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 will return unchanged for 12/13.]
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.
Julia Van Raalte put the 12/13 Blizzard Dakota to the test in Niseko, Japan. Now, Emily Cleveland weighs in from Jackson Hole on this ski that is "burly and nimble, unlike any ski I have tried before."
Julia Van Raalte gets four days on (and a First Look at) the Rossignol S3 W.
At 115 underfoot, the women's-specific 2012-2013 Black Diamond Element shines in powder, but it also rips groomers and (with a slightly forward mount position) handles crud.