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Kästle

Today’s Kästle has adopted one of skiing’s venerable names, but behaviorally the skis they are crafting in the present share zero DNA with the skis the brand made in the past.  We know whereof we speak because we skied the Austrian Kästles of thirty years ago and they were beastly things to bend.  (Kästle also formerly concocted all kinds of cockamamie skis, too numerous to mention here, including the hilarious, hollow-core B-52. But we digress.) 

Where their flagship skis of yore demanded total commitment from a well-conditioned athlete, today’s Kästles couldn’t be more amenable. Okay, the fattest BMX models do take some persuading to tip and turn, but there’s nothing in the past to compare them to as such Powder skis were non-existent twenty years ago. 

Kästle isn’t embarrassed to charge a premium for their sticks, nor should they be. They invest a premium in assuring an exquisite finish, a vital ingredient many so-called boutique brands overlook.  Their exceptional on-hill comportment is attributable to far more than just a well-polished edge, however; they flow downhill like a molten, slippery liquid, clinging to terrain. Like parting lovers, each passionate embrace ends suddenly, only to be repeated in the next moment. They impart a sense of security as dependable as a mother’s love, always supporting and encouraging their charges to excel. They’re able to deliver these sensual sensations because Kästle don’t skimp on construction quality and they’ve figured out how to marry a fairly forgiving longitudinal flex – the better to adapt to terrain - to sufficient torsional rigidity to hold on granite. To which we say, bravo.

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2016 Addendum

If any brand in the world could have sat on a pat hand, it was Kästle. But their management knew their collection had created overlap in some areas while neglecting obvious opportunities in others, so they made serious changes to their FX and BMX families. The net effect was to tie these two off-piste-oriented clans closer together (they share a common construction), while making them demonstrably different from Kästle’s all-world MX models.

However hazy the boundaries might have been between previous MX, FX and BMX series, that fog has lifted.

While the MX and FX models appear to overlap, with FX models down to 85mm (underfoot) and MX models available up to 98mm, were you to ski them side-by-side you wouldn’t notice much family resemblance. The focused MX models still cut hard snow with the precision of a mohel, while the laid-back FX family chills on the accuracy obsession, assuming an air of nonchalance befitting their soft-snow, freeride orientation.

The obvious opportunity Kästle had overlooked during their renaissance was making non-metal versions of the off-trail FX and BMX models. In the off-piste world, metal is often perceived as more liability than benefit, so Kästle created two classes of these series: HP, designating the presence of two sheets of Titanal in the ski’s lay-up, and a lighter clone of the same ski without the metal, HP suffix or cough-inducing price tag.

While we don’t want to create the impression that Kästle has abandoned their principles, the new FX and BMX models are significant departures from their immediate ancestors. There’s more of a Finesse flavor to the FX family, even the HP versions, and the “B” in BMX doesn’t stand for “barge” anymore.

The other notable debut from Kästle this season is the CPM 82, marrying the softer flex of the LX 82 construction to the greasy smoothness of carbon to create a luxury cruiser that could bear the Mercedes nameplate.

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In-depth reviews of 12 models—with key performance ratings ( ? ) and genre model comparisons ( ? ) —are in our member section

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RX12

traditional

Power:  A

Finesse:  B

Sidecut:  118/70/100
Radius:  16.5m @ 176cm
Lengths:  160,168,176,184
Weight:  1900g @ 176cm
MSRP:  $1399

This review is based on 2014 test results; the ski is unchanged.

rx 12

Stability at speed and a balance between power and forgiveness are quintessential properties in a race ski.  They also happen to be the defining traits of the Kästle RX12, a hybrid that eschews specialization for a more ecumenical behavioral profile. 

Which is a fancy way of saying it makes you feel great without extracting a high toll for the experience. Like a decathlete, the RX12 isn’t the quickest or strongest, but possesses a blend of athletic attributes that together make it a champion. Our test model was a mere 168cm, but it held up bravely under skiers both powerful and ponderous, earning high marks for stability at speed. 

