Got a call Tuesday from another dealer inviting me along on a demo he had set up with a variety of suppliers. I took the opportunity to steal a morning to ski a couple of skis I've missed in this year's test sequence.
3-18-09.....Sugar Bowl......AM-noon = classic spring conditions.
I admit to not having this brand on my radar at all so I had never skied a Kastle model. I started on the 88mm version (178) and the rat pack headed up the mountain to the top of Lincoln. The best off trail spots were not open due to icy conditions so we basically lapped the groomers switching out among the retailers and reps. The first thing I noted about the Kastle was the light weight. It is much lighter than I expected for a double layer metal ski. On the first pitch, some short turns were advisable to keep from stacking into the trees and the Kastle was surprisingly nimble for a biggish metal ski. Down lower, when the pitch allowed a little higher speeds, I laid it over on the hardest stretch I could find. The Mx88 was smooth, damp and had very good grip. Dropping out of the gee-essy stretch, this ski transitioned back into short quick turns very well. On the last pitch before the chair, I darted off the run for taste of refrozen corn snow. Here the Kastle was smoother than expected but the squarish tail hung up a tad in the refrozen ruts.
After a repeat run, I switched off to the Mx78 (176). Surprisingly, the general feel of initiation and edge to edge was about the same as the 88. Due to the expected usage of this width, I expected a grippier ski than the 88 but actually they were about the same. The 78 was quicker in transition and just as stable on the GS section. Down on the lower stretch in the refrozen crapola snow, the 78 was more nimble with less tail hang up. The dampening was about the same. The 78 had quite a bit more pop when the edge was released and particularly so when coming out of a GS stretch and bending it into the transition turn.
Mt overall take on the Kastles is that they have balanced grip and precision very nicely into ease and accesability. I suppose that I expected an "Uber Stockli" or something but that's not at all what I felt. This is certainly the most damp light weight ski that I have been on. Justifying the price of the ski alone is a little difficult although when coupled with their Jester binding package, it comes into the range of other highest end skis.
Blizzard Mag 8.7 (181)
This is a ski (174) that I have been on much of the year and have commented on often. I won't dwell too much except to say that is sort of the "control" for this day. The 181 is long for my tastes on this ski but it was manuverable enough to compete with the shorter skis in short radius turns. On the stretch where GS turns were the thing, the tip was not as damp as the Kastle but the grip and underfoot stability was the best of the day. In the refrozen crud, the tail exhibited no hang ups and exited and transitioned smoothly. This is a great ski and my favorite of this day although I'll stick with the 174.
Head Peak 88 (175)
I have skied on the Monster 88 in the past and have always felt it to be a rather stiff, tanklike ski. While there are various and conflicting stories about the layup of this ski, I don't really care about that at all. This new version skis rather differently to me than the previous models. The head 88 has never felt very nimble to me, but this new version feels somewhat better in that regard. In short radius turns on the steepest pitches, the Peak was competitive with the other skis. Down on the gee essy stretch, the Peak was very smooth, damp and compliant and had good edge grip. Turn exit was not a real high energy experience and transitions back into quick turns were slower than the other skis. Down on the lower pitch with the still crisp refrozen ruts, the Peak 88 was very nice, quiet and predictable. Based upon my prior experiences with the iM 88, I'd say this ski will be a fit for a wider audience, but may disappoint a few devotees of the previous version.
I think that this width range is super versatile for the western expert either as a 1SQ or the middle ski in a 3SQ. These three will fit the skier whose preferences lie toward a 50/50 split between hard and soft snow capability. For my own tastes of 20/80 hard/soft capability, I'll still choose a softer ski. The Kastle could be there as it's an exceptional ski but the price is probably a tough nut for most.
A very fun morning before work. My thanks go Greg from California Ski Company in Berserkly for the invite.
Edited by SierraJim - 3/19/2009 at 07:42 pm
Edited by SierraJim - 3/19/2009 at 07:42 pm