Reviews You Can Rely On

Kastle TX 103 Review

A nouveau classic touring ski in a time when the market is moving lighter for the same downhill performance
kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review
Credit: Kastle
Price:  $999 List
Manufacturer:   Kastle
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 23, 2020
66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 15
  • Weight - 25% 3.0
  • Firm Snow - 20% 7.0
  • Powder - 20% 8.0
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 8.0
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 8.0

Our Verdict

The Kastle TX103 is a great downhill performer. Its performance is tuned to almost perfectly balance (for our intermediate to expert team that enjoys ski touring all year and in all regions and conditions) its abilities across the whole human-powered skiing spectrum. It does better than most skis in powder, firm, tough snow. It'll go fast and open, short and tight, or steep and committing. What it doesn't do is go uphill in flyweight fashion. Others on the market match the downhill performance and are significantly lighter. You pay a price for lighter (in price and durability) than the TX103, but for many, that juice is worth the squeeze. Don't choose these if you want ultralight.
REASONS TO BUY
Stable
Predictable downhill performance in all snow types and terrain
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy

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kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review
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Kastle TX 103
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $999 List
$998.95 at Backcountry
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$1,295 at Backcountry
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$795 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Stable, predictable downhill performance in all snow types and terrainStable, damp, versatile, floaty, balancedLight for the uphill, balanced downhill performance for all conditionsAll-around performance, damp, inexpensive, available, sweet-spot weightFast float, incredible weight (for the size), acceptable poor snow performance
Cons HeavyModerately heavy, not optimal firm snow performanceExpensive, generalized downhill performanceSoft and dampAbysmal, scary firm snow performance, specialized application
Bottom Line A nouveau classic touring ski in a time when the market is moving lighter for the same downhill performanceThis is our favorite ski for modern, all-around backcountry skiing, bringing traditional reliability, modern dimensions, and performance balanceChoose this ski for all-year, all-purpose human-powered skiing in any region of the worldInexpensive, proven all-around performance that's suitable for a wide variety of backcountry skiers and ski conditionsAmong the most specialized skis in our test, it's optimized for the deepest of days in the deepest of regions
Rating Categories Kastle TX 103 Blizzard Zero G 105 Movement Alp Tracks... K2 Wayback 106 Voile HyperDrifter
Weight (25%)
3.0
5.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
Firm Snow (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
1
Powder (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
Crud and Poor Snow (20%)
8.0
8.5
7.0
7.0
6.0
Stability at Speed (15%)
8.0
8.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Kastle TX 103 Blizzard Zero G 105 Movement Alp Tracks... K2 Wayback 106 Voile HyperDrifter
Weight Per Pair 7.6 lbs 6.7 lbs 5.6 lbs 6.9 lbs 7.0 lbs
Weight Per Ski 1727g, 1708g
average: 1718g
1515g, 1510g
average: 1513g
1270g, 1272g
average: 1271g
1518g, 1557g
average: 1537g
1545g, 1585g
average: 1565g
Weight Per Pair 3435g 3025g 2542g 3075g 3130g
Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2 0.79 0.72 0.62 0.71 0.64
Measured Length 180cm 178cm 176cm 179cm 177cm
Manufacturer Length 181cm 180cm 177cm 179cm 178cm
Available Lengths (cm) 165, 173, 181, 189 164, 172, 180, 188 170, 177, 185 172, 179, 186 171, 178, 186
Claimed Dimensions (mm) 138/103/120 133/105/118 132/100/120 136/106/124 155/121/138
Measured Dimensions (mm) 138/103/120 133/104/118 131/100/118 135/107/123 154/121/138
Construction Type Sandwich Sandwich Cap Sandwich Cap Hybrid Cap
Core Material Paulownia, poplar Paulownia Paulownia Paulownia Paulownia
Waist Width 103mm 105mm 100mm 107mm 121mm
Radius 19m 23m 19m 22m 19m
Rocker/Camber Tip rocker, camber underfoot Tip and tail rocker Tip rocker, camber underfoot Tip rocker, slight camber underfoot Tip rocker, camber underfoot

Our Analysis and Test Results

Stability, predictability, and uniformity of performance are the words that our test team agrees on to summarize the TX103. We can't call it "light" nor can we call the performance exciting. This is an excellent downhill ski at an above average weight. Its downhill performance is nearly perfectly balanced; it suffers in no conditions nor in any terrain.

Performance Comparison


kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review - one lap, of many, on a great day of teton testing in mid-march. the...
One lap, of many, on a great day of Teton testing in Mid-March. The TX 103 held up for us through a huge day and varied terrain.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Weight


One of the tested TX103 skis (tested in size 181cm) weighed 1708g and the other weighed 1772. We weighed the skis on a calibrated, cross-checked digital kitchen scale. All ski models show differences between one ski and the other. The spread between the tested TX103 skis is perhaps a bit above average, but we definitely did not notice it. If you want a conversion, the pair of TX103 skis weigh 7.6 pounds.

