Skis that are very similar on paper: Kastle MX78 and Blizzard magnum 8.0ti
Skis tested: Kastle MX78 178cm, mounted with PowerRail 12 bindings. Blizzard Magnum 8.0ti 179cm, mounted with an adjustable riser plate with oil damper. Tune: out of the wrapper.
Conditions: mix of everything. 10 inches of blower snow in the past 2 days, over top of full-on ice from an ice storm the night before. Some areas were awesome, some scrubbed off and scary. Groomers mostly soft pack and small bumps forming, bumps mostly small and soft. Lots of skied out crud.
Tester info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, ski 30-50 days a year. Good all-mountain skier, prefers off-piste terrain, also likes to lay down aggressive arcs on groomers. Current skis I like: Kastle MX/FX series, Stockli Stormrider 95, Elan 888/1010, Kastle BMX118, Nordica Steadfast
I wanted to get time on what should be 2 pretty similar skis, the Kastle MX78 and the Blizzard 8.0ti. Lengths are roughly equivalent, and both skis have 2 sheets of metal and around an 18m radius. Flex is different on these skis: the Blizzard has a pretty even flex, tip to tail. The Kastle is a bit softer in the tail, quite a bit softer at the tip, and stouter underfoot. The Blizzard has a fair bit of rocker tip and tail, and the Kastle has none.
I had great testing conditions. A bit of everything. My ski of choice on a day like this would have been something closer to 90mm, as the snow was pretty deep in places, but both of these got the job done without any fuss.
Comparisons in various conditions. As I skied the Kastle first, Blizzard 2nd, I will compare them in that order.
Groomers: the Kastle MX78 in this length is a powerful ski. It might take skiers a run or 2 to get used to, especially if they, like me, have been skiing softer all mountain and big mountain skis recently. This is a superbly balanced, predictable ski with a huge sweet spot. It has an amazing stability and dampness for such a high power ski. It isn't overly reactive, like a power slalom carver: rather, it waits for the skier to make the move to engage the tip. Once there, the contact point engages powerfully and allows the skier to really get edge angle and pull that inside knee up. Once you have big angles, watch out: if you build that energy and release it in a hurry by relaxing and pulling that outside foot back, it is like Hagrid hitting the turbo button on his magic motorcycle. Wicked acceleration. A thrilling ski. In the soft, choppy groomers, this ski is unmatched. You can lay it WAY out and trust it, knowing it won't hook or catch on you. Feel is definitely GS: smooth, damp, stable, powerful.
The 8.0ti is a different beast. If anything, even more stable. It is also a very powerful ski. What it doesn't do as well is control it's power: it seems to have an on/off switch that can take you for a ride. On the MX78, when I load it up, I know what I am getting upon release, which seems to be progressive. The 8.0ti can kick you right into the air if you load the tail and can't harness the energy. Having the rockered tip, it doesn't seem to track as well in the softer snow, especially if you are laying it out. The tip can feel dis-engaged and hook up unexpectedly, whereas the MX78 is always engaged, there are fewer hooky moments. The 8.0ti is a quicker ski than the MX78: it doesn't like to be laid out as much, but keep it more under your feet, and keep it turning: it feels like a slalom carver, and is super fun, if you like flowing, powerful turns. On groomers, it skis shorter than the MX78. Great groomer ski, just a different flavor vs. the MX78. Really powerful on firm snow, but doesn't have the race-like character of the MX78.
Bumps: MX78 is a stiff ski, but manageable for a bump novice like myself. Tip is soft enough that I can get it bent up by pulling my feet back, and really extend off the back side of the bump. I can think of more forgiving bump skis, but this one isn't bad. 8.0ti was a handful under my weight: the tip was too stiff, so I didn't have the confidence to get the feet pulling back and the tip bent when hitting the front of the bump. When I did that and the ski didn't bend, I was in danger of a face-plant. I had to use more of a down-unweight move to get the skis off of edge in bumps, but the feet were more static than they should be. This is entirely due to the ski being really stiff; too stiff for my weight, I would say. If the skier can't pull their feet back and push them forward and get adequate flex out of the tip and tail, the ski is too stout for bump and trees. Make no mistake: the 8.0ti is a VERY stout ski. Along the lines of the Bonafide. Kevin, who is 195lbs, loves this ski in the bumps, so it is all about weight and being able to get the ski bent.
Crud: Here, the MX78 doesn't get much in the way of tip float. The tip is not rockered, and there is little rise in the tip. It is more of a crud-blaster than a crud floater. You have to stay on this ski: it isn't the world's easiest ski in crud. With that said, you can play with it; the MX78 is a very agile ski, and if you work your feet fore and aft, you can put it where you want it. Ski active and athletically, and it will be your friend. If you just try to stand on it and tip it, park and ride style, or worse, just push it around, it will give you fits in crud and soft snow. Overall feel is very balanced, smooth, stable, again a sweet spot, but likes to release with good high-level movements.
The 8.0ti has better tip float than the MX78. It more easily gets out of the snow. With that said, I found it to be more work in crud: I had to ski very cleanly. As it is so stiff, I ran into the same problem again I had in bumps: not being able to pressure the tip and tail adequately to work the ski in the fall line and enhance releases. I ended up having to do an aggressive down-unweight to get the ski off of it's edge. Which is fine, but if you can't move your feet to keep up with that movement, you can get in the backseat quickly. If I skied precisely, and tight with my feet, I could keep up. Make a mistake, and the ski would be rather punishing. This is a stiff ski! I really don't think it is suited to someone my weight who is going to be pushing themselves to ski better off-piste: I felt on the edge of disaster a couple of times.
Cruising: not normally how I ski, but it is how the vast majority of people use these skis, even those who describe themselves as carving when skiing groomers. In reality, they are skidding or drifting. The MX78 is good: aggressive if you want it to be, but balanced, and has a big sweet spot. If you lay off the edge angles and let it drift from turn to turn, it isn't balky, and doesn't push the skier around. The 8.0ti is very good as well: a little more “spoony” due to tip and tail rocker, will drift as well as the MX78, but you can “stand” on the ski a little different, whereas the MX78 prefers to be tipped to edge. The 8.0ti felt a bit railed out of the box, FWIW, which would make a difference in how it skis, and possibly address the hooky nature I found when really trying to get my hip close to the snow.
Conclusion: the MX78 is really the standard bearer in this category. It does a lot of things well: and good skiers to great skiers can enjoy it. You won't find a ski in the all-mountain category that has this kind of energy and race-like grip or stability. Seriously, this would pass for a GS Beer League ski with a different label, yet it is an all-mountain ski, biased toward hardpack, of course.
The 8.0ti is a superb ski, it has great capability in crud for an 80mm ski, and is a quick, playful, stable carver. Those skiing it aggressively need to be able to flex it, and likely will weigh more than 155lbs. I would liken it to the Bonafide: some love that ski and find it to have a great ski for skiing trees and bumps aggressively, while others (like me) am a fan of the softer Kabookie. If you appreciate the Bonafide's heft and power, you will think the 8.0ti rocks, and has the same character, only narrower and more responsive. If you are skiing new snow, stick with the Bonafide. For skied-out conditions, beat-down crud, and groomers, this is your new ride.