Kastle FX96 HP Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Super stable at speed, hard charging
Cons: Expensive, geared towards experts only, unforgiving
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Kastle has a reputation for making skis that charge hard, no matter what. We decided to review the Kastle FX96 HP in this years all-mountain ski category, and it lived up to its notoriety. Previous HP (High Performance) models sported two layers of titanal, but the updated versions have ditched the metal in favor of carbon, which makes the ski lighter a bit lighter. The FX96 HP also comes with Kastle's unique and updated, Hollowtech 3.0, which is a cut-out section of the front of the ski that, counterintuitively, increases stabilization of the tip. The FX96 HP is a great ski that stands out in our line up this year, and not just because of its price tag.
Stability at Speed
Speed is definitely where the Kastle FX96 HP shines, which can't be said for most skis in the men's all-mountain category. In fact, this ski might as well be named Ricky Bobby, because it screams, "I WANNA GO FAST!" Our testers felt most comfortable on this ski when they were pushing their own speed limits. It is damp and stable, even if the snow is frozen or uneven, and we found the edge hold to be second to none when maching down steep chalky terrain.
Just looking at the hollow tip of the FX96 HP might make you queasy, but our testers only experience noticeable tip chatter when conditions were the worst of the worst. Because this ski performs best at high speeds, we would not recommend it for beginners or those looking only to make soul turns.
Again, our testers found the sweet spot for this ski to be when they were most aggressive and deliberate in their movements. Although short, medium radius turns can be made, our testers found the most enjoyment out of these skis railing big GS-style turns on wide-open groomers.
Despite being 96mm underfoot, the ski transitions from edge to edge easily. With plenty of edge hold, pop, and power transmission, we think this is a prime example of a ski that you get out exactly what you put into it. The main detractor from its performance in this category is that when our testers got lazy or tired with their turns, the FX96 HP made them pay. Any back-seat skiing was a recipe for quickly getting out of control.
While not an absolute crud buster like some of our other top performers, this ski held its own in nasty conditions. When our testers were deliberate and accurate in their direction of the skis, they were able to plow through almost any snow type thrown at them. But our testers did find themselves getting bucked to the back seat often, especially when the crud was on the firm side. Occasionally, we also noticed the tails hooking up in chopped up pow and thick slush. However, the ability of the FX96 HP to absorb vibration equaled that of the highest-scoring skis.
In similar fashion to our other top performers in the men's all-mountain ski category, we found that the Kastle 96FX HP was a blast when mother nature delivered the goods. Our testers felt that the dimensions of this ski provided sufficient float for the average dump. Although the FX96 HP did not readily slarve and slash as some of the more rockered and forgiving skis we tested, we felt as though the skis made up for it with its consistent energy and stability. Our testers also found that they required a bit more power to direct them through the snow than some others we tested. Because of that, our testers did feel that the length we tested them in was slightly cumbersome in powder snow in tightly spaced trees, but sizing down may help alleviate that feeling.
Playful is not the first word that comes to most people's minds when describing the Kastle brand, but with the FX96 HP, they have found a way to add a fun side to a ski that appears to be all business. In a similar respect to the other categories we test for, this ski responds best when the skier is aggressive.
The light swing weight and energy received from the ski instill confidence in easy takeoffs and quick spins, but the unforgiving nature of this ski had our testers quickly out of control if they weren't spot on with their landing. There are definitely skis, even in this same review category, that are more playful, but we were impressed by this hard-charging ski's ability to let loose.
Our testers found the Kastle FX96 HP to be slightly unwieldy in the bumps; especially when the moguls were tightly spaced and the troughs were deep. The unforgiving and burly nature of this ski did not mesh well with the need for short, quick, and nimble motions to put together a fluid line in the bumps. Again, our most expert testers were able to bend this ski to their will and mash some bumps, but only with unwavering focus and consistent energy exerted. When the moguls were smaller or more widely spaced, the FX96 HP was downright fun, as it easily plows over and through less intimidating bumps.
Kastle uses the most durable and highest quality materials for their ski construction, and that is most definitely reflected in the price tag of their skis. You may get an extra few seasons of use out of the FX96 HP compared to cheaper skis. This ski performs right up there with our highest-rated skis but is nearly double the price.
The Kastle FX96 HP is not a ski for the faint of heart. If you like to go fast and demand a stable ski in all conditions, this may be the ski for you. We would not recommend it for an intermediate or beginner skier, as it can be quite unforgiving and is the most expensive ski in our lineup. All that being said, this ski's ability to deliver in all conditions and corners of the resort is truly what we seek out of an all-mountain ski and we feel confident in calling the FX96 HP and one-ski quiver.
— Andrew Pierce