Kastle MX83 and Elan Amphibio 88xti: 2 very good skis
Video comparison review
2013 Elan Amphibio 88xti, 178cm, w/fusion bindings. Skied out of the wrapper. Tune: a touch railed, not too bad, probably flat with 3-4 light stone passes
2013 Kastle MX83, 173cm, w/PRD12 Head (branded Kastle) bindings. Also skied out of the wrapper. Tune: also a touch railed, close though. Again, a few light passes and setting up base bevel tip and tail will dial it even more
Conditions: 4-6 inches overnight of good snow, skied late in the day. Previous day had seen rain and therefore a bit of dust on crust action. Some spots very good (somewhat tracked out off-piste) and some spots not so good (icy bumps, scrubby late day groomers).
Skier info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, ski 30-50 days a year. Early season fitness, only 10 hours on the hill so far. Capable all-mountain skier, tend to ski pretty fast, like to stay off-piste and ski steeper areas than Bachelor, if possible.
Overview: Aside from length and width, the biggest differences between these skis are:
flex. The Kastle is quite a bit stiffer tip and tail. Underfoot, they are similar. Both are 2 sheets of metal, full vertical sidewall, but the Elan's tip and tail are thinned out with the Waveflex sheets, and the Kastles are thicker. The Kastle flex should approximate the MX78 and MX88 (they feel almost identical) as they each share the same core and layup.
Amphibio has the inside edge rocker: just a slight early rise that keeps the ski from hanging up on that inside edge. It actually skis well when switched (the inside rocker edge becomes the outside edge) although I preferred it to be skied as designed. It was close though, you could go a whole day and not notice they were backward if you weren't familiar with the ski or on soft snow.
First off, these skis are very, very close in performance. Don't believe me? Check out the back to back shots of each ski!
Cut-up crud: Both of these skis are really fun in crud. The Elan gets the slight edge here, solely due to the extra length. I could ski the 178cm more aggressively than I could the short 173cm MX83 length. Just a little more stable in rough snow, and I felt like I could move my feet more. On the shorter ski, I had to stay more centered. It was close though; I could live with either, but if pressed, prefer the Elan in crud. In terms of absolute stability, they are pretty much identical, but when rough snow comes into play, the ski with the longer wheelbase gets the nod. Check out the back to back on the video, you might notice a few slighty differences.
Firm, crappy bumps: these bumps are pretty lousy, even by Bachelor standards. The only bumps on the entire mountain, they seem to attract more snowboarders than skiers. New snow wasn't sticking to them, so it was basically the ice from the day before with a few soft spots in the troughs.
Here, it was a draw. First off, the flex of the Elan was more forgiving. That softer tip and tail was just a little easier in and out of the troughs than the Kastle. We are talking a tiny amount though; after a few turns, it would be barely noticeable, if at all. I would even call it more of an adjustment period rather than really being better, even. The shorter length of the Kastle was easier to ski. Both were grippy without being catchy. You can see in that video that I am not really attacking these bumps: they are just not real confidence-inspiring. The skis “slid” well between one bump and the next, I guess you could say. Both were all I could have asked for, though. No complains with either.
Groomers: Conditions on the groomers were also sketchy a bit: soft snow one turn, boilerplate the next, and skid piles everywhere, so not much trust in my skill! Here the MX83 gets a solid nod. It has the feel of a pure, race-bred carver. The ski just gets after it: pull out a good release from the old turn, get down the fall line and show the bases up the hill early, and you are going to have a rewarding, big-G ride through the apex. Tons of grip, but never railed. If you need to correct, you can do so, and the ski is not super stiff, and very approachable. I couldn't be more pleased. You won't find a better carver in this width.
The Elan is very solid, being that it is wider at 88mm. Energy on this ski in the turn exit is very good for a ski of this width: it also feels like a ski with a solid race pedigree. Grip is also excellent. It does feel a little sluggish, due to it's wider width, and not quite as powerful at the top of the turn, nor with the vice-like grip of the MX83. With that said, it is quite a capable carver, as good as I have found in this width (aside from the Blizzard Magnum 8.7 and Volkl AC50, neither of which are terribly versatile). It's benefits are excellent edge hold once edge angles are established, plenty of energy, and great stability. The Elan gave me some great turns as well, and a bit more confidence in loose snow piles. I would rather be on this ski than the MX83 when the groomers are choppy and unpredictable, but the MX83 is the better of the 2 for hard snow and smoother groomers. It just feels closer to a race ski, without all of the work a full race ski entails.
Fun: this is a pretty subjective criteria. They are both fun in their own way. The MX83 comes across at the bit more serious ski, incredibly powerful but rather forgiving. Due it it's short length, it was somewhat compromised in softer snow, but had an ultra refined feel. The Elan, although not quite as smooth, was very competent in many conditions, and really ripped in off-piste snow. It held it's own and skied with a lot of energy too. For pure fun factor, on hardpack, on and off piste, the MX83 gets the nod. If venturing into softer terrain (and you happen to like skis close to 180cm for off-piste skiing) then the Elan is the better choice, as is it for those looking for a bit more float but still a wonderful carver. The 88xti is as good as an 88mm carver as I have yet been on, for a versatile ski that can really go anywhere.
Final say: I think for Westerns my size and skill, the 88xti is the better choice for a daily driver. It can handle moderate new snow: I have had it in up to 10 inches, no problem. Exciting on hard snow, can do any terrain well. Eastern skiers and those who ski primarily hardpack: the MX83 is a bit better choice. More grip, more energy, more fun on hard surfaces. With this said, these 2 skis are really splitting hairs between them.