These numbers put the TX 103 in an upper weight class, as compared to other touring skis. Most human-powered skiers will justify this amount of weight only for maximum downhill performance and durability. With options on the market that are 2/3rds the weight of the TX103 (and excellent, comparable options that weigh at least 10% less) you will choose these for their downhill performance and robust construction, not for efficiency.

kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review - the tx 103 is a solid, all-around ski touring product. we wish it...
The TX 103 is a solid, all-around ski touring product. We wish it were lighter, and we are confident it could be lighter with equal performance, but know that has financial and durability costs.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Stability at Speed


We like the downhill performance of the Kastle TX103 across the board. We can't say it excels in any one way, but it is more consistent than almost any other choice. In terms of speed, intermediate to expert skiers will have these sticks keep up at speeds well beyond the risk tolerance of most.

We examine too, here, the stability in the steeps. In steep and confined terrain we like the solid platform "feel" and the seemingly perfectly balanced, fore and aft, the tenacity of the 103's edge grip. Neither tip, tail nor underfoot is grabbier than the others.

kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review - kastle's clean tail graphics, noting, from left to right, underfoot...
Kastle's clean tail graphics, noting, from left to right, underfoot width in millimeters, ski length in centimeters, and sidecut radius in meters.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Firm Snow


We don't generally expect touring skis over 100mm to be great on firm snow. Sure, your resort skis do really well, and they're 110mm plus. But, those resort skis have metal and multiple layers of laminated materials to support the edge forces sustained in icier conditions. Light touring skis, generally, get their firm snow grip from geometry more than from materials. The TX103, though, isn't a light touring ski. As such, it sort of "breaks the rules" and uses that mass allowance to include more and stiffer materials (in terms of torsional rigidity) that help in hard snow conditions. We like the firm snow performance of the TX103.

kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review - high, windblown, variable, steep, and amazing. ski mountaineering...
High, windblown, variable, steep, and amazing. Ski mountaineering high in a range like the Tetons requires versatile skis. The TX 103 is very versatile, to put it mildly.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Powder


Just before Grand Teton National Park closed during the early days of the Covid-19 crisis we scored a huge, high powder day that this legendary backcountry venue is known for. We skied nearly 8000 feet of varied, steep, and rowdy skiing; all of it in nearly perfect powder snow. The TX103 was our test sled that day. We picked them up from the shop the day before. With zero adjustment, our expert tester that day was able to enjoy every single turn, from start to finish. These Kastle skis are perfectly predictable in powder snow. They aren't "flashy" or trendy. We have had a similar experience with prior Kastle skis. You can step in and find them immediately familiar and comfortable. You won't be blown away by the skis; let the snow do that for you. We'd call the TX103, in powder snow, a sort of "quiet crusher". They don't beg attention. They simply enable one of nature's finest athletic experiences.

kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review - bottomless. deeper than you can imagine. this perfect powder day...
Bottomless. Deeper than you can imagine. This perfect powder day didn't yield great product shots (though note the little orange glow from the tip "window" of the TX 103!) but we weren't complaining.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Crud/Poor Snow


We had to work hard the winter and spring of 2020 to find poor snow. But, we do that hard work. For you. Our lead test editor rode the TX103 on a crusty, ranging tour on all aspects of Teton Pass' Taylor Mountain in late March. He would have preferred to be high in Grand Teton National Park that sunny day, but Covid closures changed his patterns. The upshot is that we get to report on his 8000 feet of marginal skiing. We handed the skis around, of course, but our poor snow conclusions are largely drawn from that one day.

kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review - strapping in before skiing a couple thousand feet of breakable crust...
Strapping in before skiing a couple thousand feet of breakable crust at the end of a big day. Note the lowering sun angle and the surface evidence of sun affect from earlier. In this poor snow the TX 103 did better than most touring skis.
Credit: Jediah Porter

In short, these are excellent skis for poor snow. We won't credit that performance to any one or even a combination of construction attributes. There are many variables in ski construction and materials. It is a ski reviewer's crutch to cite geometry and materials. The TX103 has pretty "bland" catalog copy. Kastle lets the skis do the talking. What they tell us about poor snow skiing is "evenness". Edge-to-edge, and tip-to-tail the TX103 in poor snow is a balanced, centered dream. We are pretty tuned into how and when different ski models force us (and other skiers) into survival mode in tougher conditions. The TX103 allows dynamic, "normal" turns well into the spectrum of poor conditions. You won't even notice the zipper crust. Mildly "upside down" soft snow remains fun and floaty. Well-waxed, the "suckiest" slop snow doesn't faze the TX103. You'll "step back" to snowplows and stepped turns only when the refreezing crust is enough to slash shins or grab pole baskets right out of your hand.

kastle tx 103 backcountry skis review - kastle's distinctive tip "cut outs" are indeed made of different...
Kastle's distinctive tip "cut outs" are indeed made of different material. In this case, they both glow in the dark and can be almost seen through.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Value


We've not before used the term "value" to describe tested Kastle skis. The previous generation of TX skis from Kastle was lighter, fragile and more expensive. The downhill performance was similar to that of this TX103, but you paid for it up front and with shortened operating life. We tested the (now discontinued) TX98 to failure and hope to do the same with the TX103. Given the weight of the TX103 we fully expect to go quite a bit longer with them. The TX103 is also less expensive at initial retail than the TX98 was.

Conclusion


We like the TX103. However, we can't help but compare it to its discontinued predecessor. The TX98 was the best performing touring ski we've ever used. We put multiple hundreds of thousands of vertical feet on it. The TX103 performs very similarly on the downhill, but is about 140% the mass of the 98. That is a significant energy suck on the way up. The 103 is less expensive and likely more durable than the 98 was.

Jediah Porter
 
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