Easy to manage and unflappable in the face of adversity, the RX 12 rides like a limo with fast-twitch reflexes. “It was ready for anything,” lauded the Dude, the alias of our XXL evaluator.

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LX72

traditional

Power:  A

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  117/72/99
Radius:  14.5m @ 162cm
Lengths:  146, 154, 162, 170
Weight:  1470g @ 162cm
MSRP:  $1079

This review is based on 2014 test results; the ski is unchanged.

lx 72

The realskiers testers who fill out the bulk of our Kästle test cards each season have been skiing and selling the brand for years, and while familiarity has hardly bred contempt, it has engendered a slightly distorted, insider’s view of the brand.

Testers always have in their heads a benchmark performance level established by what is for them a reference ski. In the Kästle line the reference ski is often the MX83, which sets such a high bar that to our testers the lighter weight LX72 skis like a great intermediate’s model. 

It’s a lot more than that, with all the stability inherent in two 5mm sheets of titanal on board and all the prompt response of a full-camber ski in a tidy 14.5m (162cm) sidecut. Its supple overall flex reacts to minimal loading, a boon to the Finesse skier, and the tip is made to engage the turn the moment its petite pilot makes a move.  Its high taper angle (tip width minus tail width) lets the ski release the edge naturally and the rounded tail geometry ensures the turn transition is smooth.

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new for 2016CPM82

traditional

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  125/82/109
Radius:  16m @ 172cm
Lengths:  156,164,172,180
Weight:  1725g @ 172cm
MSRP:  $1499

cpm 82

It’s indubitably redundant to refer to any Kästle as a luxury model, but in a fleet of sweet rides, the CPM 82 stands out for its cultivation and manners. 

One wowed tester pegged it: “Gents ski with power.”  Another awe-struck assessment praised its “clean carve and HUGE sweet spot!” While the CPM82 is pitched as perfect for groomers, it’s “still good in crud and powder up to the knee,” as one western tester proclaimed.  Lou from the Sport Loft was smitten: “Skied incredibly stable, even in a short length. [All testers were on a 172cm.]  Easy to make any turn type or get after it.”

From figure-8’s to figure-11’s, the CPM82 oozes ease and grace under pressure. Skiers with well-developed carving skills will feel like they do when they ski in their dreams, where every turn is effortless.  As another of our cohort confided, “it makes me feel invincible in everything.”

The CPM82 inspires these epiphanies by maintaining traditional values. Its classic camber line runs from tip to tail, as does the single-radius sidecut.  Unlike the MX 83 that shares the CPM 82’s bloodlines, the latter doesn’t need 40-mph-worth of energy in its carbon veins to engineer a silky, short turn.  Every move it makes is executed with the innate skill of the natural athlete so its pilot doesn’t have to be one to look and feel like one.

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MX83

traditional

Power:  A++

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  125/83/109
Radius:  18m @ 173cm
Lengths:  153,163,173,183
Weight:  1890g in 173cm
MSRP:  $1249

mx 83

Last season, the MX83 received a ridiculous, implausibly high score.  This year it went up.

If the best ski earns the best score, then the MX 83 must be the best ski. Its score percentages are higher than the winning vote margins of African dictators. Most testers who rate it have skied it before; they ski it every year, if only to experience, one more time, what it must be like to ski like a god.

Naturally the MX83 holds like an electromagnet on ice; one expects this from the best Frontside skis and the MX83 doesn’t disappoint.  Somehow it also manages to flow over irregular terrain like it was a liquid instead of a solid. This is how a Frontside ski earns silly-high marks for off-piste performance:  when it’s confronted with deep snow it burrows to the bottom and skis that surface like the loose stuff on top wasn’t there.

This is where we’d normally insert a pithy tester quote that illuminates the special sensation of riding the ski, but the comments on the MX 83 are all slight variations on the same theme, something on the order of, “The finest ski I’ve ever skied, forgiving yet holds like a race ski.”  If you want to read more of the same, just read the last sentence again.

