EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › 90ish mm all-mountain skis
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

90ish mm all-mountain skis

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I was at Whistler this past weekend. Didn’t go with intentions of trying skis, but there were a number of vendor demos at the Roundhouse and conditions weren’t awesome, so it seemed a perfect time to try some stuff.   I’ve been thinking of replacing my first year Vokl Mantras*, which I use as a daily driver for non-powder days.  I’ve been curious to see if seven years of ski development has produced something anything of interest in this range.  Also I bought these originally as a powder ski, but now I have a real powder ski.  So I'm willing to give up a bit of soft snow ability to gain some hard snow performance.

 

*For reference, these are the dark gray ones with orange sidewalls.  My understanding is that the Mantra has gotten stiffer over time and that these are the least stiff of any year.

 

I like the Mantras for their crud-busting ability, prowess on the steeps and edge hold on hardpack.  So they do a great job as a non-powder day ski.  My dislikes (or room for improvement) is that they take a lot of work to make a nice round carved turn on groomed.  Also, this is a nit, but something about the construction bothers me at times; it’s all very hard materials with a thin profile; so even though they’re damp in terms of not deflecting much in the presence of medium-sized inconsistencies, they transmit every little vibration directly into your boots.  On crusty terrain it can be pretty annoying.   

 

I’m 5’7”, expert level with plenty of bad habits.  I’m happiest on steep off-piste terrain, but don’t have much need any more for doing “fall or you die” runs that I aspired to do in my twenties.   …while I prefer being off-piste, I still really enjoy making carved turns on the groomed.

 

Conditions at Whistler were a mix of crusty refrozen, dust on crust, a couple inches of sun-warmed powder, and spring corn – pretty standard.  I tried to take each ski on a mixture of groomers, bumps, and something steep and technical enough that you couldn’t just carve.

 

I started by going to the Head booth and asked for an all-mountain ski in the 90 to 95 mm range.  They gave me a Rev 98 in a 177.  A little wider than what I was looking for but I figured I’d give it a shot.  Despite the width, they carved quite nice, maybe even better than the Mantras but they did feel wider, which was a bit opposite of the direction I was going.  They had a quiet, smooth feel; opposite of the Mantras.  They did bounce around a bit more where it was really bumpy though.  These were good in crud and on the steep terrain.  Overall, a good ski, but nothing ground-breaking.

 

Next up was the Kastle MX88 in a 178.  On the groomers, it was awesome how skinny they felt.  It was like wearing hiking boots and then switching to running shoes.  These were a complete blast carving turns; I could make any shape and size and speed.  They absorbed the crusty terrain ok, but didn’t live up to the expectations of the smooth feel I’ve heard so much about.  They were perfectly manageable in bumps, but once I got them on some steep stuff I hated that they were so locked into a carved turn.  When it gets steep and technical I rely heavily on the ability to skid my turns both to scrub speed, but also to line up my next turn without dumping too much speed.  It’s not pretty, but I can ski faster and more in control this way.  With these, I felt like I didn’t have that option and felt I had to ski really carefully as I carved my way through the steep, technical terrain.

 

I had also wanted to try the FX94, so I got that in 176.  These were much more my style.  I had a much easier time with these on the steep terrain varying turn shapes and skidding when necessary.  They handled crud very good too and to me almost had a smoother feel than the mx88.  It wasn’t nearly as fun on the groomed as the MX88, but it was still quite good.  Easier, more fun, and more capable than the Mantras.   

 

Next up was the Nordica Steadfast.   What stood out about these for me was how round of a turn they made on the groomed and how easy it was to accomplish this.  This made the groomers a lot of fun.  They were decent in bumps, decent in crud, and a little hooky on the steeps.  Not nearly as much as the mx88, but more so than the other skis I tried.

 

After that went back to the Mantras to retrace my steps.  On the groomed they felt ho hum compared to the others, but on the steep terrain I found myself enjoying them more than anything I tried.  Perhaps it was a confidence thing.  The FX94 was the best overall of the skis I tried and likely better overall than the Mantra, but at this point I'm not sure they're $1000 better.

post #2 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by shmerham View Post

I’m 5’7”, expert level with plenty of bad habits.... When it gets steep and technical I rely heavily on the ability to skid my turns both to scrub speed, but also to line up my next turn without dumping too much speed.  It’s not pretty, but I can ski faster and more in control this way.  

...I had a much easier time with these on the steep terrain varying turn shapes and skidding when necessary.  They handled crud very good too and to me almost had a smoother feel than the mx88. 

 

...On the groomed they felt ho hum compared to the others, but on the steep terrain I found myself enjoying them more than anything I tried.  Perhaps it was a confidence thing....

