This is my more or less complete overview of the 2011 Kastle models I have skied. All testing done at Winter Park. Only some of these skis are new for 2011; the MX98, the FX94, RXSL and LX82. The other skis tested are unchanged (even the graphics are basically carry-overs). All testing done on firm to icy groomers, and firm bumps on Mary Jane (Outhouse, Railbender, Derailer, Sleeper right side bumps), as well as a bit of moderate crud stashed away in the trees. Skier info: 5 foot 9, 155lbs, ski 30+ days per year, 32 y/o, decent all-mountain skier, still learning and getting better on bumps. These are quickie reviews, as I only had 3 runs on each ski.
One thing to remember with Kastle: their production quality is so high, and the materials they use so good, that you are getting many, many more days on a Kastle when compared to many mainstream brands. Kastle skis (and Stockli as well) are good for 200+ days of hard skiing. The wood cores they use, the quality of the bases (which are exceptionally fast and hold a ton of wax) is all as good as it gets. The skis may cost more , but they last longer. Try getting 200 days out of a cheaper, mass-produced ski. As an example, a friend has a pair of Rossi Z9’s: they were going dead on him after around 40 days, and you hear those types of stories all the time. The cost of ownership on a Kastle, in comparison, is really not too bad, especially when you are getting such a high performing ski. I haven’t touched the edges on my MX78’s yet, even though they have seen about 10 days of use, including 2 on straight-up ice.
Also, I didn't take notes at the demo, so these sizes may be a bit off. I will have to go back and check out my dealer catalogue. I didn't test the 108 nor the MX70. Not really enough snow to give the 108 a thorough test, and the MX70 isn't a ski that is probably selling in the states, as everyone seems to want wider and wider skis these days.
Kastle MX88 178cm: the first Kastle I tried. This ski is unchanged for 2010. 2 sheet of .5mm titanal, ABS sidewalls, fairly stiff flex with a bit softer tip, 88mm underfoot, 20m radius. Review: The one “do-everything” Kastle for a good skier. This ski is just solid in every aspect. Good carver, great edge hold for a ski of this width, soft enough for aggressive bump skiing, rock solid in crud. Fairly damp in feel, quite forgiving for a ski of this stature, no real speed limit, has energy in the tail, and a race-ski feel that is softer and wider over the typical race stock ski. Just a super reliable ski; it can’t really do anything wrong. Probably the standard by which all other 90mm, do-it-all skis should be measured. In the conditions we were skiing, it was a little wider than optimal: the narrower skis (80mm and under) were more suited to the hard snow and bumps. Still, one would have a very fun day on this ski, and if you have the skills to get it way up on edge, it holds like glue. Outstanding one-ski quiver for a whole host of conditions, and a ski that I would own for mixed conditions back at home.
Kastle FX84 176cm: backcountry ski from Kastle, softer with 2 .3mm sheets of titanal, and a lighter wood core. I don’t have exact numbers, but it is probably 1lb lighter per ski over the MX88. Review: much different on-snow feel. Light and lively, very nimble across the board. Nice energy in the tail. Nowhere near as stable, and not much to write home about on hard snow. This ski definitely gives up performance on hard snow and a bit of stability, to be light for ski mountaineering. Very predictable, very easy to pilot, and super reliable. Just a unique feeling ski, and might be a good choice for a lighter weight, less aggressive in-bounds skier. Good, aggressive skiers will overpower it in typical resort conditions such as crud and high speeds. A sweet AT ski though, which is just what I expected: light and reliable in softer snow.
Kastle MX78 176cm: I own this ski, so getting on it was more to confirm my observations against the rest of the lineup. 18m radius, 78mm underfoot, same construction as the MX88, but with stiffer Phenol sidewalls, not the softer ABS. Review: Sweet ski, the best ski of the test for these conditions. Whereas the MX88 was a little slow onto edge and didn’t quite have as much edgehold as would be desired, the 78 was nearly perfect: race-like grip, just as stable, super smooth, damp, and with a moderate kick out of the tail. It was much better in the bumps, due to the narrower width that allowed me to use the edge and control speed a bit more than if I had just been skiing from transition to transition using absorbtion only. This was a superhero ski in the bumps; it just clicks well and gives you the feel needed to be confident it will absorb the transition and be there for you, even if you get a little back seat and end up with your tips up a little too high and and end up skiing with core tension to get caught up again. Great carver, very GS-like. Didn’t try much crud, but lots of time on this ski have confirmed that it is a great choice in up to 6” of moderate density snow, as well as windpack. This has to be a great choice for anyone looking for a do-everything Eastern ski, or a narrower Western ski for those days without too much new snow. A ski like this absolutely rips on the hardpack: I felt sorry for all those people testing the wide rockered stuff, trying to get them to work on that hard snow. This is definitely the tool for the snow we were on, no dobut about it.