When one distills what makes the MX83 so great down to its essence, it’s the ski’s innate ability to impart confidence bordering on invulnerability.  No matter where you go or how fast you go, you feel as though nothing could knock you off your feet, ever.  Giddy up.

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LX82

traditional

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  127/82/109
Radius:  16m @ 172cm
Lengths:  156, 164, 172, 180
Weight:  1750g @ 172cm
MSRP:  $1179

This review is based on 2014 test results; the ski is unchanged.

lx 82

If you’ve ever skied the unisex MX83, the LX2 feels like you got to the party just as it was breaking up. If you’ve never skied a Kästle before in your life, the LX 82 will make skiing feel so simple you’ll wonder why some poor punters appear to struggle. 

The LX 82 puts great skiing at the toe-tips of previously underperforming participants. Rather than kowtow to convention, the LX 82 not only doesn’t rocker the tip, it touts a “Fast Grip Shovel” that is on edge before you realize it. Despite an end-to-end camber line, the LX82 doesn’t ask a lot of muscle from its mistress to compress it, helping the ski earn a podium finish for the best balance of Finesse (ease of use) and Power (technical properties). 

If the LX82 were any easier to steer it wouldn’t require a pilot at all. (Please don’t tell Google.)  The referenced MSRP includes a Tyrolia binding with a DIN scale that tops out at 11, which should be more than sufficient, but another 20 bucks will ensure a top setting you’ll positively never need.

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new for 2016FX85

rocker

Power:  A

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  119/85/108
Radius:  17m @ 173cm
Lengths:  157,165,173,181
Weight:  1700g @ 173cm
MSRP:  $849

fx85

When Kästle overhauled the FX line this year, they took pains to differentiate it from their MX models.  The new FX85 doesn’t ski anything like any MX model you may have ever essayed.  The FX85 is built more for comfort than for speed.  Compared to the MX 88 or its new big brother, the FX85 HP, the tenacity of its edge grip is more relaxed in every phase of the turn. 

What the FX85 surrenders in power it makes up for in ease of operation.  While its identical test scores for Power and Finesse would indicate that the FX85 offers the “perfect blend of balance/finesse!” as one tester exulted, in fact, its metal-free construction is clearly geared for lower speeds and lighter pressure. 

One of the hallmark properties of an All-Mountain East ski is that it should encourage off-piste exploration.  The FX85 follows rumpled terrain without bucking and its “hook-free” tail allows for “easy release in the bumps,” according to Bob Gleason of The Boot Doctors, who skis in Telluride where bumps are ubiquitous.

While an MSRP of $849 wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at another brand, at Kästle it amounts to a fire sale. (Note the $1,299 MSRP on the MX 88.)  The relatively low price corresponds to a skier of less-than-perfect skills.  As one perspicacious tester opined, “a good ski for the Type II skier transitioning to Type III – it will teach them to ski well.”

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MX88

traditional

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  128/88/113
Radius:  20m @ 178cm
Lengths:  158,168,178,188
Weight:  2090g @ 178cm
MSRP:  $1299

mx 88

If you wish to remain content with your current skis, we strongly advise that you not take a run on the Kästle MX88.  It will ruin your life, unless until you acquire the courage to tell your significant other that you plan to spend part of the college fund on your next pair of skis.

Just look at those test scores.  They reveal a ski that is more connected to the earth than topsoil.  In an era when many performance skis are so rockered they retain only a sliver of contact underfoot, the MX88’s traditional camber line grabs the turn at the top and won’t let go.  Okay, short-radius turns aren’t so quick to snap off, but with the Buddha-like calm the MX88 exhibits at speed, why would you want to make short-radius turns?

A note of caution about the 88’s off-the-charts rating for Finesse.  The scores that have elevated the MX88 to the top of the All-Mountain East rankings for 3 seasons in a row are turned in by talented skiers who are as comfortable at speed as the skis are.  Note that we don’t list the MX88 among the Finesse winners even though it tallied the highest aggregate Finesse score; it is first and forever a Power ski that rewards the expert skier for having developed the talent needed to turn it loose. 

