In depth review: Kastle FX95 vs. FX95HP
The skis reviewed: Kastle FX95 in 181cm, and the FX95HP in 181cm. The FX95 is an early rise tip and tail, skis around 5cm shorter than the listed length (when compared to a full camber/zero early rise ski) and features a wood core construction. The HP adds 2 sheets of metal.
Skier: 5 foot 9, 155-160lbs. Skis 10-30 days a year. See video for skill level and skiing style
The terrain: Mt Bachelor choppy crud conditions: high 20's snow, 8-12” of new in spots, crud powder bumps as well. Copper Mountain light and dry smoke; up to 14” of new, big soft powder bumps, and some tight trees (Spaulding Bowl, Resolution Bowl bumps, and trees just west of the Super Bee lift).
First off, a disclaimer and a little bit about me: we sell Kastle (and would love your business if you are in the market!) and were one of the original Kastle dealers in the US. We have most every model in stock, and I personally have owned around 80% of the skis that Kastle has produced since their re-introduction to the market in 2007. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the brand or would like to take advantage of special Epicski pricing. http://www.dawgcatching.com
I had been on both of these skis recently, at Mt. Bachelor first, and then again in Colorado at the SIA show. FWIW, Kastle is utilizing a 2-year product cycle on the FX and BMX series. As a consumer, what that means for you is there won't be any end of season “deals”, because the ski is unchanged for 2016-2017. Which is a great thing, as you won't feel you are buying a soon to be obsolete ski Many brands are now doing this going forward.
To relate my speeds; I signed up for this Copper Mtn. app called Sherpa. It was giving me updates “you are the fastest on xxx run”; on Mine Shaft (I think that was the name, frontside steeper bump run) I was hitting mid 20's when skiing well. On groomers, high 40's mostly (unless demoing carvers, then faster). Can't say for sure if those numbers are accurate or not, but I would assume the groomer numbers are at least. Would have been skiing the same speeds in a GS course with race skis on.
Overall, my impressions for both skis were similar at both demo venues. The snow was heavier at Bachelor (the 105 was a more fun ski that day) and the snow was blower at Copper (I would have gladly traded down for an 85 as there was no need for extra float).
Also, when talking to Kastle reps, it did seem that the non-HP version is very well received and preferred by many of them. It might be overlooked because it isn't “top of the line” but that really isn't the case. A stiffer ski isn't always a better ski; sometimes the softer ski performs better for either the skier or the preferred terrain of that skier. Anyone who skied the old Progressor series remembers how the 9+ was the ski for arcing firm groomers and GS speeds, and the 8+ was for rippping up front side bumps and shorter turns with lots of energy.
FX95 181cm: the FX95 is very similar to the old BMX construction, with no metal laminate layers. Anyone who has skied the old BMX98/108/118/128 can attest that these are quite strong skis, yet as lacking metal, they do come across as lighter, more nimble, and more suited to lighter skiers. I absolutely loved the 95 at Copper, and felt it was very good at Bachelor too. Not having metal made the tip extremely forgiving, the tail nice and springy, and the ski was poppy from turn to turn, finishing the turn with a lot of energy. Snow feel was exceptional. In bumps, the lack of metal made this a superb ski; it was simply enough to pull back the new inside foot and tip to get the ski working in bumps. It really melded to the trough and backside of the bump. In the instances I did get into the backseat, I found this amongst the easiest of all of the skis we tested to recover on. Another place the ski absolutely shone was on steep, big style drift bumps. So confident in that long edge drift turn, before hitting the backside of the bump, unweighting, and planting steeply down the fall line for the release. Granted, that was soft snow, but I feel as if the ski could have held it's own on steep scratchy snow too. At bigger speeds above tree line, I did begin to find a top end for the ski, but it wasn't outrageous, and I tend to ski very fast. The float and release in powder, the energy, made the FX95 a joy. It was so playful at my weight, and held up well. If I were charging instead of loving to turn (I find the most joy in skiing when I am weightless between turns or generating big-G forces at the belly of an arc) then perhaps I wouldn't mind more ski. For my skiing style, in this terrain, it was simply a joy.
FX95 HP 181cm: as noted, the only changes between these 2 skis is the addition of 2 sheets of metal. The skis, although not the same, were quite similar. The changes I noted were:
in bumps, the FX95HP had to be driven more. I had to ski it cleaner to stay in the zipper line: really working the feet fore and aft, trying to release over the bump and not just tip and rip. Of course, if you are not skiing straight zipper line bumps, the differences vanish. I found the HP to be just a bit stronger and more demanding ski here, although with that said, it was still VERY easy to ski for a ski with metal. Tried taking the Volkl Mantra in zipper line bumps....the worst idea since Jar Jar Binks.
In deeper snow, the skis were identical. Whereas the non-HP liked to “come up for air” with a bit of spring at the end of each turn, the HP was more serious, damp, less energy. It made up for this with less decambering when seriously loaded: the turn where I am finishing with the skis across the fall line fully; big counter and release with a lot of power. There is a lot of force being applied to the ski on a 40 degree pitch, and the non-HP could decamber a little too much; whereas the HP held up. Of course not many people get that kind of whip-release at the end of a turn. Also, when letting it run through tracked out snow, bigger turns, I would also choose the HP.
In trees, the HP and non-HP were close. The edge goes to the non-HP for quickness; I needed more precision to ski the HP here, but still well within acceptable. Still, if skiing tight trees, I don't see the need for the HP unless you are a big guy.
As a groomer ski, there was more top end of the HP in rough snow. I wouldn't buy the FX series as a groomer ski, but if I were going to ski groomers and were hitting big arcs, the HP is better. Non-HP for slower skiing or more energy
I didn't get to ski either on true ice. I assume the HP would have the advantage here, but my BMX98 got early morning freeze conditions and didn't complain. As did my old Blizzard The One skis. If you need an absolute ice skate, the HP likely is better, but most skiers are lacking angulation and edge pressure before they run into the limits of a modern ski for holding an edge.
Overall, I really think it comes down to the following: if you are skiing tighter spaces, slower speeds, keeping it under 30mph for the most part, like energy, ski new snow, don't weigh a ton: check out the 95 (or 85, or 105: they are all identical). If you are a big person (I would say over 200lbs), ski choppy snow, fast speeds in that choppy snow, like stability over all else, are often on pure ice, and want that power feel, I would look at the HP. Me personally, I could go either way. Probably the HP for Bachelor, as it is a wide open mountain. Colorado resort-style conditions, I think the non-HP gets my vote. East Coast also the non-HP. Or, I could personally go with the non-HP 189 and split the difference. It skis fairly short, essentially a 184, and it would give me the extra float of a longer ski while still being nimble. I am seeing a lot of customers size up or size down with that in mind: either grabbing a bigger ski without metal, or going smaller as they want metal, yet a nimble ski.