Over the course of this season, Blister reviewers Joey Teahan, Sam Shaheen, and I all spent time on the 18/19 Kartel 108. We got it in conditions ranging from around a foot of pow, to straight ice, to slushy spring chop.
And just like the 17/18 version, the 18/19 Kartel 108 has performed very well across most conditions, and it’s still a very strong contender in the category of playful but still-quite-stable all-mountain freestyle skis.
Mount Point / Preferred Stance
Luke Koppa (5’8”, 155 lbs): The mount point on the 186 cm Kartel 108 that we’ve been reviewing is -4.6 cm from center, which is pretty far forward for an all-mountain ski, though not for an all-mountain freestyle ski. And the Kartel 108 definitely prefers a centered stance — and I’d say that it almost demands it.
I found that the ski felt best when I was putting just a bit of pressure on the front of my boots, but I couldn’t drive the shovels of the Kartel 108 like I could with more directional skis, or even some other skis with similarly forward mount points. So I think this will be a key factor that needs to be considered if you’re interested in the Kartel 108.
If you’re used to skis with more traditional mount points and like to drive the shovels of your skis, it will likely take a bit of time to get used to the Kartel 108. It only took me a few runs to adapt to the centered stance that the Kartel 108 required, but I was surprised by just how much this ski wanted me to stay centered. I’ve been on several other skis this season with mount points right around, or even further forward than the Kartel 108’s, and many of those skis allowed me to drive their shovels more than I could on the Kartel 108.
But if you’re used to freestyle-oriented skis with mounts close to center, I’m sure the Kartel 108 will feel intuitive, and you’ll be rewarded with a very stable and playful ski (more on that later).
Sam Shaheen (5’10”, 140 lbs): I agree with Luke here. One of the defining characteristics of the Kartel 108 is its strong preference for a neutral stance. Yes, it is a substantial ski that can be skied hard, but it requires a neutral stance.
Joey Teahan (6’3”, 190 lbs): As someone who is used to center-mounted, freestyle-oriented skis (I tend to mount my skis somewhere between 0 to 5 cm behind true center, depending on the recommended line), I found the Kartel 108 very intuitive. I almost immediately felt comfortable enough to spin and butter on the Kartel 108 in some rather sloppy late-season slush and off of small bumps.
Luke: One of my first days on the Kartel 108 was on a powder day at Telluride, where around 6-8” of fairly heavy snow had fallen, and the wind had deposited up to around a foot of pow in some areas.
For it’s width and mount point, the Kartel 108 performed very well in this shallower pow. I had a blast surfing and slashing my way through the fresh snow on the Kartel 108, and I never had any issues with tip dive in up to a foot of powder. This isn’t very surprising if you look at the rocker profile of this ski — it has very deep tip and tail rocker lines and a lot of tip and tail splay.
I suspect that the 186 cm Kartel 108 won’t float quite as well as skis with similar rocker profiles and more rearward mount points, such as the 184 cm ON3P Wrenegade 108. But compared to other all-mountain freestyle skis with similarly-forward mount points, the Kartel 108 floats quite well for its width.
Sam: Yep, the Kartel 108 has a huge amount of tip and tail splay and, overall, feels wider than it measures. It is a blast in soft snow, and this is where it really shines.
Luke: Let’s get this out of the way: the Kartel 108 is not the best ski for really firm, smooth snow.
I skied the Kartel 108 for a day at Snowmass when most of the groomers were very firm, or straight-up icy. On this snow, there were a few instances when I was trying to carve a turn and I would lose the edge of my uphill ski. It was an odd sensation, and one I haven’t experienced on other skis. As a result, I found the Kartel 108 felt best when skidding and slarving turns on icy snow. I was still easily able to control my speed while doing this, I just found it difficult to maintain a carved turn on really firm, smooth groomers.
While there are some skis in the 105-110mm all-mountain freestyle class that actually perform very well on firm groomers, the Kartel 108 is best-suited for days when the snow is fairly soft. And as soon as the snow softens up a bit, well, that’s a different story (see next section).
Sam: Firm groomers on the Kartel 108 were honestly a little scary for me. When I would try to put the ski on edge, it felt like a rock being skipped across a pond — skidding down the slope and not tracking very well. I have skied a ton of skis this season, and the Kartel 108 was near the bottom of the list when it comes to firm-groomer performance. But as Luke said, when things are soft, the narrative changes….
Luke: On softer groomers, I had a very different experience on the Kartel 108. I was able to easily dig in the edges and carve medium- to large-radius turns. As I noted above, the Kartel 108 feels best when skiing with a neutral / centered stance, and that’s definitely true on groomers.
