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2009 skis under 86mm: Kastle, iM78 Chip, Cold Heat, iRACE, 777, Magfire 82x

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Ski reviews: 2009 85mm and narrower skis

Review was at Snowbasin. UP to 16” of dry, fresh snow, lots of crud, soft bumps, and soft groomers. I will ski more of these next week, but this is what I tried at Snowbasin. At Snowbasin, I was trying to get through the skis we sell. At the next demo, I will try other brands I am less familiar with .

Skis tested
Head iRACE 180cm
Head iM78 Chip 171cm
Elan Magfire 82x 176cm
Elan 777 176cm
Fischer Cold Heat 176cm
Kastle 78 176cm

Skier info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, technically improving, can ski crud and most challenging conditions relatively smoothly, ski 30-50 days/year, supposedly I am a low level 9, but who knows?

Head iRACE 180cm: new cheater GS 18m ski for 2009.

Review: I had this first run of the second day. I figured it would be a groomer run, as the No Name side had yet to open. Waiting for John Paul to start loading, they announced that No Name would be indeed open. So, I loaded about 20th chain, sprinted up to the top as fast as I could without passing out, and was about to get first tracks all the way down the open glade, from the knob to the drainage runout (at least 1500 vertical). It was probably the best run of my life, in 16” of light, dry snow, with a super-soft base underneath. And, these skis rocked! I could go as fast as I wanted, making huge super-G turns with ease. I know this isn’t a powder ski, but who needs a powder ski in these conditions, anyway? Sometimes there is a need for all of this rockered/reverse sidecut madness, but that first run (the whole day, actually) wasn’t one of them. Next run, in the slightly-uncut snow, it was more of the same. Totally stable and workable at speed. I did eventually get them over to the groomers, where they were more at home, and boy, they were a very, very good ski. Total power, stability, and control, but narrow and aggressive underfoot. They were more lively and less damp than Head’s race skis I have skied in the past, and the edge engagement was predictable and vice-like. The snow was soft, and therefore I couldn’t drive them as much as I wanted on the butter-like groomer, unfortunately, but they were very, very good where it was a bit more packed out. They like harder groomers over softer ones, as the tip is stiff and they are more likely to dig a tip than a softer, wider ski. Overall, this a ski I would buy for groomer duty at speed. Great fun!

Head iM78 Chip, 171cm: same layup as last year, but with the addition of the chip

Review: I only had 2 runs on this, but was able to get a good feel for it, compared to the current 78 non-chip. The biggest difference seems to be an increase in stability, which was most noticeable in crud. Despite the lack of width and length compared to the wider skis tested in the other review, this ski held its own at speed in crud. As long as I was balanced, the ski basically floated over the crud, and at pretty fast speeds. It is more damp than the 78 non-chip for sure. I could carve any radius turn on it, just like the standard model, and it was very quick edge-to-edge. In the 171cm, I always felt like the only downside of this ski was lack of stability in crud (all relative, as it is quite stable, but not as good as the iM82) but the new Chip version seems to have partially remedied this. On groomers, it felt like a carver more than a big GS ski, which is no change from the current model, but the additional dampness from the Chip may not be welcome if you are looking for a ski with a lot of energy on hard snow. Overall, I thought that the Chip model improved crud stability more than it took away fun on the groomers, and was a positive change. This will be a very good ski for a wide range of skiers, especially the Eastern skier looking for a versatile ride, as well as the Western skier who skis a majority of groomers but likes to go off piste from time to time.

Elan Magfire 82x 176cm: updated for 2009, lighter in construction, with a revamp of the Fusion system. The 82x essentially replaces the Magfire 14, but is much softer, with less metal.

Review: This ski feels similar, but better than last year’s model. Quite a big must have changed regarding construction, as this ski was already good in crud at speed, but now the stability is stellar. It was as stable as any ski I tried that wasn’t at least 90mm underfoot in the crud, and at speed on groomers, it felt fairly close to a race ski. And, forgiveness is much improved compared to the Magfire 14: I couldn’t flex the old ski, and this one feels fine at my weight. Still damp, with a bit of energy and great edgehold, but lighter underfoot. It feels carvy enough on groomers, but overly carvy in the crud. And, at 176cm, it was a great GS length with a bit more nimbleness than the Mag 14, but no real loss in performance. Overall, a great combination of off-piste performance and on-piste power underfoot. No weaknesses that I could find, at least for a tester of my weight. It should be a great ski for Elan.

