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Kastle FX96 W - Women's Review

Accurate and easy to carve, this ski is a dream on the groomers
kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review
Credit: Kastle
Price:  $899 List
Manufacturer:   Kastle
By Renee McCormack ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 14, 2022
75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 14
  • Stability at Speed - 20% 8.0
  • Carving Ability - 20% 10.0
  • Powder Performance - 20% 6.0
  • Crud Performance - 20% 7.0
  • Terrain Playfulness - 15% 7.0
  • Bumps - 5% 4.0

Our Verdict

Our testers knew from the first warm-up turns on the Kastle FX96 W that it would take home our Top Pick for Carving award, overtaking the position from the Blizzard Black Pearl 88. The moment we set this ski on the narrowest of edges, it grabbed hold of the snow and initiated its trajectory across the piste. The edge engages with ease and, once locked on, will not release without concerted effort. This makes carving on groomers a pure joy. Its inability to flatten and pivot, however, makes mogul skiing trickier. The Kastle is a strong ski with solid construction, yet this stability is not out of reach even for intermediate skiers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay afloat in powder well enough to compete as a truly versatile ski, though it still manages decently and also performs well in crud. If you love laying down fresh clean tracks on groomed runs, this ski makes an excellent companion - just don’t expect that it will do everything else as well as it carves.
REASONS TO BUY
Carving machine
Powerful yet accessible
REASONS TO AVOID
Sinks a little in powder
Too beefy for bumps

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $898.95 at Backcountry
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$750 List
$749.95 at REI
$650 List
$649.95 at REI
$679 List$739.00 at Amazon
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Pros Carving machine, powerful yet accessibleCrud blaster, dependable, great one-ski quiver option, good for every ability levelAwesome powder tool, fabulous fun factor even for light skiers, affordable priceGreat stability at high speeds, good on hard snow and crud, more affordable than othersSuperbly stable at high speeds, great edge hold
Cons Sinks a little in powder, too beefy for bumpsNo wow-factor, not a lot of reboundGets bouncy in crud, slight tip flap, doesn’t carve perfectlyOnly for shallower pow days, needs strong skier to guide themToo burly for lighter gals, not nimble
Bottom Line Accurate and easy to carve, this ski is a dream on the groomersA great all-rounder ski that we think is the most versatile option for a one-ski quiverA fun and responsive toy for powder days, groomer antics, and bumps, with a value-oriented price tagThis model will do great in everything but the deepest powder and is ideal for an aggressive skierA good choice for hard-charging speed demons that still performs decently off-piste
Rating Categories Kastle FX96 W - Wom... Nordica Santa Ana 98 Elan Ripstick 94 W Faction Dictator 2.0X Volkl Secret 96
Stability at Speed (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
Carving Ability (20%)
10.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Powder Performance (20%)
6.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
Crud Performance (20%)
7.0
9.0
5.0
9.0
7.0
Terrain Playfulness (15%)
7.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
Bumps (5%)
4.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
3.0
Specs Kastle FX96 W - Wom... Nordica Santa Ana 98 Elan Ripstick 94 W Faction Dictator 2.0X Volkl Secret 96
Waist Width 96 mm 98 mm 94 mm 96 mm 96 mm
Sidecut (Tip-Waist-Tail width) 133-96-119 mm 132-98-120 mm 136-94-110 mm 127-96-117 mm 135-96-119 mm
Available Lengths 156, 164, 172 cm 151, 158, 165, 172, 179 cm 154, 162, 170, 178 cm 155, 163, 171, 175, 179, 183, 187 cm 149, 156, 163, 170 cm
Length Tested 172 cm 172 cm 178 cm 171 cm 170 cm
Turn Radius 16 m 16.3 m 18 m 18 m 16 m
Camber Profile Progressive rise, dual rise, low camber Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot Rocker tip and tail, cambered inside edge, Amphibio tech Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot Rocker tip and tail, camber underfoot
Weight Per Pair 8.0 lbs 8.1 lbs 7.4 lbs 7.9 lbs 8.5 lbs
Construction Type Powerzone, sandwich-sidewall construction Energy Ti W SST sidewall Sandwich Full sidewall
Core Material Paulownia, beech, poplar Performance Wood & Metal Tubelite wood Paulownia & Poplar Beech and poplar
Ability Level Intermediate-Expert Intermediate-Expert Intermediate-Expert Advanced-Expert Advanced-Expert

Our Analysis and Test Results

With heavy-duty construction and superior edge hold, the Kastle FX96 W is a beast on both steep terrain and while carving clean lines down groomed runs. It is one of our favorite all-mountain skis for women when it comes to pure carving performance.