And because of its flex, rocker profile, and weight, skiing the Kartel 108 on soft groomers was a lot of fun. On soft snow, I didn’t notice any of the weird edgehold issues that I did on icy snow. At the same time, the Kartel 108’s generous rocker profile made it super easy to break free into slashes and skids, while its weight helped mute out inconsistencies in the snow. Once you commit to laying it over, the Kartel 108 does provide a decent amount of energy out of the turn, though there are better options in this class if you’re looking for a really dynamic carver.
The main change for the 18/19 Kartel 108 was the switch to what ON3P calls a “hybrid sidecut.” The 18/19 Kartel 108 and 96 feature an elliptical sidecut in the front of the ski and a traditional sidecut radius in the back of the ski. ON3P said this was done in an attempt to make the skis less hooky, and I can confirm that I never found the 18/19 Kartel 108 to feel hooky at all. That said, Jonathan Ellsworth and Cy Whitling also never found the 17/18 Kartel 108 to feel particularly hooky. But if you did, I can say that I haven’t had any feelings of hookiness with the 18/19 Kartel 108.
Joey: Similar to Luke, I found the Kartel 108 to be really fun on soft groomers. Thanks to its rocker profile and detune, I could break it free easily for slashes and spins. This also inspired confidence when landing somewhat off-line on little features or rolls because I wasn’t at all worried about hooking and edge and getting slammed to the ground. As far as carving, the Kartel 108 felt consistent and stable as long as the snow was soft. But like Luke said, the Kartel 108 certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for laying down tight, carved turns (especially if you’re not sure whether the snow will be soft all day).
Luke: In addition to slush (see next section), I think soft, choppy snow is where the Kartel 108 really sets itself apart from most other all-mountain freestyle skis. The Kartel 108 is fairly heavy at around 2230 grams, and it has a pretty strong flex pattern. This translates to a ski that feels significantly more stable than most other skis in its class when skiing through chop at speed.
Because I couldn’t really drive its shovels, I wasn’t able to ski the Kartel 108 quite as hard in chopped-up snow compared to more directional skis of similar weights. But compared to other skis with similarly forward mount points, the Kartel 108 feels very composed in choppy snow.
While I prefer to have the option of driving the shovels of my skis to keep them tracking in choppy snow, the benefit of the Kartel 108’s forward mount was that I got a super playful ski that felt perfectly at home seeking out denser piles of snow, boosting off of them, and then still having the weight and suspension to handle chopped-up runouts.
I think skiers that are used to skiing with a centered stance will find the Kartel 108’s stability in soft chop very impressive. Its fairly round flex pattern and nearly symmetrical rocker profile also made it very easy to stay centered, even when I got knocked back seat. The Kartel 108’s tail is very supportive on landings, but doesn’t feel punishing. This ski would be one of my top choices for moderate pow days (anywhere from 4-16”) at a resort like Snowbird or Revelstoke where there are plenty of things to jump off of, but you’ll also likely be skiing a lot of chop on the way back to the lift.
Sam: Even though I couldn’t drive the shovels of the Kartel 108, I was impressed by its stability in softer, chopped-up snow. The ski loses the stability that is inherently gained when driving hard through the fronts of your boots, but for a neutral-stance ski, I was very impressed. That said, I would really only recommend this ski to an advanced or expert skier that takes a very freestyle-oriented approach to the mountain. If you’re not seeking out stuff to jump off of, I think there are more versatile all-mountain skis.
Joey: As someone who skis with the kind of freestyle approach Sam just mentioned, I absolutely loved the Kartel 108 in soft chop. It was plenty stable and substantial when pointing it through chopped-up snow, but playful and poppy enough for when I wanted to blast off of something. The ski’s rocker profile, flex pattern, and mount point gave me tons of confidence on landing as well, even when coming down into slushy moguls or chunks. The Kartel 108 was damp enough on the runouts that I didn’t need to stay super light on my feet, yet springy enough to really take to the sky when I wanted to. The sidecut, detune, and rocker profile of the Kartel 108 all made for easy speed checks whenever and wherever I needed them.
Luke: I spent a day on the Kartel 108 at A-Basin where the snow was super soft and the groomers were littered with patches of slushy, set-up snow. The Kartel 108 basically felt ideal for these conditions. It did a great job of blowing through the slush, and it was a ton of fun to pop off of the many piles of snow. Plus, the Kartel 108’s rocker profile made it super easy to throw hard slashes and spray my friends, which is always a plus.
