Conditions: a few inches of crud on the edges of runs, some small bumps, and soft groomers, with boilerplate on steeper pitches.
Review: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, ski 50 days/year, improving level 9 skier, can ski most conditions.
Disclaimer: I sell both of these brands, but try to provide as unbiased reviews as possible. We sell both skis and have them in our demo fleet, and I know them well.
Kastle MX78 176cm, mounted with Look PX12 Lifter binding. 18m radius, fairly stiff flex, vertical sidewall, 78mm underfoot.
Review: this ski has a very well-deserved stellar reputation. My take; it is a bit inscrutable, as it does so many things well that should be contradictory. First off, this ski feels big: I would say it feels at least 5cm longer than the actual length. It is fairly stiff in flex, but not overpowering. It took me a couple of runs to really feel at home on it; it likes parallel shins and to be skied aggressively. The sweet spot is quite large, provided you are balanced on the ski: hard to describe, just that I felt totally locked into the center of the ski. Once up to speed (this ski really isn't a put-around with the kids ride) it is incredibly stable. Think full-on race GS at speed, but with a huge margin for error. Rough snow isn't going to bother the skier one bit. I would go as far as saying this is the most stable freeski that I have yet tried, or at least equal to my other fave, the 178cm Stockli XXXL. Uber-smooth! Yet, the MX78 packs a race-like punch in the tail. It pops you out of the turn with a controlled, yet powerful rebound. In crud, this ski is absolutely stable and nothing rattles it. On the downside, it is pretty stiff and doesn't follow the terrain: it transmits a lot of force up to the skier. In smaller bumps, it is smooth and predictable, and the relatively large radius and even flex makes skiing it as easy as any stiff ski would be. It really comes into it's own at bigger speeds, medium to large radius turns, and powerful skiing. I have skied the 168cm as well, and it is a more thrilling carver, but not quite the heft of the 176. Someone my size would probably choose the 168, but if you like more of a GS feel, the 176cm is where that feel is. Edgehold is probably better than any ski in it's class: the Blizzard was giving me trouble on true ice, whereas the Kastle was rock solid. Smooth, powerful, stable, big sweet spot, good in all conditions. It skis like a race ski on hardpack and has no real weaknesses, save for perhaps not being the best ski for less than good skiers. This isn't an everyman's ski; not strictly experts only, but pretty close. I could see this being the racer's day-off ski, the ex-racers ski, and the guy who really needs a powerhouse frontside ski with some versatility. This is the ski also for the guy that says "I don't like to ski groomers": on this ski, ripping a groomer with a high G-force in the belly of the turn at 40mph is as thrilling as any deep snow day, if you are up to it. What really struck me is the even edge engagement and smooth transition from edge to flat, then to edge again, and the way this ski flexes into the turn, and how it does so evenly. Most every other ski I have skied, save for true race laminate skis, has somewhat of an uneven flex pattern that is obvious on hard snow; tip too soft or stiff, more of an on/off feel with regards to edgehold, somewhat hooky, maybe the tail is too snappy and predictable. These weaknesses are readily apparent next to the MX78's overall even flex quality and predictability, which gives it the stellar sweet spot, yet is as stable and powerful as any ski around. This ski has a race ski quality and performance, but freeski versatility. And, a ski this stable has no right to be this nimble and unlike the typical 2x4 stiff feeling ski. Also, I loved the weight: just a laminate ski with a relatively light binding gave it the perfect swing weight, and glued to the snow, yet not overly damp feel. Weaknesses: price, but in this case, you get what you pay for. A warning: don't demo unless you can afford to purchase it. Ski it from 5-10cm under head height, unless you know you want a big feeling, no speed limit ski.
Skiing it gave me as many smiles as I have had this season, even though the day was "average" with little new snow and some pretty hard stuff underneath. As much as wide skis make skiing certain conditions and certain days fun that were tough to ski previously (heavy snow, shallow pitch deep snow skiing), a ski like the MX78 opens up those groomer days to be
"skip-work and go skiing days" where on a lesser ski, they might be worth taking off. The better you are, the better this ski is. Anyone who says "skinny skis are for old people", or "groomers are boring" simply might want to elighten themselves and and ski the MX78. Try keeping up with me in shallow or firm snow on your Gotamas: not gonna' happen unless you are a superhero on skis, in which case the skis on your feet matter little; you would probably run circles around me on Snowblades. Ratings (10 is best): Stability: 10, Sweet Spot: 7.5, power and rebound: 8, forgiveness: 5, edgehold: 9, smoothness: 9.5, crud ability: 7.5, bumps: 7
2010 Blizzard Magnum 8.1 Max 172cm: 17m radius ski, new MAX rail width, Jester-style binding with 5-14 DIN range.
Review: I have skied this ski quite a bit, first my personal pair, and then the pair in our demo fleet. It is a very good ski, with fairly stout edgehold, a big sweet spot, and good stability. It skis pretty true to it's length, so buy it around 5cm under head height for best results would be my recommendation. This ski is much heavier than the MX78: that is what you get with the much heavier binding and more of a laminate/cap construction combo, with the prodtruding MAX rail. The flex on this ski is a bit more forgiving than the MX78: relatively soft in the tip (allows you to bend it up easily and get it carving) and stiff underfoot and at the tail. It is above average in stability for a ski of this length: not as beefy at speed as the MX78, but more than acceptable, as it can bounce a bit at speed, but not enough to make you uncomfortable. The softer tip might be to blame, but it also increases the performance range downward, so that non-experts can enjoy it. Energy out of the tail is around the same as the MX78, but not quite as predictable of a release; more of a slalom-ski feel and pop out of the turn. This ski is really more of a slalom feel in terms of radius as well: it may be listed as a 17 meter ski, but feels closer to 15m. Edgehold is quick and very powerful, although not as good as the MX78: it just isn't as laterally stiff, and had trouble on blue ice lurking underneath the fresh power-tilled snow on top. The 8.1 Max is also more forgiving: it has a big sweet spot for such a lively, powerful ski. Overall feel is Austrian: smooth, damp, fairly muscular, relatively easy to ski, but not excessively damp like a Rossi/K2, or excessively lively like a race stock SL ski is. Somewhere in the middle, which most skis are settling into these days. This is definitley one of the more powerful mid 80's skis around, and one of the highest performers; it compares very well to the Volkl AC50, and feels quite similar, although I think this ski is more engaging and is more of a skiers' ski with respect to input and energy. Stiffer and more aggressive than the Head Peak 78, but can be a handful off-piste and nowhere near as good in bumps. This is more of a firm-snow and groomer ski, IMO. Definitely one of the top 3 or 4 hard-snow skis out there in terms of power, stability, and forgiveness, and if you like a meaty ski, this one is worth a hard look. This is an everyman's high performance carver; the 8.1 can make a solid skier look and feel really good on firmer snow, where a softer, wider or flexier ski may be trouble. Again, the MX78 out-shines it for good skiers, but costs a whole lot more and is not quite as forgiving. Ratings (10 is best): Stability: 9, Sweet Spot: 8, power and rebound: 7, forgiveness: 6, edgehold: 8, smoothness: 8, crud ability: 6.5, bumps: 6
Summary: I liked both skis,the MX78 is the true Porsche 911 996 GT3 of the group, and the Blizzard 8.1 is more of a BMW M5: smooth, fast, stable, but not quite at the level of the MX78; also not as expensive or requires quite as much skill to drive.