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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
Photo: Kastle
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Price:  $950 List | $948.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Stable, predictable downhill performance in all snow types and terrain
Cons:  Heavy
Manufacturer:   Kastle
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 23, 2020
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 13
  • Weight - 25% 5
  • Firm Snow - 20% 7
  • Powder - 20% 8
  • Crud and Poor Snow - 20% 8
  • Stability at Speed - 15% 8

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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Kastle TX 103
This Product
Kastle TX 103
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  
Price $948.95 at Backcountry$1,200 List$739.95 at Backcountry
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$700 List$649.95 at Backcountry
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Star Rating
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Pros Stable, predictable downhill performance in all snow types and terrainLight for the uphill, balanced downhill performance for all conditionsStable, damp, predictableInexpensive, balanced downhill performance, average weightSolid all around downhill performance, compatible with excellent Dynafit SpeedSkins
Cons HeavyExpensive, generalized downhill performanceMid-weight, no real stand out performanceSki “short”, powder skiing stability suffers at super high speedHeavier than average
Bottom Line Goes downhill very well, we just wish it was lighterIf you have to pick one backcountry ski model for full seasons and all conditions, this is the one we recommend, as it's carefully tuned for all conditionsThere is nothing remarkable about these skis, and that is a good thingWell-balanced, all-around skis for the human-powered skier looking for durable and lasting valueThe Beast leans decidedly in the downhill performance direction; they are heavy by comparison and for the dimensions, but they ski better than most
Rating Categories Kastle TX 103 Movement Alp Tracks 100 Black Crows Camox Freebird Salomon MTN Explore 95 Dynafit Beast 98
Weight (25%)
5
9
6
6
6
Firm Snow (20%)
7
6
8
8
7
Powder (20%)
8
8
7
7
7
Crud And Poor Snow (20%)
8
7
8
7
7
Stability At Speed (15%)
8
5
7
7
8
Specs Kastle TX 103 Movement Alp... Black Crows Camox... Salomon MTN... Dynafit Beast 98
Weight Per Pair 7.6 lbs 5.6 lbs 6.7 lbs 6.8 lbs 6.8 lbs
Measured Length 180 cm 176 cm 182 cm 177 cm 183 cm
Manufacturer Length 181 cm 177 cm 183 cm 177 cm 184 cm
Available Lengths 165, 173, 181, 189 cm 170, 177, 185 cm 162, 172, 178, 183 cm 169, 177, 184 cm 170, 177, 184 cm
Claimed Dimensions 138/103/120 mm 132/100/120 mm 130/97/115 mm 130 / 95 / 116 mm 136/98/117 mm
Measured Dimensions 138/103/120 mm 131/100/118 mm 137/97/117 mm 130/95/116 mm 126/97/116 mm
Weight Per Ski grams 1727g,1708g, average :1718 g 1270g, 1272g, average: 1271 g 1510g, 1509g, average: 1510 g 1547g,1529g, average: 1538 g 1541g, 1553g, average: 1547 g
Weight Per Pair 3435 g 2542 g 3024 g 3076 g 3094 g
Weight Per Surface Area Ratio, g/cm^2 0.79 0.62 0.71 0.76 0.75
Construction Type Sandwich Cap Semi-cap Half-cap Sandwich
Core Material Paulownia,poplar Karuba Paulownia, poplar 3D Full Woodcore, C/FX reinforcement Ash/poplar wood
Waist Width 103 mm 100 mm 97 mm 95 mm 98 mm
Radius 19 meters 19 meters 18 meters 18 meters 21 meters
Rocker/Camber Tip rocker, camber underfoot Tip rocker, camber underfoot Tip rocker, camber underfoot Rocker, camber, rocker Double Ellipse Rocker

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


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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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'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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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'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.
Photo: 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