Disclaimer: I sell all of these skis. FWIW. But I wouldn't be selling them if I didn't like them and think they brought a lot to the table.
Spotlighting 4 of the top skis for 2015: the Kastle FX94, MX98, the Fischer Motive 95ti, and the Stockli Stormrider 95. These are all fairly similar skis, and worthy of plenty of attention, being 3 of the best everyday Western skis on the planet. All are similar in design: 2 sheets of metal, wood core, a bit of early rise in the tip, a mainly flat tail, traditional construction. The FX94 and Stockli share a bit of tip taper, the Motive has a more traditional round tip, but with a longer early low rise than the others.
Testing conditions: great snow at Copper, mixed conditions over several days at Mt. Bachelor (spring 2014).
Fischer Motive 95 ti: Sidecut 132/95/122, Radius 19m in 180
Kastle FX94 127/94/117, radius 20m in 174
Stockli Stormrider 95 131/95/120, radius 16.9m in 174
Kastle MX98, 132/98/117, 24m in 174cm
Summary: in the event you don't want to read the long-winded review below. 4 outstanding skis. You simply can't go wrong with any of them, as an everyday Western one-ski quiver, or a wider ski for softer snow for guys like me; as an off-piste ski that also makes for a capable groomer ski and carver. The MX98 is the strongest and most powerful of the group, slightly more demanding, but very refined and forgiving for what it is. The FX94 is very smooth, easygoing, capable off-piste, lacking a bit of the power that the MX98 has, but also more relaxing in dicey situations. The Stormrider 95 is along those lines, but feels like a bit more of a wide carver, nice snap in the tail, forgiving bump ski as well. The Motive 95 ti is a hybrid in feel; it has close to the power of the MX98, and the lighter feel of of the Stormrider, while being very user friendly.
As you can see, these skis are all fairly similar in dimensions. The FX94 is slightly straighter, but in practice, skis about the same as the others.
Groomer performance: These three skis are all pretty competent on groomers. I tested them on solid, fairly soft western groomers. Also got the Motive out on spring snow, grippy to soft on top. And have skied the FX94 on bulletproof ice. Overall, it comes down to feel more than anything. The Motive 95 and MX98 have the most "carver" feel of the 4. The MX98 is just a monster on the groomers: tons of energy, loads of grip, skis like an 85mm ski in terms of feel. The Motive is right there too; the tip is a little more mellow at the top of the turn, but vice-like grip when on edge, really pulls me into the turn, and good turn exit energy. The Stormrider is probably 3rd for energy here: great stability, easy enough to get good edge angles, grip aplenty, and nice pop out of the turn. The tip is a touch soft and the more aggressive taper makes it feel short; giving it a nice slalom-like feel, but cutting down a bit on stability. Impressive for a 174cm. The FX94 is more of a moderate energy ski on groomers; not as snappy as the others, tapered tip is more deliberate at the top of the turn, but is very smooth on turn entry, predictable, and has tons of grip once there. A riot on softer groomers, especially with new snow on top, but on icy ones, not the most exciting. It is also the ski most designed for off-piste skiing that is tested here; it would be a surprise if it was a high energy ski on groomers.
Ratings for overall groomer performance: MX98 10, Motive 95 9, Stormrider 95; 8.5, FX94 7
Next up; off piste moderately light crud and tree skiing. These skis all shine here. Out of the group, it depends on how you ski. The cleaner you ski, the more dynamically you ski, the ski you may prefer may change. I feel like if I am really loading the ski at the tip, working the ski tip to tail, tipping aggressively and de-cambering the ski, I can ski something straighter than I can if I am just using sidecut and being more static in the middle of the ski. With that said, I think the most forgiving in the trees is the Stockli. It has moderate flex, a bit wide tip, and if you get behind the game in tight trees, you can tip it and still bring it back across the fall line. It is buttery smooth and super relaxed, never pushing you hard in tight spaces. In bigger, more open spaces, it gets pushed around just a bit. Not like something like a Soul 7 which can feel like it totally falls apart at speed in rough snow, but enough so that there is a bit of tip flap. But easy, very good for less crazy speeds, would be a great choice for 95% of the skiers out there. And smooth, and easy. Refined. Pure luxury ride. Next up, the FX94 is also a very, very easygoing ski. It was designed with lighter skiers in mind, and it shows. The tip is easy to bend. I want to turn, just pull my feet back, tip, and the tip is engaged. The taper slices through variable snow with ease. Again, a luxury sports sedan ride. It feels a bit more serious, a touch more damp and smooth in rough stuff, and is also capable of turning into a serious high-speed weapon. It