Hi - I've owned all the skis you mention except the Nordies. These comments suggest to me that you're demoing the wrong skis, mostly, or at least the wrong lengths. You don't state your weight, but if it's proportionate to your height, then you were on fairly long versions of each model. (Know someone who is 5' 8", 135-140, very happy on the 168 MX88, for instance.) About skidding vs carving: The 88's in particular will skid just fine - although not their mission - but they're the most sensitive of the lot to COM and basic mechanics. The 94's are a bit more tolerant of where your body is, and the tail is easier to break loose, although they ask for clear input. Cannot speak to the Nordies but apparently they're a fairly beefy albeit light ski that shines at carving and smashing crud. The original grey Mantras have morphed into a signficantly stiffer, bit wider ski with early rise, but retain the same feel, right down to the metallic ping, still excel carving or smashing. Don't think you'd like the new ones. But in all honesty, if you like to skid to scrub speed, why not get something with a bit of tail rocker?

 

Thus wonder if you'd be happier with something like the Kabookie, or Line 98's, or Atomic Theories. They all can hold an edge, but are optimized for softer snow and a looser style. Or the Fischer Big Stix 98's, which are more a bit more carving oriented than above, still are friendly to various styles, terrain, including bumps and steeps, and they're great for lighter skiers. 

post #3 of 10

If you are looking for something "turner" than your Mantras, like Beyond said, you are demoing the wrong skis, most everything in that Kastle line has a longer radius than the Mantras you are looking to replace. The upcoming Stockli Stormrider 95 might be an option in is a very turny softer 95mm ski that has the premium Kastle feel that it sounds like you appreciated. On the other end of the price spectrum there are the Salomon Quest 98 and the Head Venturi 95, both of these skis are coming out at $499 and ski well above their price points (closer to most $599-649 skis). 

post #4 of 10

I am not sure he's looking for a turnier ski; just one he can control and work better.

 

I think he should try to go down in size especially on the Kastles. I think there's definitely a point where although you can manage and handle a longer ski, you are going to get different performance envelopes out of a longer ski vs a shorter (but still stable and not too short) ski regardless of whether the dims are the same, the ability to work the ski in a shorter length can offer much better performance and control depending on the need.


Edited by Finndog - 4/24/13 at 11:50am
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

I should have put weight, which is a not-so-proportionate 160 lbs.

 

Given my ability to negotiate moderately steep bumps just fine on all of the skis, I felt the lengths were probably good, but I could definitely see a benefit of sizing down on the MX88 given their longer contact length and my experience with them; that may have solved my issues with them on the steeps.

 

I recognize that it’s all a trade-off.  There isn’t a ski that’s the best at carving groomed and the best at steep, technical stuff with some loose snow; so everyone needs to find where on the spectrum they want a ski to be.  The skis that were the most fun on the groomed were the least fun on steeps and vice versa.  I kinda expected that and wanted to see where each ski fell.  Overall, they were all really good skis.  For me, the FX94 was the best balance for me, even better than the Mantras, but not so much that I’m selling my kidneys for them.  I wouldn’t want to go in the direction of a front-side oriented model like the Blizzard Magnum, E88, etc, which I suspect I might have liked less than the mx88.  I had been discounting rockered skis for this range, but would be very curious to try something a little skinnier, tighter turn radius, that has a bit of tip and tail rocker like the Blizzard Brahma, Line Prophet 90, or Fischer Watea 88 and see how those compare. 

 

 The rev 98 was one of the skis I tried and I did like them and I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a quiver-of-one, but I’m not really interested in a 98 to 100 mm waist ski.  I have something at 110 for powder days and they’re versatile enough to take all over the mountain even if it’s not super deep.  The Mantras have enough soft-snow ability for the in between days; that’s not something I’d be looking to improve on, so I’m more interested in something in the 88 to 95 mm range.  I want something that will still manage in the leftovers, spring snow, crud, etc.  …but more of an emphasis on hard snow performance.

post #6 of 10

ahha! yes, me too :)   I am looking for just about the identical ski. I think the FX94 as well is a leading candidate but I would be much happier with a FX88. (of course it doesn't exist) or a MX88 with a FX tail (which doesn't exist)...  The LX line is closest to what I think is ideal in its design and intent but the LX82 is too soft and the LX94 MAY be too short. My local Kastle dealer was not too happy to hear the LX series was going away, he feels it was near perfect and offered a better groomed performance of the mx line but better off-piste capabilities of the FX line.  

post #7 of 10

While it may make the jump in sizes bigger than what you indicate as desired I wonder if the MX83 in 173 and or the FX84 in 174 would be a better fit for you. The MX83 has even more hard snow bite than the MX88 and gives up little in terms of float or curd busting. It also is has a brilliantly consistent flex and bigger sweet spot than the MX88. Having spent two days on it in mixed conditions common to what we get around the PNW I would say it's one of the best skis to compliment a 110 soft snow ski for out west I have ever skied. Then again one of Epics best reviewer and posters Dawgcatching liked the new FX84 so much he jumped from his favorite Kastle to date MX83 to the FX84 which to me further validates giving both of these a go.