Joey: Couldn’t agree more. Almost as if they were designed specifically for slush. Or really, any type of wetter, heavier, denser snow.
Moguls / Tight Terrain
Luke: The Kartel 108 has a lot of tip and tail rocker, which makes it feel very maneuverable in tight spots. It’s easy to pivot and scrub speed, and the Kartel 108’s fairly strong flex pattern provides a nice blend of support and forgiveness in moguls. As we’ve noted a zillion times already, the Kartel 108 rewards a centered stance, so it’s not a great ski if you like to really drive the shovels of your skis into the troughs of moguls. But when it comes to pivoting and sliding your way through moguls, the Kartel 108 feels very intuitive.
It’s worth noting that the Kartel 108 does have a pretty strong tail, so while more directional skiers probably won’t notice this / mind this as much, skiers that are used to softer, freestyle-oriented skis might find the Kartel 108’s tail less forgiving of backseat skiing compared to softer skis.
Luke: It should come as no surprise that the Kartel 108 feels very playful and encourages a freestyle-oriented approach to the mountain. Its rocker profile allows for easy slashes and transitions between skiing forward and switch.
The Kartel 108 has a pretty strong flex pattern, so it’s not the easiest ski to butter and press. But just like Scott Nelson’s experience with the similarly-strong ON3P Magnus 102, once you put in the effort to really flex into the tips and tails of the Kartel 108, it rewards you with a lot of energy and pop. The rocker profile of the Kartel 108 also creates a specific leverage point to bend the ski, so once I got used to this, presses and nollies became easier and more intuitive.
As I noted above, the tail of the Kartel 108 felt noticeably stiffer than the tips / shovels. I really appreciated this when jumping off stuff since the strong midsection and tail of the ski offered a nice, supportive landing platform. But I did find it a bit more difficult to pop off the tails of the Kartel 108, whereas the tips of the ski were easier to nollie and press. I imagine that stronger and / or heavier skiers might not notice this quite as much.
In terms of swingweight, the Kartel 108 definitely isn’t the easiest ski to flick around. But when I took into account its fairly heavy weight, I was surprised by how light and balanced the Kartel 108 felt in the air.
Joey: While I do generally prefer skis with slightly softer tips and tails, it wasn’t impossible to butter or press on the Kartel 108. I certainly wasn’t able to flex them like a Line Blend or even as easily as the Faction Candide 3.0, but the tradeoff was a much more stable platform that didn’t get bucked every which way in choppy snow. And when it came to breaking the ski sideways, the Kartel 108 felt extremely playful, and at no point did it feel hooky or catchy. This ski really allowed me to smear out turns and come out of imperfect spins without worrying about my edges catching when it didn’t want them to.
Who’s It For?
Luke: I think the Kartel 108 is an excellent option for skiers who take a very playful approach to the mountain, but who are looking for a ski that offers a more stability than most other skis in the all-mountain freestyle category. If you ski with a centered stance and either (a) have another ski for firm days, or (b) are comfortable skidding turns when things get icy, the Kartel 108 is a great option. I think it’d be a really fun 1-ski quiver for areas that get a lot of snow, or as a soft-snow / powder ski for lower-snow areas.
Sam: I wouldn’t recommend the Kartel 108 as a 1-ski quiver to someone who lives in an area that doesn’t get a lot of snow, or someone with a more traditional skiing background / style. But if you’re a strong and playful skier that looks for any feature to pop off of, takes park laps, and generally plays around rather than just skiing directionally — then the Kartel 108 is super fun ski, especially for mountains that get a lot of snow.
Joey: The Kartel 108 seems to be best suited for a freestyle skier who wants a solid platform to land on, skis mostly soft snow, and doesn’t care too much about doing a bunch of really long presses or butters. While I didn’t get to take the Kartel 108 out in any fresh powder, the time I spent at A-Basin in late spring gives me the impression that it would be an amazing choice for someone that skis a lot of wet, heavy powder (e.g., Whistler, the PNW, etc) and really loves to make every little hip and hump into their kicker.
And if you’re looking for a similar ski that does even better in deep snow and chop, then you should definitely check out the Kartel 116.
The 18/19 ON3P Kartel 108 still sits near the very top of the all-mountain freestyle category when it comes to combining playfulness and stability. It’s not the best ski for firm snow or skiers that really like to drive the front of their skis, but the Kartel 108 is an excellent option for skiers that want to ski hard as they make their way between all the natural features the mountain has to offer.
NEXT: Rocker Profile Pics