One amusing quality of the MX88 that it takes an expert to appreciate is its approach to off-trail conditions. Forget trying to float; the MX88 doesn’t try to skim over crud but contemptuously, defiantly smashes through it.  If as a kid you liked blowing things up, you’ll love the way the MX88 seems to detonate every snowdrift it encounters. 

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new for 2016FX85 HP

rocker

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  119/85/108
Radius: 17m @ 173cm
Lengths:  157,165,173,181
Weight:  1820g @ 173m
MSRP:  $999

fx 85 hp

The new FX85 HP’s appearance alongside the MX88 at the top of our Power rankings doesn’t mean the two skis are similar; in fact, aside from both being made from wood and metal, they couldn’t be much more different. 

Compared to the MX88, the FX85 HP (the HP suffix denotes the presence of two sheets of Titanal) is narrower, lighter, and most significantly, has a different tip and tail geometry and baseline.  Let’s take a closer look at how the FX85 HP’s defining traits contribute to a personality that begs to be driven off-road.

By narrowing the overall silhouette and reducing the degree of shapeliness in the forebody, the FX85 HP is more likely to plane evenly through choppy, 3D snow conditions.  The longer taper to the tip (“Progressive Rise” is Kästle’s term of art) makes it less reactive in loose snow as does the extended rocker along the baseline.  The tail is likewise rockered and tapered so it releases more readily and won’t get hung up in tight spots.  Lighter weight (within reason) is generally a benefit in soft snow as it makes the skis easier to pivot.

Another ingredient in the Kästle cookbook is Hollowtech 2.0, their signature tip design that reduces mass and mitigates the tip flap that is the bane of all rockered skis.  This improves performance on soft, groomed runs to such a degree that were it not for a slight pause getting connected at the top of the turn, you’d swear you were arcing a technical carving ski.  But its true calling lies elsewhere. Quick enough for bumps and smeary enough for crud, the FX85 HP’s skill set is best adapted to off-piste conditions.

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new for 2016FX95

rocker

Power:  A

Finesse:  A

Sidecut:  126/95/115
Radius:  20m @ 181cm
Lengths:  165,173,181,189
Weight:  2000g @ 181cm
MSRP:  $1049

fx 95

Kästle has completely redesigned their all-terrain FX series this season, eliminating any perceived overlap with their MX or BMX collections.  It only takes one run on the new FX95 to realize it’s not even closely related to the MX 98 that also appears in this genre.  (You’ll find it at the top of our Power Picks.) 

Nor does it ski much like the FX94 that preceded it or its stouter twin, the FX 95 HP, mainly because both of these skis sport two sheets of Titanal under the hood.  Without metal to settle it down at the high end of the recreational speed range, the FX95 loses points for the tenacity of its edge grip but it gains ground in the ease-of-use department for it takes less effort to bend it at the speeds most skiers travel.

Skiers more interested in cruising than charging will find the FX95 is geared for their world.  Even with a 20m radius sidecut it’s softer flex allows it to cut a shorter radius turn without protest.  Unlike Kästle’s narrower models, the FX95 is more predisposed to scrub a turn than carve it, which raises the ski’s off-piste potential while sapping its strength on hard, firm snow.

Which is exactly what one should anticipate from a ski that’s rockered at tip and tail, has relatively little camber underfoot and also tapers the extremities so they have no hope of suddenly hooking up at the top or bottom of a turn.  When one tallies all the design features meant to make the FX95 swim like Michael Phelps, it’s amazing it feels as connected as it does on groomers.

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MX98

traditional

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  132/98/117
Radius:  27m @ 184cm
Lengths:  174,184,194
Weight:  2275g @ 184cm
MSRP:  $1349

mx 98

There’s no way the MX98 should ski as well as it does, which is just about perfectly. 