Kastle RXSL 165cm: new slalom for 2011, 13m radius. Quite stiff construction. Review: this is a stout ski: reminds me of the Head iSL RD. Very damp, extremely smooth, no speed limit, fairly demanding. Not a whole lot of energy, but locked-in edge hold. A really fun carver, but probably better for bigger skiers. I was having some trouble really flexing and getting energy out of it. As a freeski, the MX78 wins hands down. In the bumps, this ski was OK, not great; a little stiff, and a little short for the bump action you are looking for. Definitely a frontside carver and gates ski.
Kastle FX94 176cm: a wider version of the FX84, basically the same construction, with 2 .3mm sheets of titanal. Also a backcountry-specific ski. About the same as the FX84 in terms of performance: light, lively, but not really great on ice or firmer conditions. Stability was about average, and it has the lightest on-snow feel I have ever experienced in an alpine ski. Would be incredible for ski-touring and lots of ascentionist-type skiing. The construction looks to be very durable, and anyone looking for the lightest high-performance ski out there will look hard at this model. It skis circles around equivalent Black Diamond backcountry models. I would love to grab a pair for AT use; the only think keeping me from doing so is probably the cost at this point. In terms of resort performance, I would put it mid-pack. The MX88 and 98 are superior of you are looking for a resort ski, but if you are going to have a crossover ski, the FX94 may be hard to beat.
Kastle MX98 178cm: new ski for 2011. Titanium is removed, the wood core is a bit softer, and the tip is now rockered. The old MX98 was simply a wider MX88, and the new ski is designed more for soft snow, less for a “wide race ski” feel. Review: indeed, the new MX98 is softer and more soft-snow oriented. The current MX98 is a very, very strong crudbuster, with a reasonable flex, but it does have quite a bit of metal, and a race shaped tail, which gives is a whole lot of power and stability in the 174cm length. The 178cm feels about the same in this ski: the tip is significantly softer, and underfoot the ski is lighter and a bit softer as well. The vice-like edgehold isn’t present as on the current MX98, but it does release very easily and bends up in softer snow. Still smooth, damp, and stable, but it has the feel of a softer, wider ski than the 98mm width claims. Easy in bumps, although a little wide, and a nice, predictable carver. I would take the current version for ultimate stability in crud, edgehold on groomers, and overall precision, and would take the 2011 version for a soft-snow oriented ski, one that is forgiving at a wider range of speeds, and for a ski where the pilot wants a more moderate, soft-snow flex while still retaining the precision that skis over 100mm in width tend to lack. The 2011 MX98 is still a very refined ski, but just a bit more soft-snow oriented, as a ski that is 98mm underfoot probably should be. If you are looking at the ultimate high-speed crudbuster, the MX88 is your tool. For newer snow, the 98 skis easier, a bit more relaxed, and still provides great feedback. It also carves up a storm on hardpack, provided you aren’t fighting pure ice, which is the 78’s realm. There is definitely more differentiation in the line this season, which is going to give skiers more options. Figure this ski skis a little short, due to the rockered tip. A guy my size would normally ski the 178cm, although a big-mountain or high-speed skier would make the 188cm work well too. With regards to the rockered tip: it is probably the best “rockered” tip ski I have yet tried. It has a full contact length in terms of feel, and is very powerful at the tip, unlike some of the softer, wimpy rockered tips I have tried (Sollie Czar, K2 Darkside and Hardside). I have tended to dislike rockered tips in the past, due to lack of front-end grippiness and a non-responsive feel, but this one bends up well without many compromises. Not a surprise, as Kastle is a ski company, not a marketing company that happens to sell skis. The front-end responsiveness it gives up basically makes the ski feel a bit shorter, but still aggressive to the front contact point. In effect, the rockered tip makes it about a 174cm, same as the current ski, except in soft snow, when you get the extra tip for a bit more float.
Kastle LX82 176cm: the new line from kastle: still a titanium laminate ski, but with tapered sidewalls and a bit more forgiving feel. The target customer of this ski is a little lower speed and performance, but still looking for a top-performing ski. Review: skis like an MX series, but softer, not quite as much stability, not quite as powerful. Very smooth, easy to ski at lower speeds, and stable up to reasonable 30mph or so speeds too. Very smooth; you just glide over the snow, and it is incredibly damp as well. You can open up this ski and rip on it, provided you aren’t skiing 50mph. Very responsive, just not quite as aggressive laterally. It fits into a range such as the Elan Magfire 78ti, K2 Recon, Salomon X-wing Tornado: good skis, but not the expert, top-end ski. I know a lot of people won’t allow their egos to ski a “non top-end” ski such as this, but it is a very, very good ski, especially if you aren’t ripping up big arcs all day. Super responsive, more snap due to the lighter weight: this is going to be a winner. It was also the favorite ski tested of one of our other testers, who would describe himself as a “terminal high-intermediate/cautious advanced skier”. He thought it had “very good grip on the harder snow, and very smooth. Also extremely easy to ski. Best ski I tested, no surprise it was also the most expensive”. I would concur that this ski will make a lot of skiers happy.
Overall, there isn’t a ski here that doesn’t perform at the top of it’s class. From what others have told me regarding their demo experience, the Kastle lineup is rock solid for many lightweights to big guys, and everyone in between. No ski is for everyone, but the stuff they make, in my experience, comes close.