Performance Comparison


kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review - we loved the powerful edge hold and steadiness we felt while...
We loved the powerful edge hold and steadiness we felt while blasting down the mountain on the Kastle FX 96 W.
Credit: Nate Greenberg

Stability at Speed


While at first, we were a bit disappointed in this new women’s version of a once-powerful unisex ski, after we stepped back for some perspective we realized that this ski is still a rock-solid beast. Compared to the old Kastle FX95 HP (in the days when the manufacturer didn’t differentiate between genders, they just made skis for “humans”), the FX96 W feels like a slightly shriveled and diluted version. However, when examined next to the other skis in our test group, this women’s Kastle soars to near the top of this metric. We couldn’t quite award it the highest honors in this category, but it isn’t far off.


There is little to no tip-flap on the FX96 W, and the edge hold is exceptional. It instills loads of confidence that - even at top speed - the edges will grip, the flex pattern will remain consistent, and there will be no unpredictable movements. As long as you don’t expect the mind-blowing stability of the old unisex Kastles, this ski still blows the direct competition out of the frozen water.

kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review - with a pristine, stable edge hold and a keen ability to carve, the...
With a pristine, stable edge hold and a keen ability to carve, the Kastle is a joy for ripping early morning groomer laps.
Credit: Nate Greenberg

Weight


Coming in at 8.0 pounds per pair, the Kastle FX96 W lands in the middle of our women's skis test lineup when it comes to weight.



While there's not a direct correlation between weight and stability at speed, the Kastle's weight, combined with its superior edge hold and relative stiffness, provides confidence-inspiring stability and control.

Carving Ability


From the get-go, our testers all agreed the Kastle was born to carve. At the slightest inclination, this ski digs in the edge and holds on with all its might - and its might is impressive. The Kastle is our hands-down winner in the category of carving; no other ski in the review compares to it in this metric.


This attribute also has a downside, however, which is that it does not prefer to be flat, or off-edge, and therefore does not lend itself to easy skidding or buttery, pivoty turns. It, therefore, performs less well in tight trees or moguls. If your greatest joy while skiing comes from laying down crisply bowed tracks on smooth snow, there is no better performer in our Women’s All Mountain Ski review for this task.

kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review - the kastle feels born to lock edges, stay engaged, and carve clean...
The Kastle feels born to lock edges, stay engaged, and carve clean lines.
Credit: Nate Greenberg

Turn Radius


With a modest 96-millimeter waist and a true-to-feel 16-meter turn radius, the FX96 W not only carves exceptionally well but also quickly — zipping through a fairly tight turn and then immediately reacting to the edge change to shift direction without a pause. It feels like the ski was built for this purpose, and little to no effort must be exerted to cleanly arc two tracks in the snow.


The Kastle's 16-meter turn radius is among the smallest of all the skis in our lineup, further propelling this ski into the piste-carving beast that wins one of our top awards.

Powder Performance


Unfortunately, the Kastle did not impress us in fresh powder conditions. This Kastle model is better suited for high-speed groomers and carved turns on the firm snow surface rather than the depths of soft, deep powder.


In addition, the less prominent rocker in the tip - which contributes to greater stability at speed - leads to the front of the ski tending to dive beneath the surface. It feels a bit too heavy to skim lightly over the top of fresh snow.

kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review - while the kastle does fine in 6 inches of powder or less, much...
While the Kastle does fine in 6 inches of powder or less, much deeper and it doesn't float as well as other skis in the review.
Credit: Nate Greenberg

Waist Width


96 millimeters is not a ton of width with which to create buoyancy, and the FX96 W doesn’t float particularly well in soft, deep powder as a result.


