Finally had the chance to ride the Kastle FX 94, 186cm for two days in Squaw. I had read a lot, including this forum’s very informed points of view, so I took the plunge and got myself a late-season deal.
The deal with the FX 94, IMHO is this: people are not immediately “impressed”, b/c they are having a hard time sticking it into a category. It defies categories (even “BC” isn’t fully correct), it is not super-specialized, but it is the most balanced BLEND of ski I’ve skied in 30 years. It does a lot of things REALLY well and has no annoying side effects. (I must admit I have not skied the MX88, but will do so when the 2012 model is out).
By way of background, I love any terrain, weather and snow as long as you can go fast and smooth; do 90% off-piste, 10% carving, I like technical skiing, and speed, grew up an old-school GS guy, 185lbs, 6’1”, 48 years. I hate “dead” skies, which you cannot “load” in the turn, or skies without any real definition (like negative camber).
Squaw conditions were not bad for March, the 1st day windy with snowfall (medium-heavy pow) lower mountain open only, we did the steeps/moguls/trees at Squaw Creek and KT 22, mostly. 2nd day sunny, morning nice (fresh virgin pow) and cold enough, but afternoon trending toward spring snow (skied everything on the upper mountain, except Silverado, my favorite, was not open). A lot of snow types except extended ice but tons of windswept hard, crud and chop as the powder was skied off.
The FX’s sweet spot is clearly powder (1-2' of fresh :-) at Granite Chief). Very easy to initiate turns (why do people need rockers?), great float (why more than 94mm underfoot?) , very stable at higher speeds, you have to get the front-rear weight balance and timing right, but it’s easy on this ski.
Also quite good in moguls. Turns easy, grips, its low weight (and hence low rotational inertia) are a big plus for fast mogul runs and split-second corrections. Forgiving. It had enough definition, grip, torsional stiffness, to let me pick a clear line and rely on it.
It works great in wide open bowls, when you drop into the steep it gives immediate confidence for nice sweepers, and at speed, it’s got enough dampness to deal with choppy conditions, enough stability; you pick your line then carve through it.
And on groomers (couldn’t test the concrete kind) it rips. Very fast and stable, very quick transitions (for a 94 underfoot), the speed limit approaches gradually in the form of fluttering tips, but on anything short of official race-course speed the FX keeps its composure nicely.
What it doesn’t do: Not the “on rail” feel of a real slalom or GS ski, not the float of a 128+mm underfoot monster, not quite the crudbusting calm of a much larger and heavier Salomon Shogun 191cm (which I like). But all those are much more specialized, have lots of downsides when not “in their element”, require more work, are not cross-competency like the FX. So, I am still keeping my heavy, stiff, focused slalom/carving skies (Salomon X-Wing Fury 177, love their energy and grip) for hard snow-only days. And I’ll use this “fun-anywhere” FX 94 for everything else.