Ski: 2015-2016 Kästle xx110, 190cm
Dimensions (mm): 134-110-134
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 186.7cm
Sidecut Radius: 24 meters
BLISTER’s Measured Weight Per Ski: 2,347 grams & 2,344 grams
Boots / Bindings: Fischer RC4 130 Vacuum / Kästle K14 Demo (DIN at 11)
Mount Location: 2cm ahead of the “AM” line
Test Location: Taos Ski Valley
Days Skied: 5
[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 12/13 XX110 West. The ski’s design was not changed for 13/14, 14/15, or 15/16, but its name was changed to just the “XX110” and the graphics were updated.]
In his review of the Kastle XX110 West, Jason Hutchins found the ski to be a great backcountry jib ski as well as a super predictable and intuitive resort ski—on pow days and when conditions got a little firmer.
So how do these three all-mountain, freestyle skis stack up?
The XX110 West‘s totally symmetrical design—fully symmetrical dimensions, symmetrical camber/rocker profile and symmetrical flex profile—had me a little unsure. A fully symmetrical shape just isn’t something we see that often on skis this wide, outside the terrain park…
With some great early season coverage, I had the chance to get the XX110 West in 5-6” of slightly thick but fresh snow off Taos’ Highline Ridge.
Just as Jason found, the “West’s soft shovels worked well to keep the tips safely on top and help pull the ski through each turn.“ But, at the same time, “the full-length, 24-meter sidecut provided just enough pull through each turn to keep me from feeling like I had to push the ski into each turn. It also did so while not being so aggressive that changes in snow caused them to feel like they wanted to over turn and constantly battle me for the position of who’s in charge.”
Through slow, short-swing turns in the trees, and longer, much faster turns at the bottom, open portion of Twin Trees, the XX110 West floated and tracked through fresh snow very well. The ski has a very predictable feel in powder, and feels at home making smooth, snappy turns from a light, centered stance.
The 190cm Moment Deathwish and 190cm Salomon Rocker2 108 are very comparable to the XX110 West in this way. All three suit a fluid, upright skiing style over a more traditional, forward stance, and provide a nice amount or float for their ~110mm waist width.
Bumps & Steep Chutes
Like Jason, I was also impressed by how quick and nimble the West is in firm conditions. The ski’s swing weight is impressively low for its size and width.
Days after our runs off the Ridge, after the mountain had been skied off quite a bit, I spent a lot of time lapping steeps off Taos’s Chair 2. Reforma, Castor, Pollux, Werner Chute, and Longhorn were all firmed up with sizeable bumps and narrow sections that required tight, scrubbed turns. To quote Jason, the “West offers the stability of a longer ski, but feels much more like a 180cm ski in terms of swing weight. This is a great benefit when in tight spots…” I couldn’t agree more. Pivoting the West across the fall line quickly is no problem at all.
Occasionally the width of the ski made navigating especially tight moguls a bit challenging, so the West is not as quick as a ~98mm underfoot ski is in moguls, but it rarely felt inappropriate to take it in fully formed bumps, and for a ski of this width and length, that’s saying something.
Mostly Firm, Variable Conditions
In steep, firm conditions in Werner Chute and Zdarsky, the West’s effective edge provided a nice, dependable hold underfoot. I’ll agree with Jason that the “skis offered a very calm, reassuring feel carving on the variable snow…and frozen conditions at speed.”
The tips and tails of the West are on the soft side, but the flex stiffens very smoothly toward the center of the ski. This gives the West a pretty large sweet-spot even in funky, variable conditions. In firm snow in Taos’ steepest terrain, as long as I remained balanced over the ski, I could confidently take the same, aggressive lines I would have on a ski with more effective edge in its tail. Making big, wide arcs down the lower portion of Reforma, boosting off moguls and running over loose chunks of snow and smaller, worn down bumps was surprisingly comfortable.
To be clear, similar to the Moment Deathwish and Salomon Rocker2 108, the tails of the XX110 West don’t provide much support if you happen to get kicked back on them, and they will wash out if you favor the shovels too much. So while you can do some aggressive, fast skiing on the XX110 West on firmer snow, you’ll have to assume a lighter, more upright stance while you do.
Still, the XX110 West is just as stable as the 190cm Deathwish in variable conditions, but I found it a little lighter and more maneuverable at slow speeds. So in terms of a balance of playfulness and stability, the XX110 West wins out over the Deathwish in my book.
The XX110 West is probably a bit more dependable than the Salomon Rocker2 108 in this area too, especially for someone heavier than me (160lbs), but I’m not willing to go ahead and say it’s also a better all-mountain, freestyle-oriented ski than the 108.
The West also trumps the Deathwish with its feel and response on edge on groomers and smooth, firm snow, where the Rocker2 108 has a different, not necessarily worse feel.
The XX110 West feels as predictable and well balanced on groomers as it does everywhere else. By no means will it offer the same bite and edge hold on hardpack as a more directional ski with less tail rocker, but the XX110 West can hold its own so long as you have just a little soft snow to bite into.
The XX110 West does have a very particular feel on edge, though. As Jason mentions, the West’s sidecut runs nearly the full length of the ski, and is fully symmetrical, yielding a single-radius turn when tipped on edge. This meant I could either confidently and comfortably carve the ski’s 24 meter radius with speed, or easily smear out some shorter, quick turns when going much slower. But when I went to brake/feather out the West’s edge to make long, fast slarve turns, the ski always felt like it was trying to “reign in” the length of the turn, wanting to find and settle in on that 24 meter arc again.
This isn’t a bad thing, really, it’s just a characteristic of a fully symmetrical ski. It means you’ll get used to the kind of turn the ski makes on edge, and can know, with confidence, exactly what kind of shape you’re going to get when you lay it over in a carve.
I absolutely prefer this quality of the West compared to the odd, “rough” feeling of the Deathwish on edge, which makes it difficult to tell how much edge hold you can count on in the first place. (See my review of the 190cm Deathwish for more about the issues I have with its feel on edge, due to its highly unusual camber profile.)
On the other hand, the 190cm Rocker2 108’s sidecut is not at all as simple as the XX110 West’s. The 108 isn’t symmetrical, and the sidecut feels much more “variable” in comparison.
On snow, this makes the Rocker2 108 easy to work through a wider variety of turn shapes, and it feels right at home through any of them. Like the XX110 West, short scrubbed turns are very easy to make at low speeds, and you can also open the turn radius into a longer, set carve (again like the West). Then from that carve, it’s a blast to release the skis’ edges through the tail, quickly or slowly, and move into a long and fast surf-like turn that feels just as natural. I LOVE having the capability to make so many different types of turns on the 108 so comfortably. As Cody Townsend once put it, “The 108 pops, flies and bounces down the hill making you feel like a happy rabbit bounding through a field of carrots.” Cody was (very colorfully) onto something. But I digress. Back to the XX110 West…