Like you live in the same area and look to a ski in this range to be as good off piste a on. So far the MX83 has my vote, its just that I have to sell my MX78's to get them and there so damn good it's hard to justify selling but I now have an SL ski and want something a bit wider and better off piste. Dream would be an MX83 and FX94, but my wife wants a pair of MX83's as well so...

Re Kastle feel and value - I used to be a Volkl guy as well and I think you are in an envious position having the softest of the Mantra's. Having owned a recent Gotama, Katana and Bridge I just don't see any of them offering more top end and as a whole have less versatility, smaller sweet spots than the Kastle's and that energy and feedback you spoke of.... Well ski an MX series ski back to back with a Kendo or new Mantra for a full day and see how forgiving you find the Volkls and how fresh your legs are at 2pm. I have little doubt you'll become a Kastle convert after that experience regardless of how fit you are...

 

Last note - Finndog may be onto something the LX92 in 174 is not too stiff, has better piste performance than the FX and a more forgiving tail than the MX88. Check North Shore Ski and Board. They may have a few left and you could get a killer deal.

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by shmerham View Post

 The rev 98 was one of the skis I tried and I did like them and I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a quiver-of-one, but I’m not really interested in a 98 to 100 mm waist ski.  I have something at 110 for powder days and they’re versatile enough to take all over the mountain even if it’s not super deep.  The Mantras have enough soft-snow ability for the in between days; that’s not something I’d be looking to improve on, so I’m more interested in something in the 88 to 95 mm range.  I want something that will still manage in the leftovers, spring snow, crud, etc.  …but more of an emphasis on hard snow performance.

 

Sounds like you might like the Kendo in a 170.  It's worth a spin.  

 

I'll echo what others are saying about length.   I really think of each ski as being a completely different ski in a different length.  They feel that different.   Don't dismiss some of those skis you didn't like without trying other (probably shorter) lengths.  

 

For context, I wrote about the Mantra vs. the Kendo and how different each is in three different lengths here:

http://www.epicski.com/t/118415/volkl-mantra-vs-kendo-vs-blizzard-bonafide-please-help#post_1559424

post #9 of 10

just clarifying unless this has change for 2014, the FX84 comes in a 176. Not a big deal .75" but worth mentioning. 

post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by shmerham View Post

I should have put weight, which is a not-so-proportionate 160 lbs.

Given my ability to negotiate moderately steep bumps just fine on all of the skis, I felt the lengths were probably good, but I could definitely see a benefit of sizing down on the MX88 given their longer contact length and my experience with them; that may have solved my issues with them on the steeps.

I recognize that it’s all a trade-off.  There isn’t a ski that’s the best at carving groomed and the best at steep, technical stuff with some loose snow; so everyone needs to find where on the spectrum they want a ski to be.  The skis that were the most fun on the groomed were the least fun on steeps and vice versa.  I kinda expected that and wanted to see where each ski fell.  Overall, they were all really good skis.  For me, the FX94 was the best balance for me, even better than the Mantras, but not so much that I’m selling my kidneys for them.  I wouldn’t want to go in the direction of a front-side oriented model like the Blizzard Magnum, E88, etc, which I suspect I might have liked less than the mx88.  I had been discounting rockered skis for this range, but would be very curious to try something a little skinnier, tighter turn radius, that has a bit of tip and tail rocker like the Blizzard Brahma, Line Prophet 90, or Fischer Watea 88 and see how those compare. 

 The rev 98 was one of the skis I tried and I did like them and I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a quiver-of-one, but I’m not really interested in a 98 to 100 mm waist ski.  I have something at 110 for powder days and they’re versatile enough to take all over the mountain even if it’s not super deep.  The Mantras have enough soft-snow ability for the in between days; that’s not something I’d be looking to improve on, so I’m more interested in something in the 88 to 95 mm range.  I want something that will still manage in the leftovers, spring snow, crud, etc.  …but more of an emphasis on hard snow performance.

Actually you will be surprised how some of the front side all mountain skis can handle the leftovers or 5'' of fresh snow on piste. I have a similar requirement as yours and I eventually got a pair of v-werks RTM 84 for that application. Full rocker no camber for soft and leftover stuff, with fantastic edge hold for hard pack. Stiff enough to not chatter at speed. Did I mention they are quick too?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Member Gear Reviews
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › 90ish mm all-mountain skis