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2013-2014 Kastle FX104

Ryan Caspar reviews the Kastle FX104, Blister Gear Review

14/15 Kastle FX104

Ski: 2013-2014 Kastle FX104, 184cm

Dimensions (mm): 133-104-123

Turn Radius: 26 meters

Weight per Ski : 2,200 g / 4.85 lbs.

Boots/ Binding: Lange RX 130 / Marker Jester (DIN at 11)

Mount Location: Factory Recommended

Test Location: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

Days Skied: 15

[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 11/12 Kastle FX104, which is unchanged for 12/13 & 13/14, except for the graphics.]

First things first: Kastle [pronounced: KESS–lee] is an Austrian brand that has successfully manufactured skis for a long time. In the late 1990s a large corporation bought the company, and ski production under the Kastle name was halted. Then, in 2007, a group of Austrians purchased the right to the name and resurrected the brand, with a focus on manufacturing quality, exceptional materials, and high-end products.

The company produced four models in its first year and has since expanded to seven ski lines with a range of waist widths in each style.

The FX104 is one of the more recent offerings from Kastle, designed in collaboration with team athlete Chris Davenport. The concept for the “FX” line (which stands for Freeski mountaineering), was to produce a lightweight ski that could handle a range of snow conditions, such as those encountered by Davenport on his ski mountaineering endeavors (like his Colorado 14ers Project, or his recent Skiing the Ring of Fire: 15 Volcanoes throughout the Pacific Northwest in 14 days), conditions like winter blower, corn, chalk, and death cookies—all within several thousand vertical.

But enough background. On to the the meat and potatoes.

Not many skis live up to their marketing hype; for the most part, the Kastle FX104 ski does. Having skied the FX104 in spring corn, midwinter chalk, dust-on-crust, Jackson Hole grooming, and after a six-inch storm, there was hardly a condition in which this ski did not instill confidence.

The FX104 has traditional camber with no early rise whatsoever—a rare thing these days for a ski this wide (104mm). The sidecut is a single, 26-meter radius, with one continuous arc from the front contact point, which is also the widest point of the shovel.

The FX104 has a moderate-to-stiff flex throughout, though the tail is flat and feels slightly stiffer than the rest of the ski.

It is also unique in that thinner-than-usual sheets of metal are used in the construction. Conventionally, 0.5 mm titanal is used in skis, but Kastle put two sheets of 0.3 mm titanal in the FX104—one above and one below the core—to dampen and stiffen the ski while also keeping it light. And it works.

Those 0.3mm sheets do keep the ski stiff and damp, and increase the stability of the FX104 in variable snow; but they also cause the FX104 to lack pop and rebound energy when carving on groomed snow.

Skiing off the tram, the FX104 could make big arcs when the light was good and Rendezvous Bowl was soft, but it excelled when making controlled, medium- or shorter-radius turns in wind-buffed cream cheese. Going down into Cheyenne bowl, the FX104 ruled soft bumps, and I was able to take any line (from my half-assed attempts at zipper-lining, to my preferred style of GS turns) in, around, and over every third trough.

When I got lazy in bigger or harder bumps, the stiffness of the tails would easily throw me in the backseat; but if I stayed strong and balanced over the ski, the short length and light swing weight of the skis made them very manageable. The FX104 was far easier to steer—especially at slower speeds—than other skis with similar dimensions, like the Atomic Coax or Salomon Shogun (more on that in a bit). This was especially true in tight trees, where the FX104 was very nimble.

10 Comments

  1. Lucas November 16, 2012 Reply

    Ryan, great review. It’s fitting you reviewed this ski as I am considering it for my backcountry/soft snow ski for western Maine. From your Bio I see that you are very familiar with the area I generally ski, any of the resorts in Maine to a few trips a year to Mount Washington. I already have a pair of Fischer Progressors for front side carving and a pair of Line Prophet 98s for soft snow resort days. I am looking for a ski for deeper soft snow days and expanding my backcountry trips. Thinking about making the jump to some tech bindings and a binding freedom plate along with this ski.

    I am a technically proficient skier with a racking background, 6′, 175 pounds, physically fit. I like stiff skis and carving when appropriate. Other skis that I am considering are the Cochise and Wailer 99. Demos are scarce in this area, especially the Kastle and DPS. I appreciate your thoughts on this, thanks.

    • Author
      Ryan November 20, 2012 Reply

      Lucas,

      Thanks for reading the review. I have not skied the Cochise or Wailer 99, but I am sure you have read our reviews of those skis. Here is my recomendation based on my understanding of the other skis you are asking about.