has a very relaxing bottom-end, and a big top-end, truly suitable for most skiers on the hill Nice float in the tip; it slices and dices in tight spaces, with more than enough lateral grip for scrubbed-off crusties and windpack. Pure bliss on challenging terrain. The more relaxed feel on groomers pays dividends here. The MX98 is easily the most powerful ski here, and maybe 10% "more" ski in terms of handling it. It is stiffer; and will let you know if you get back on the tail, more than the other skis tested here. For the level of performance, not a big deal; payback is the best in class stability when opening things up. It is uncanny, so incredibly smooth, and more power than anyone can really use. Not that I would know, but this is the Porsche 911 Turbo of the ski world (if anyone wants to prove me right by loaning me their 911 Turbo for a track day, shoot me a line). It has a bigger turn radius but is plenty turny: just ski with your feet. Absorb and move the feet, tip, pull back, push forward, and this ski is rewarding. If you are more of a static cruiser, you may want a softer ski if you are light like me, but if you have fairly accomplished skills and are looking for a true sports car that doubles as an SUV, this is your ride. Once I got used to the tail, and how I had to load the tip to bring it around, I was flying through the trees and zipper lining big bumps. Finally, the Motive 95 ti. As one would expect, given the much lower price point ($400-650 less than the other skis tested), it wasn't quite as refined. But it was close. Very close. Again, smooth, a bit more lively on the snow than the FX94 and Stormrider, close to the MX liveliness, and had more of the MX feel at the top of the turn: forgiving yet fairly muscular when asked. A skier's ski. The bit steeper early rise really surfs up. It reminded me a bit of the old Nordica Enforcer, which was another standout and one of the best skis of all time in this category, or the Hell & Back, but with metal and a bit more dampness. Truly a slice and dice weapon in tight spaces, ripping in steep bumps, and very stable at WOT. In this comparison, it has the tip forgiveness of the Stormrider, the confidence of the FX94, and the power of the MX98. A great combo. Refinement falls a bit short of the others, but it is close, and super capable in anything you can throw at it. Stability is very, very good; you won't out-ski the 180cm if you are my size.
Ease of use in challenging snow: MX98 7, Stormrider 9, FX94 8.5, Motive 95 8 Trees: confidence: Stormrider: 9.5; FX94: 9.5, Motive 95: 8, MX98: 8 Suitability of skills: MX98: good to great: FX94; improving to great; Stormrider: improving to great; Motive 95: solid improving to great.
Puttering around, slow speed skiing, both groomers and bumps. This is a true test of a ski. I don't care for skis that are always on. Sometimes I want to ski slow, to expose flaws and work on technique, and become a better skier. Any ski I buy has to be able to do this well. Out of these, they all seem to be good slow, precision skis. No issued with 1-footed balance drills, slow speed releases, releases from stopping, countering exercises on the flat. Any of these would be a decent to good teaching ski; the MX98 likes to accelerate a bit more than the others, but is still fine.
Overall feel: there is no right or wrong answer here: each ski has it's distinct feel. The Stormrider 95 is the most luxurious, damp ride, with stability, and light on it's feet. The MX98 is stiffer, a bit more aggressive, still crazy smooth, but more raw power at the ready. The FX94 is predictable and snow hugging, very quiet, but a bit more life than the Stormrider. The Motive 95 leans toward the MX98; power at the ready, moderately smooth, relaxing when you want, and ripping when you want. As noted above, not quite as refined, but close. Classic Fischer: muscular but mid-flex on snow feel. And, the Stormrider skis a bit short. Low running length for it's stated length. Very nimble. I think that is why it is so darn easy. But can use more length for an accomplished or faster skier.
Notes on ski profiles: Each ski has a different take on how to do tip rise and tip and tail taper. Posted are pictures (took pics of the 100, as our 95's are backordered, but the profile is very similar). Please see pics of tip and tail on each ski.
Stormrider 95: 7cm of tail rise length; 20cm of tip rise length, 13cm widest part of tip from the end of ski. Running length on flat bench 146cm
Motive 95 ti: 7cm of tail rise length; 23.5cm of tip rise length; 10cm widest part of tip from the end of ski. Running length on flat bench 149cm
Kastle MX98: 5cm of tail rise length: 12cm of tip rise length, 8cm widest part of tip from the end of ski. Running length on flat bench 154cm
Kastle FX94: 6cm of tail rise length; 13cm of tip rise length; 8cm widest part of tip from end of ski (has more taper than the MX98 though, and the tip rise is much taller). Running length on flat bench 153cm
Edited by dawgcatching - 12/17/14 at 7:52pm