Elan 777 176cm: new ski for Elan, based on the 888. It has a 19m radius, similar thin profile ski, and a similar flex pattern. 77mm underfoot.

Review: I am very positive on the 888 (I skied it the whole time we were in Utah, 1 day at Alta and 1 at Snowbasin, in lots of soft snow, and new snow up to 10”) and therefore, was excited to try the 777. It is a bit of a throwback: 77mm underfoot, but a GS radius, not the typical carver you see at this width underfoot. Elan also offers a Magfire 78 that is more on-piste oriented. Regarding the 777, it was made as more of a 50/50 ski, for someone who wants a GS feel and a bit more off-piste and big mountain feel in a narrower ski. It worked well in the crud, but found it to feel a little stiffer than the 888, and therefore tough in the bumps. At speed, it was very stable, but with little personality. In a ski that is 77mm underfoot, I am looking for a big of energy, but this ski is more of a narrow crudbuster than anything, and as such, is targeting a limited market. I personally want a wider ski than 77mm for lots of crud skiing, and would just purchase the 888. In new snow, it just didn’t have the best flex profile and didn’t seem to float much better than the iRACE. It was very stable though, with its lack of sidecut. Kevin, who is bigger than me at 190lbs, really liked his pair, and thought they were great as an all-mountain tool. I will ski the new Magfire 78 next week and compare the 777 side-by-side.

Fischer Cold Heat 176cm: same ski for 2009, but has a Railflex plate instead of the Flowflex of the 2008. The purpose of this is to make the ski more “accessible” to the masses, with not much decrease in performance. Apparently the Flowflex plate beefed up the ski quite a bit and really requires a pretty skilled skier to be aboard, while the Railflex should aid the ski with increased forgiveness (and lighter weight). Full laminate ski, with a carbon, wood, and titanium construction.

Review: I love my pair in 170cm (the 2008 version) as it handles speed well, is an excellent crud ski, and rips on the groomers. Plus, it has a laminate, strong, race-ski feel, which is a plus in my opinion (think Stockli). I didn’t try the 170cm, as I figured the changes would be small, and yes, most likely lighter and more forgiving, based on my experience with the Railflex in the past. I instead wanted to try the 176cm against my lovely 170cm 2008’s. FWIW, the 176cm is head-height for me, the 170cm is –5cm. Skiing the 176cm was completely different, and not in a good way. It was simply too long and perhaps too stiff for me. I had to muscle the ski in bumps, as I had trouble pressuring and bending the tip. In crud, the ski felt like a torpedo: really stiff, no flex at all, and made for a much larger skier. If I remember correctly, I tried the 176cm last year at the demo, and hated it as well. These felt like a pair of 2x4’s strapped to my feet in any sort of new or broken-up snow. The only positive of this length was the performance on groomers: stability and power of a race ski, although slower edge-to-edge. What I took from this demo is the following: length is critical when looking at this ski. I own the 170cm, and at –5cm under head height, is one of the best high-end skis I have ever skied. It can do really anything I ask of it. At head height, the ski is totally unsuitable to someone of my weight, as it is flexed out for someone around 200lbs. Keep this in mind when looking at this ski: be sure and get the right length! I have to say that Fischer has a great lineup right now. The hard snow skis (Progressor 9+ and 8+) are as good as they come, the Red Heat is a near top-end ski at $699 w/binding, the Cold Heat has a similar performance window to the Head iM82 and Stockli XXL, and the Watea series is well-reviewed. Also the line is very complete, with 2 different types of construction and targeted uses, but both are for high-end skiers. The RX8 is also back, but the Progressor 8+ is lined up to take its market share.

Kastle 78 176cm: I didn’t get a chance to check dimensions, but it looked similar to the iM78. Vertical sidewall, laminate ski, all white, very classy look.