While it still performs better in the deep than many skinnier, on-piste-oriented skis, it does not compete well within our overall test group.

Crud Performance


There was a bit of disagreement in this terrain regarding the Kastle’s performance, and we came to the conclusion that it depends a little on how one uses the tool at hand. If you can manage to keep the ski on edge, rather than attempting to flatten and skid it, then the Kastle does a decent job of slicing powerfully through chunky snow. This does require both confidence and speed, however, to achieve.


On the other hand, if you aren’t comfortable enough to arc a high edge angle with momentum through tough terrain, then the ski gives a bouncy ride when ridden flat. It isn’t damp enough - if you’re trying to pivot and skid - for rough terrain. For those just on the cusp of breaking into off-piste conditions, this ski might not be the perfect companion. However, for those with the skills (or just the drive) to turn things up a bit, the Kastle will support you here and provide an exciting ride through the chop.

kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review - our testers were torn about the kastle's crud performance, but they...
Our testers were torn about the Kastle's crud performance, but they agreed that you get out of it what you put in. An aggressive approach rewards; a more timid one feels rocky.
Credit: Nate Greenberg

Terrain Playfulness


Similar to the previous Kastle model we tested, and to the other stiffer skis in our review such as the Volkl Secret 96, this Kastle is not “fun” in the traditional sense of the word. However, in the same vein as these other strong skis, the confidence it lends to go fast and take chances offers its own type of exhilaration. There is also a special joy derived from arcing the perfect carved turn at will. It feels a bit lighter underfoot than the burliest skis in our review, and certainly doesn’t mind getting into the air. Plus, the landing is always secure.


The rebound is more pronounced on this Kastle FX96 W model than in the old unisex version, and again, more noticeable than in the stiffest skis in our test group. That little extra spring-back at the end of each turn surprised us given how beefy it skis at speed. The Kastle moves from edge to edge very quickly, which adds to the sensation of zip in this metric.

kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review - the stability we felt on landings and the joy it brings while...
The stability we felt on landings and the joy it brings while carving make the Kastle a fun ski, though it isn't as light as many others.
Credit: Nate Greenberg

Bumps


The FX96 W is not built for the bumps. It doesn’t feel agile enough for this tight terrain.


While the edge change is rapid on the Kastle, it is very literal in this task and prefers to change directly from edge to edge, rather than stopping on a flat ski in between. Thus, it is difficult to pivot and smear through the snug spaces of a mogul field.

kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review - the kastle feels a bit too lumbering to be at home in a mogul field.
The Kastle feels a bit too lumbering to be at home in a mogul field.
Credit: Nate Greenberg

Should You Buy the Kastle FX96 W?


We think the Kastle, while expensive, is a worthy instrument for the skier who loves to carve clean turns above all, and who is already a competent upper-intermediate. While the high-performing assets of the Kastle are more accessible to all abilities than on some high-end skis, in order to truly make the cost worthwhile, it would be best to already know how to carve and be comfortable with a little speed, on both groomers and off-piste conditions. For the carve-turn queen, this ski is a gem.

What Other Women's All-Mountain Skis Should You Consider?


The high price point of the Kastle FX96 W might encourage some shoppers to search for versatility in the ski, hoping to make this their one-ski-quiver. It, unfortunately, misses the mark on that front. However, if you’re someone who craves clean lines on fresh groomers, the workmanship and precision of this ski are worth the cost - even if you end up wanting to buy a different “powder” ski. If carving is your game, but you’re looking for something more affordable, the previous award winner for this metric is the Blizzard Black Pearl 88. The difference in these two skis' performance though, is as different as the costs. For those looking for more versatility, look to the Nordica Santa Ana 98.

kastle fx96 w for women all mountain skis review - a pricey ski, but worth it if you love to carve.
A pricey ski, but worth it if you love to carve.
Credit: Nate Greenberg

Renee McCormack
 
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