First of all, there’s its baseline, which is as traditional as turkey at Thanksgiving in a category overrun with tofu-loving, New Age rockered tips and tails.  How can it smear across the broken snow that is the expected diet of this category?  While we’re posing the question, the MX98 is already gone for it doesn’t care about the question, the answer or any doubts about its capabilities.  Just watch me, says the MX98.  Try to keep up.

Every other ski in this genre makes some effort to be lighter.  Ha, snorts the MX 98, flexing its Titanal abs, each .5mm thick. Skis with a 27m turn radius can’t be capable of short turns, can they?  Just watch, says the MX98, and dammit if it can’t do those, too. Every other ski in the All-Mountain West world makes some accommodation for new snow conditions in addition to its girth.  The MX98 regards such concessions as a sign of weakness.  When it finds two feet of cut-up crud in its path, it simply blasts it out of the effing way.

Just about every tester who tried the MX98 over the last two seasons has begged for a pair on his test card, in pleading, I’ll-do-anything tones, as if we possessed the power to grant their wishes.  We’ll be happy to plead your case, gentlemen… as long as we get a pair first.  Yeah, they’re that good.

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new for 2016FX95 HP

rocker

Power:  A

Finesse:  A

Sidecut:  126/95/115
Radius:  20m @ 181cm
Lengths:  165,173,181,189
Weight:  2140g @ 181cm
MSRP:  $1199

fx 95 hp

The new FX95 HP is best appreciated by understanding where it fits into the Kästle line-up. 

Skiers who want optimal hard snow performance in a wider ski belong on the MX 98; skiers who want a softer ski that responds to a lighter touch and sinks readily into a short radius turn should opt for the lighter FX95.  The FX95 HP is for the off-piste skier who likes to step on the gas.

The FX95 HP can be forgiven for avoiding hard snow, slow speeds and short, mincing turns because it’s aces at everything else.  As The Boot Doctor’s Bob Gleason enthused, “No speed limit!  Strong, accurate arc.  Has big mountain feel with Frontside precision.  A strong skier’s tool box,” he concludes, and we concur.

Any time a manufacturer offers two nearly identical models, one with Titanal laminates and one without, it’s not pre-ordained that the metal ski will have a better overall balance of Finesse and Power properties. (For example, the Cham 107 HM proved a more manageable – and marketable – model than its metal counterpart.)  But in the case of the new FX95’s, the HP (with metal) has a clear performance edge over the FX95 (reviewed under our Finesse Favorites).  With a price difference of “only” $150, the FX 95 HP delivers more bang for the buck.

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new for 2016BMX105 HP

rocker

Power:  A+

Finesse:  A+

Sidecut:  134/105/123
Radius:  21m @ 181cm
Lengths:  173,181,189
Weight:  2270g @ 181cm
MSRP:  $1149

bmx 105 hp

Kästle totally re-vamped both their FX and BMX series for this season, tying the two lines together like never before.  Both series are now manufactured at the same facility, use the same construction and between them cover every ski width from 85mm to 115mm. 

The HP in the model name denotes the inclusion of two sheets of Titanal, which give the BMX105 HP the extra oomph that appeals to experts.  It doesn’t earn high marks for Finesse because it likes to make small, slow turns; quite the contrary.  The ease with which it skis derives from the way it leans into a soft berm or a sodden wall of slush with the same insouciance.

We wouldn’t characterize the BMX105 HP as a crutch for the timid soul but as a weapon for a bomber. Sure there’s tail rise so it let’s go of a turn more easily and progressive rise in the forebody so it can’t get tripped up in the tip, but underfoot it still would rather carve than smear.

But while the BMX105 HP has some carving capacity, it’s nowhere close to any of Kästle’s MX models in this department.  It's made to travel off the beaten path and that’s where we recommend you keep it.

Scored on 1.00 to 10.00 scale:

early to edge
continuous, accurate carve
rebound/turn finish
stable and accurate at speed
short-radius turns
low speed turns
drift and scrub
off-piste performance
forgiveness/ease
finesse vs. power balance
race
technical ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
frontside ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
all-mountain east ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
all-mountain west ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
big mountain ( ♂ ~ ♀ )
powder