Review: 2016 Kastle FX95 HP 181cm
An update (most importantly length) to the FX series. This new ski has quite a bit of tip taper, early rise tip, and somewhat of a taper and early rise tail. 2 sheet of .5mm titanal, the same construction as the BMX105, according to Kastle. 181 cm length hits the sweet spot for a lot of skiers, although running surface has barely grown, if it has at all. 21 meter radius. Same construction as the BMX105 (2016 model).
Skier info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, can ski the entire mountain competently, prefer steeps, bumps, trees, and groomers, in that order.
Testing conditions: my 2 run lap at Copper Mtn. Long groomer lap, then into some zipper line bumps, some crud piles, a bit of off-piste 4-6” of new to windpack.
Initial impressions were outstanding. This ski is a great update to the FX. While I don't think there is anything wrong with the current FX, the length could be an issue. 176 cm is kinda short for a primarily off-piste ski. The new FX solves the soft snow float issue with the 181cm. It felt dialed. The turns shape is similar, the tail finish is similar. Snow feel, classic Kastle; damp, powerful, but not demanding. As stable as the current 176cm, but it had more tip, and therefore a bit longer feel in junk snow, with added stability that comes along with it. In bumps, I liked the old one a tiny bit better; just feels more predictable when driving the tips, and the same on groomers; the old design perhaps hooked up a bit better. But in junky snow, at any sort of speed, give the edge to the new FX95 HP. This ski is going to be friendlier in heavy snow, piles of crud: that extra length doesn't deflect, it smoothes out terrain. Edge grip is very solid on both. Feel: tough to say without a true back to back demo.
My thoughts: the new FX HP models come closer to what the FX should be. The old FX was somewhat of an MX-lite: not quite an MX, but close. The new FX seems to have something different; more of an off-piste, open terrain feel. The MX is outstanding on groomers, bumps, and crud; as good as any ski out there, but it is fairly stiff, no early rise, and therefore can be a little extra work in difficult snow. The FX was built for difficult snow. It just has an ease of use, and large sweet spot, that allows me to work the tip of the ski as much or as little as needed. Talk about confidence: there is no way this ski is going to run away from you, down the hill, scaring you in a dicey turn. Quite the opposite: if you are skiing and need to make a precise turn in a certain spot, the FX is your best friend. Grip in funky snow; again, your best friend. It also charges crud and newer snow just fine. The length will work for most skiers.
I like the update very much. It will work for a lot of people. If you are mostly skiing hardpack and tight bumps on the FX , you may stick to the current 2015 model if the length works for you. As noted, the new model is different, and will be an improvement for some, but not others. And once they are gone, you can always buy an MX and get a very similar ride. But I think for that skier who needs more of an off-piste, mixed snow, do everything tool, they will find the new model softer snow friendly with zero loss in performance.
A small digression. People complain that Kastles are “big boy skis”. I completely disagree. I know of plenty big-boy skis, Kastle is not one of those. I was skiing a foot of new snow, to crud, to steep bumps on a 173cm MX83 at A Basin on Thursday, and couldn't have asked for an easier, more forgiving tool. In those steep lines just underneath the slow base triple, I was whipping those things around on that 40 degree pitch, going fall line to fall line within 3 feet. Straight up zipper line in the bumps; if I got kicked out, it was my own fault. Coming down the open bowls at speed in the crud, the ski was not only unshakable, it wasn't doing anything I didn't ask of it; it was the picture of predictability. I could make any turn, ski any speed, never wanting for more length, more width, more stability, more friendliness. It was as good as it could have been, and I was skiing as good as I every have: hitting those crud piles at speed, absorbing just enough, getting a bit of air, pushing those tips down as I extended and set up for the next turn, just using the energy that the hill provided to not only ski fast, but dance between turns. Fun. Sure, you may need to be more technically proficient to enjoy a narrower, stiffer ski like this in off-piste, soft snow conditions. Anyone in the back seat probably is better off on a wide rockered model with a huge sweet spot. But that ski won't be rewarding or as capable as the MX in skied out off-piste conditions, most definitely not in bumps (although anyone in the back seat isn't going to be visiting a mogul field, at least not by choice). By rewarding I mean really feeling the ski, working it tip to tail, taking advantage of the energy it gives back (whereas a wide 110mm+ rockered ski can feel like a limp noodle in those conditions). Skiing is entertaining like that: you get what you put into it. And if you put a lot into skiing an MX series, nothing is more rewarding upon completion of one turn and giving you energy to start the next.
I skied the MX83 5mm behind the line, FWIW.
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