Review: Kastle is making some great skis. Whether they will sell at the asking price remains to be seen. The 78 had a very refined feel, one that is a bit hard to describe and not similar to anything else on the market. Damp and smooth like a Dynastar, but a bit more snow-hugging, and with more energy as well. The 176cm was well-flexed for someone of my size, giving me both stability and rebound. This was the second-best groomer ski I tried (behind the iRACE), and also was great in the crud, although I liked the 78 Chip a bit better here. On the Kastle, I could cruise at a low-energy level, or I could make it carve 15m GS arcs, getting tons of energy at the end of the turn. As a carver, it just seemed to have a very solid, early edge engagement, almost like a GS race ski, but without the aggressiveness and lack of forgiveness. It definitely felt more powerful than most. Even the Kastle 98 I tried was a decent carver (better than anything else in that width), so maybe they are onto something. I was sold on these: they are very, very good skis, and I would happily own a pair (but not for $1500-I could get 3 pair almost as good, and have a quiver).
post #2 of 9
Hi Scott,

Thanks for the reviews!

Can you post the dimensions of iRACE?

Also, you have good knowledge of ELAN GS skis, how would you compare the two?

post #3 of 9
Great reviews Dawg especially when Fischer and Head are my skis of choice. I own the 08 im78 and love the energy it provides. I would miss that very much in the chip version. I have an older pair of the im75 chips and they just are too damp for me although they still provide incredible edge hold. I also own the RX8's. Would the Progressor 8 be a big improvement from the RX?
post #4 of 9

Thanks for another review. Do you have pics of the Magfire 82x? Was it more nimble than the im78? Did it feel lighter underfoot than the 78?
post #5 of 9
I am really interested in hearing more about the Kastles, especially given my love affair with them back in the day. How confident did you feel about the edge? Compare it to a full-bore GS ski for me? Please?

Yes, I'm going to do my best to get on a pair, but I'm really interested to hear more about it.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ssh View Post
I am really interested in hearing more about the Kastles, especially given my love affair with them back in the day. How confident did you feel about the edge? Compare it to a full-bore GS ski for me? Please?

Yes, I'm going to do my best to get on a pair, but I'm really interested to hear more about it.
Sorry I didn't respond sooner. They have a 70mm underfoot ski: perhaps that is more comparable to a full GS? I didn't have a ton of time on the 78mm ski, but it was very, very stable, easy to ski, and had an uber-refined feel. Smooth like a Dynastar, but with a bit more energy, softer flex, lots of rebound, very stable. This length felt more GS than slalom, and probably skied a bit long. Edgehold seemed like it would be great due to how laterally stiff it felt, but the snow was so soft that I couldn't really say for sure. I really liked them, and they felt perfect for me flex-wise. The 98mm underfoot ski was very impressive, and versatile.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Magnus_CA View Post

Thanks for another review. Do you have pics of the Magfire 82x? Was it more nimble than the im78? Did it feel lighter underfoot than the 78?
The 82X and 82ti look the same as this year's ski. They feel more stable in 176cm than the iM78's do in a 171cm, but around the same as the iM78 in a 177cm. The construction is much lighter on the new 82ti and 82x than the 2008's.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
A little bit more feedback on Kastle: after speaking with another person who skied them at Snowbasin, who is 170lbs and a better skier than myself, who also likes to ski very fast. He liked the Kastle's as well, but felt like he was getting toward the edge of their flex suitability in terms of his weight, as if the tip was on the soft side. The bigger guys he was skiing with who were 190lbs and up didn't like them: they were too soft for the heavier dudes. I loved my 2 pair, so they may be flexed for lighter skiers. He agreed that they did have a very unique feel, unlike any other ski on the market.

Oh, and he skied the new Monster 102, and felt it was too much ski for himself. 33m raidus in a 183, stout flex. He said it kicked his butt, but that he likes the 82/88's and Head in general.
post #9 of 9
Hmmmm... Very interesting. Guess I'd better get on a pair or three to see...
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › Member Gear Reviews › 2009 skis under 86mm: Kastle, iM78 Chip, Cold Heat, iRACE, 777, Magfire 82x