      If you are going to be using this ski primarily for deeper days, my initial reaction is to go with the Cochise. I’m thinking you are skiing this more on resort pow days and in untracked soft snow in the backcountry than at Tucks in the spring. The Cochise has the widest footprint and is slightly more soft snow oriented with flat camber and a rockered tip and tail. I think this will be the best compliment to your current quiver.

      If you are going to use this ski more for technical steep skiing in variable conditions (i.e. more Tucks than soft pow), I think the Kastle will be better. The flat tail and full camber is more predictable and reliable when making complicated maneuvers in higher consequence terrain.

      The Wailer 99 will most likely overlap the Prophet 98’s while being slightly better in soft snow. I would personally prefer the extra 9mm underfoot of the Cochise for deeper days.

      Hopefully you get the goods this year and can make use of the new sticks!

    • Lucas November 24, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Ryan, unless you have any other suggestions, Coshise it is.

  2. AK December 3, 2013 Reply

    Has anyone gotten on the new 104 with early rise?? It’s on my short list but a demo is not an option and there aren’t too many reviews available.

    • Don December 9, 2014 Reply

      To respond to a few comments: I have the FX104 with early rise. I use it with dynafit bindings. For comparison, my daily resort ski is the 2013 Line Influence 105. Although I don’t have a ton of time on the Kastle yet, I will say that I think there are a lot of similarities between the Kastle and the Line. I think the tail on the Line may be a little more forgiving, though I haven’t really take the Kastle in anything but soft snow, so it’s hard to say. I think it’s a great, nimble feeling skiing that traditionalists will love. That said, I also love the Influence 105, which replaced my gold buddha gotamas (another ski I loved). It would be interesting to see how the Supernatural 108 skis- it sounds awesome as well!

  3. MB January 13, 2014 Reply

    Very helpful thread. I’ve been skiing the FX 84 as a JH carver; tons of fun. Any side-by-side of the FX 104 vs. Kastle’s BMX 98 or 108s?

  4. Blister Member
    Craig January 14, 2014 Reply

    Any thoughts/comparisons between the FX and the Belafonte/Cochise. I have a 190 Bibby as my soft ski and looking for one other to function as the daily driver at Alta for all conditions shy of the Bibby. I have narrowed my choices down to these three.

    Thanks

  5. AK January 14, 2014 Reply

    Craig,

    Beware of the Cochise if you want to make a “traditional” carve. For all but the biggest turns, the Cochise like to be pivoted or skied from the center rather than driven from the tip. For that reason you don’t see a lot in Vermont anymore, despite being everywhere when they first came to the market. On a softer groomer day they are still fun so maybe fine for Alta, but I ditched mine in favor of the Katana for better hard snow performance. You can drive that ski from the tip like a race ski if you want, and what I love is that the tail is there when you want it, but can be pivot when you don’t need it.

    I have skied the FX94, not the 104, but from my experience with that ski the FX is going to have a much more traditional feel. It likes to be driven from the tip and you will know the tail is there in a big way – at least I did on the 94. Not that its too long or anything, it just won’t pivot like the Cochise. Whether this is a great thing or a bad thing depends on the type of skier you are and what you want the ski to achieve.

    As for the Belafonte, I have skied the 190 Bibby and also the 186 ON3P Vicik which is very similar to the Belafonte. Based on that experience, my sense is that if you like the Bibby and want something for harder conditions you will like the Bela and that it will have a familar feel. Personally, I’d rather have something with metal in it for a groomer ski.

  6. Blister Member
    Craig February 5, 2014 Reply

    AK…thank you for the reply. I just noticed this by fluke and you are right on the money.
    I had the Cochise two years ago and was not the biggest fan as I missed the camber.
    I will demo’ing the FX’s this weekend. Who knows maybe end up with a 94 and 104 and call it good.
    I am tired of wide skis with rocker this and rocker that coupled with infrequent snow. Its time to just ski again. Thinking the FX’s and possibly next years Line Supernaturals may become the new go to’s.

    Thanks again….great advice. Wish I had seen it sooner!

  7. AK February 6, 2014 Reply

    Craig,

    Please let us know how the 104 skis for you if you find a pair to demo. It’s been slim pickings as far as reviews of the new 104 with a rockered tip. The ski continues to be on my short list despite my inability to try it out.

    I too am very excited about the Supernatural based on the reviews here. I was a huge Prophet 100 fan but haven’t liked much Line has offered since.

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