The 2016 Kastle FX 95 HP Ski: High Price, Higher Quality // Ski Reviews
The name Kastle in the ski world is synonymous with high performance, handmade, advanced technology, and, in turn, a high price tag. Is it worth spending $1,200 on a pair of skis, you might ask? We had the chance to take a few runs on the new Kastle FX 95 HP this past February at the Copper ski test and set out to answer exactly that question.
Perhaps the first thing to note about the Kastle FX 95 HP is that it’s Chris Davenport’s pro model ski, boasting his signature right behind where your heel piece would be mounted. Without skiing it, or even looking at it, this tells us a lot about the ski. Chris is known for skiing extremely challenging, variable terrain in backcountry situations. Unlike most of the rest of us, if Chris makes a mistake on skis or if his equipment fails him, it could be a matter of life or death. So, without further investigation, we already know this is a ski in which Chris Davenport entrusts his life. Not a bad place to start.
Now let’s take a look at the shape. Kastle has affectionately nicknamed the FX 95 HP the “Sword” and makes claim that it’s a “true all mountain ski for nearly every day of the season.” Alright, “sword” suggests precision, power, and responsiveness, but the follow up statement gives evidence that Kastle has also designed the FX 95 HP to be extremely versatile as well. FX “95” refers to the skis waist width, which comes in at 95mm (all of Kastle’s skis feature their waist width in the name of the ski). At 181cm the turn radius is a nice 20m, not too big, and not so tiny that the skis become unstable. Combine this with a progressive radius, hook free shovel and tail design, a low camber/dual early rise profile, and Kastle’s industry leading materials and construction, and you’ve got a recipe for a pretty special ski.
The FX 95 HP has replaced the FX 94 in the Kastle line. If you’ve skied the FX 94 you might remember it as an aggressive frontside ski that demanded a lot from its driver when taken off piste. Sure, it might have been great for Chris Davenport, but many of us felt the ski was too difficult to manipulate turn shape resulting in a ski very similar to Kastle’s MX line and mostly at home on piste. The new FX 95 HP is a totally new concept from Kastle and performs significantly different than the older version. The FX 94 had a lot of camber and much less tip and tail rocker, meaning it was extremely responsive on piste, but was not very forgiving when taken into moguls, trees, or other off piste scenarios. The 95, however, has much less camber and noticeably more rocker (especially in the tail) providing a much more forgiving platform for variable terrain. To put it simply, it skis just like we all wanted the FX 94 to ski.
So, you’re an ex-GS racer who likes to mob around the mountain at Mach 4 and you’re reading this thinking, “I loved the FX 94, why did they have to dumb it down?” Well, rest assured you can still get out on the 95 and make high speed GS style turns. Despite the significant change in shape, the skis still absolutely rail when you want them to. They hold an edge through just about anything at whatever speed I felt comfortable enough to push them to, yet are much quicker and more nimble than their predecessor.
So, what did we think of the new, redesigned, FX 95 HP? If you had a chance to read our review of the new Blizzard Bonafide or if you’ve ever skied Copper Mountain chances are you’re somewhat familiar with the trail “Main Vein”. A blue square right in the center of the mountain, Main Vein has a bit of everything: a steep section to start things off with some optional ungroomed terrain on skier’s right, some cruising, rolling groomer pitches, and on a demo day when it’s being skied non-stop the end of the run funnels into a 20 foot wide section that’s essentially a sheet of skied off “ice”. To us, almost perfect testing conditions.
I skied the Kastle FX 95 HP towards the end of my second day on snow. Keep in mind, at this point I had skied about 20 different skis over the course of about 30 runs down Main Vein. So, to put it mildly, I was a combination of physically and mentally fatiqued, bored, and ultimately about ready to return to Silverthorne for Apres Ski. The FX 95 HP was like a triple shot of espresso with a direct release of endorphins. All of a sudden I went from being ready to stop skiing to taking arguably two of the most aggressive runs I had done in the past 48 hours. The first thing I noticed was the low swing weight on the FX 95 HP. For a ski with two sheets of metal it feels incredibly light. I played around with testing the swing weight on a couple hundred yard stretch of flatter terrain before the trail drops off into a steep pitch. It felt so light, I was somewhat nervous to send it into the ungroomed skier’s right side of Main Vein.
Despite my reservations from the weight, deep down inside I knew I had Kastles on my feet with two sheets of metal, so I charged into ungroomed, skied out, variable off piste terrain without taking a single speed check. This is where I was truly blown away. The new shape of the FX 95 HP is significantly more forgiving than its predecessor. It’s almost like the ski has a mind of its own and is adapting to different terrain before the skier has a chance to make their own adjustments. In moguls and variable off piste terrain it was extremely stable, yet felt playful and snappy. It was equally at home straight-lining through crud as it was making quick, slower speed, pivoting turns through the bumps. I love a ski that feels this way, as it opens up the entire mountain as your playground, and while skiing the FX 95 HP I couldn’t put my finger on a single ski that does it better.
After the steep ungroomed section of trail, Main Vein turns into rolling groomer terrain all the way to the base lodge. It was here I got to put the skis to the test on piste. With the changes to the shape from the FX 94 I’ll admit I was slightly worried the ski wouldn’t be as responsive and powerful as it used to be. Once again I was blown away by the skis performance. Like I said, it’s almost like the ski knows what type of terrain you’re on before you do (which brings up another question – did Kastle invent Transformers?). When you take the FX 95 HP on a groomer it almost feels like a wide GS ski when you want it to, but releases its edges easier than the FX 94, making it much more manageable for intermediate to advanced skiers. Where the FX 94 was enjoyed only by the upper echelon of skiers, the FX 95 HP will appeal to a much broader spectrum of ability levels. It essentially gives you whatever you put into it. No matter how hard I tried to get the ski to not hold an edge, it continuously surprised me. Especially towards the bottom of Main Vein where the snow had been skied off to basically ice, the FX 95 HP still held its edge, something I couldn’t confidently say about any other all mountain ski I tested.
So, to answer the ultimate question, is it worth spending $1,200 on a new pair of skis? To put it simply: Yes, it is. If you were to make a ratio of performance to price, in my opinion the Kastle FX 95 HP would be right up there among the highest scores, and maybe even the highest. It’s one of the only skis on the market that feels like a true all mountain ski with almost no drawbacks. You can rip groomers all day long, ski moguls, trees and other variable terrain, and, although I didn’t get a chance to test it, the 95mm waist width and camber rocker profile will provide plenty of float for skiers who don’t need a designated powder ski.