Just returned form skiing Alta Tues-Fri (12/20-12/23). Spent Tues and Wed on MX 88s (178) and Turs and Fri on Bonafides (187).
Me: turn 45 in 10 days (ugh). 5'9" 165#. Aggressive former racer. Skiing since age 5. Probably get 25-30 days a year these days -- some resort, some heli. Drive skis from the tongue of the boot. Don't jump off stuff anymore, but otherwise ski the whole hill.
Conditions: we all know there hasn't been a lot of snow, but we got about 5" or so on Wed with wind loaded spots skiing deeper, and even prior to that, there were some decent chalky soft stashes to be found in the trees (Westward Ho). But definitely spent more time on firm snow and in bumped out terrain than on a typical Alta trip. Skied both these skis in everything from ice/hardpack to soft crud, to chunky crud, to bumps (hard and soft, big and small) to 6"-8" untracked. Good range of conditions, just no deep blower.
First, the MX88s:
Holy crap. Let me say that again...HOLY CRAP!!! I had never been on a Kastle and bought the MX88s to fill the midfat quiver slot without a demo based on all the raves. These were intended to be "wide envelope" skis for me -- western resort skiing when it hasn't snowed in quite a while and things are mostly quite firm with some crud or other soft snow accessible off the beaten path, which is exactly what we had a lot of this week. These are the days you hit everything from hardpack groomers, to bumps to crud of many sorts. So I'm gonna be high-speed, high angle gee-essing one run and bumping the next...then some tight trees or a chute with variable snow. Frankly, I did not expect the MX88s to live up to the hype. But, my goodness, this is what a ski is supposed to be! I have skied a pretty good number of skis the last 5 years in all kinds of categories -- from race stock to super fat R/R pow skis and a lot in between. I would say the MX88s are the very finest skis I have ever skied. So precise, so responsive, and surprisingly, so versatile. On hard snow in relatively steep pitches, if you throw the 88s out away from you and really lay them over, you could almost swear you were on race skis. I don't get how it's possible since they don't have the shoulders of true race carvers, but they initiate super smoothly, hug the slope, and let you drive the turn shape with the pressure you apply. They track super precisely and generally make you feel like you're a hot technical skier. The tails are really there for you to complete the carve. But what blew me away was that the very same ski could be so easy to ski at slow speed in soft snow or just mellow weaving through some medium bumps. Again, I don't get it -- I'm definitely someone who has generally found mid-80s all mountain skis to be very useful but not thrilling, but I would ski the MX88s any day with less than a foot of fresh on any hill and be totally thrilled. And I'm not sure I wouldn't love them in deeper snow too -- when I got them in 8" or so, they snaked silky smooth with easy initiation...which goes to show you: a ski doesn't have to have any early rise to maneuver easily in 3D snow.
Second, the Bonafides:
Well, given the performance envelope of the Kastles, I'm not sure I even need something in this quiver slot, but I bought the Bones to replace first generation Titan Argoses. I loved the Argos for crud bashing, but they are burly skis that require a lot of input and driving, and I was looking for something that would be a tad more playful, more bump friendly, with a little better float. This is the quiver slot for most of my western resort days -- a few days' old snow, lots of crud and soft bumps, some untracked in the harder to reach places. I liked the Bones a lot, but I wouldn't say I was blown away. Glad I went 187 cause they definitely ski a few cm short. Super easy to ski on groomers. Especially on more aggressive angles, they carve and hold a line very well for a 98mm ski. They respond well to a lot of input, but they also can be skied very relaxed with a light, centered touch. In 6-10" crud, piles, and soft bumps, which is where I expected them to be in their wheelhouse, I was surprised to find them less playful, less lively than I expected. That said, I felt it took me a few runs to get them dialed -- I found they needed to be steered less forward in soft snow, and once I started driving them less and steering from a more centered stance, I found the groove. I didn't experiment with mount position, but I probably will (I have griffon demos on them). Net-net, I enjoyed them and I suspect they will grow on me more as I get them in some better 3D snow. But I didn't have that "holy crap, these are insane" experience I had with the Kastles.