered. It became what it needed to be when it needed to be it. I like to ski bumps more like a slalom course than zipper line. You could push this 18 mm ski into tight turns and it would grip like nothing I have ever been on. But if you had to suck up a bump and extend down the other side, no problem. The only problem I had in the bumps is when I missed my line and ended up doing the death bounce across the fall line. Then I felt the length. But that was my bad.
Tight turns downs the fall line in short carved turns - no problem - just keep them under you at all times.
Did not find much soft snow except one short stretch tree-side. Just elegant in those conditions. Like skiing in ice cream. Big fun doing long GS turns on fast and hard snow. I thought about getting a pair of GS skis - now I have them. Part of that fun was the height of the VIST plate which lets you lay those babies over with less fear of booting out.
At the end of the day, I was still marveling at this ski. OK, I admit it, I have 11 pairs from all the big ski houses in my garage that I have accumulated over the last decade or so. I have spent a fair amount of ka-ching getting to these Kastles. And have had lots of fun along the way. Some guys drink....
They are very special. Even unique. I come back to "dependable" no matter the variety of terrain or conditions. They seem to use the energy you give them in a remarkably efficient and predictable way. Smooth, does not begin to describe the sensation, though they are that. Getting away from the often used car analogies, I would describe these skis as a vintage single malt - very confident, unflappable and the product of good breeding and pedigree. Let us say that the VIST plate/binding is the perfect glass for tasting the nectar.
When I was a kid, I learned that you should, when possible, ski with someone who is better than you are. I am coming around to the idea that the right ski can do that for you too. I may have even heard a tiny Austrian voice say to me today through my feet, "Back seat? Vos is los?" I only had to hear it once. I am really looking forward to what else this ski will be teaching me.
Other skis in class: None in my quiver
Height/Weight: 5'9, 165lbs
Average days on snow: 0-10, 11-25, 30+ (pick one)
Years Skiing: 0-5, 6-15, 15-30, 30+ (pick one)
Aggressiveness: Conservative / Moderate / Aggressive / Competitor (pick one)
Edited by deliberate1 - 3/28/11 at 5:29am