2016-2017 Kitten Factory – All Mountain, 185 cm
Available Lengths (cm): 165, 175, 185
Blister’s Measured Length (straight tape pull): 184.5 cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 124-105-121
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1944 & 1936 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius: 23.2 meters
Core Construction: Maple/Poplar + Carbon Fiber Stringers + Carbon Fiber Laminate
Tip / Tail Splay (ski decambered): 54 mm / 41 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: ~3 mm
Recommended Line: 3 cm behind “ski center”; ~90.2 cm from tail
Mount Location: -1 cm from Recommended Line
Boots / Bindings: Roxa X-Face 120 & Fischer TransAlp / Tyrolia Aaattack 13, G3 Ion
Test Location: Jumbo Hut, BC; Grand Targhee & Teton Pass, WY
Days Skied: 15[Editor’s Note: This review was conducted on the 15/16 version of the All Mountain, which returns unchanged for 16/17 except for graphics.]
While the name “Kitten Factory” may conjure up images of pink Hello Kitty skis, the Salt Lake City based brand is actually quite serious about making high-performance carbon fiber skis. At SIA we were impressed with their lineup, and gave a ‘Dying to Try It’ award to their touring ski, the Tours Lite (review coming soon).
I’ve been skiing KF’s 105mm-underfoot ski, the “All Mountain,” for the last month as a daily driver—both for resort skiing and backcountry touring, which is exactly what the All Mountain is intended for:
“Designed to do it all, the All Mountain is your perfect one ski quiver. Straight Carbon Layup in conjunction with the cruiser weight cores allows this ski to be light enough for a long day of touring, but strong and stable enough to go bell to bell at your local resort.”
There are two important phrases in Kitten Factory’s description of the All Mountain:
(a) They call it a “perfect one ski quiver”
(b) They say it’s “light enough for a long day of touring, but strong and stable enough to go bell to bell at your local resort”
Yep, the All Mountain is exactly what we call a “50/50” ski, designed to handle both resort and backcountry duties.
On the spectrum of similarly-wide all-mountain skis, The Metal from J Skis sits on the resort end of the spectrum—it’s a great all mountain ski for someone who is spending all of their time riding lifts, but at 2300+ grams per ski, it is heavier than most backcountry skiers would like. On the other end of the spectrum sit “all-mountain” touring skis like the Kitten Factory Tours Lite and the Line Sick Day Tourist 102, very light skis (roughly 1600 – 1750 grams per ski) that give up some performance in variable conditions for efficiency on the skin track.
The Kitten Factory All Mountain sits somewhere in the middle, which is something that’s very attractive to me (and a lot of other skiers out there, I think, who are looking for a single setup to use both inbounds and out). I spend a little over half my time touring, but I don’t love the downhill performance of most touring skis, and I like the idea of a one ski quiver that can handle a range of inbounds conditions without being a drag on the skin track.
What sets the All Mountain apart from a lot of other skis in this 50/50 class is its more centered mount point (recommended is -3 cm) and semi-twin shape. I ski with a pretty upright stance, and prefer more centered skis. I love to pivot and slash my way around the mountain—whether I’m skiing in the resort or the backcountry.
So I started out on the All Mountain with G3 Ion 12 bindings, then after 6 days, switched over to Tyrolia AAAttack 13 bindings to put them through the inbounds grinder.
The All Mountain is no noodle. The tips are the softest portion of the ski, and are just a little stiffer than the tips of The Metal from J Skis, which Jonathan classified as a 6-7. The All Mountain stiffens up underfoot significantly to an 8-9, and then backs off in the tails to a 7-8. But the tails are still significantly stiffer than the tips.
Overall there aren’t any major hinge points in the ski—the flex ramps up from the tips to the center in a consistent manner.
The All Mountain arrived the weekend before heading up to the Jumbo Pass hut, along with the Kitten Factory Tours Lite. While the Tours Lite seemed like the obvious choice for this trip, I wanted to mount them up with Dynafit Speed Turn bindings to use with the Fischer Travers Carbon, and since I was just starting to use that boot, I wasn’t comfortable taking it up for a weekend of skiing in a totally new area.
A less-than-great snow forecast meant that I opted to mount G3 Ion 12s on the All Mountain to use with my Fischer TransAlp boots. I mounted the Ions at -1 from the recommended mark to (a) help with powder performance and to (b) leave room to mount alpine bindings further forward; took a quick lap up Teton Pass to make sure everything worked; and then hit the road to Canada.
At Jumbo, we were met with an impressive storm that wouldn’t stop, and we woke up every morning to find our tracks from the day before totally buried. I was a little dismayed because the All Mountain is the stiffest, skinniest ski I’ve been on this winter, and I was worried how it would handle this much snow. But as soon as I dropped into my first untracked bowl, my concerns evaporated. For its width, the All Mountain does a great job in deep, soft snow. The significant tip rocker helps it plane up well, and I had no issues with tip dive during the gladed, hippie-pow skiing we enjoyed for most of the trip.
However, it’s important to make a distinction here. For lower speed, tighter turning pow skiing, that calls for a more centered stance, the All Mountain does just fine. However, on steeper, or more open pitches, when I weighed the tips and tried to make bigger turns at higher speeds, the tips sank and bogged down.
This was reiterated this last week at Targhee when a late storm dropped a foot of slightly denser snow. On my first run I headed out to Patrol chutes, but found that in the open terrain at high speeds, I just wasn’t getting the float I needed to make big, arcing turns and drive the tips of the skis.
The next run I dipped into the wooded area between The Bad and The Ugly and immediately felt much more at home. The All Mountain’s exceptionally light swing weight make it easy to slash stashes and pop off miniature pillows that I’d never even considered hitting in this familiar zone.
If your days are regularly spent going fast and making giant slalom turns on open faces in deep pow, a wider ski will suite you much better. However, if your pow days are spent milking every possible slash and hit from tight terrain, in shallower snow, the All Mountain complements that sort of style very well.
NEXT: Groomers, Crud, Etc.