Kastle FX 96 vs FX 86 Test: Is Fatter Better?

Testing the Kastle FX 96 and FX 86 skis on successive weeks on the same runs in very similar snow condititions was a great way to find my favourite ski width for home snow in Australia.

And answer one of life’s big questions: is fatter better? Does 10mm of width under foot really make a big difference?

And just what is your ideal/favourite ski width anyway?

Testing the Kastle FX86 skis on Kamikaze at Blue Cow, Perisher
Kamikaze on the FX86; sweet! © Owain Price / snowaction.com.au

Ask 5 skiers and you’ll get 5 opinions on what their optimum ski size is. Since skis starting getting wider 25 years ago the changes and the choices have exploded.

Funny how lot of people who haven’t changed skis for ages will still have an opinion on the subject. Never ever ever go, never ever know and all that.

Once upon a time 80mm underfoot was huge. People used to say on chairlifts, “you going heliskiing mate?” when I was wearing my first fatter skis, Head Monsters back around 2000.

They were good for their day, but the square cut off tail didn’t really cut it. I lent them to a brother once who couldn’t even ski them on intermediate runs (he was pretty crappy skier!), so you wouldn’t call them all rounders either. They went off to the recycling centre along with a bunch of carve boards and other museum pieces from the garage years ago. The only pair I regret tossing out are my old TR18 GS skis from 1994 or so; 203cm long, 62mm wide, skinny as, but fast and fun. Perfect for onsie retro days too.

My favourite go to ski in the quiver since 2014 has been a set of Rossi Squad 7s, 122mm wide underfoot and just the bomb in fresh snow. But with rocker tip and raised tails they carve groomers too. At our Cerro Catedral winter base, where the snow is Whistler-like with anything from dry up top to wet at bottom and constant variety, they have been absolutely awesome. Great in Japan too.

Testing the Kastle FX96 skis on Kamikaze at Blue Cow, Perisher
Kamikaze on the FX96 – even sweeter! © Owain Price / snowaction.com.au

But too heavy for much more than side-country excursions, so I downsized to some 96cm underfoot K2 Pinnacles with a Kingpin binding for most BC stuff in 2017.

In Japan my go to ski the last couple of years we could go there was the Kastle BMX 105 or 105 HP. Just the bees knees for powder and fine when there wasn’t any, or a lot less.

Kastle replaced the BMX series with the FX a couple of years back, and they are a very worthy replacement.

Trying the FX96 on a short Japan trip last year, getting home days before quarantine started – it seems like decades ago now – they were awesome, and I confidently predicted they would be an ideal all rounder for skiing here and there.

Due to COVID and conditions we got very little skiing in at home last year, so it was great to finally get on them in a serious way in August.

And to try a head to head, or rather Kastle to Kastle, comparison between the FX86 and the FX96.

Harro’s Snowsports at Lake Crackenback are also the Kastle importers for Australia, so it’s the obvious place to demo them from. Our day trip schedule to do that runs like this: leave Belconnen 7am, at Harros 9:20 or so, grab skis, put wife’s boots on while they are setting bindings, and scoot to Skitube, putting us on snow at Blue Cow just after 10am. Driving down in my Dahu inners I just clip in my outers on the train. Too easy, and warmed up ready to ski from run one.

Tips up: FX96, Blue Cow © snowaction.com.au

Kastle FX96 & FX96Ti

Carve like Kastles, charge through cruddy snow and ate the windblown steeper bits like Kamikaze and sunny slush on the warm side of Guthega.

For my money the perfect all rounder to enjoy in OZ or Japan, wherever you are finally allowed to go again. Freeride fun.

Not too fat, not too thin, just perfect.

With their carbon flex layer they are stable as most people will ever need or want. But if you do charge harder, or are a big person, the FX96Ti with a titanal layer adds more beef to the equation. It was similar story with BMX and BMX HP.

FX96 cross cut
The 96Ti swaps out the carbon flex wrap for a titanal layer

FX86Ti Stats

Tip133 mm
Waist96 mm
Tail119 mm
164 cm14,0 m1765 g/Ski
172 cm16,0 m1850 g/Ski
180 cm18,1 m1935 g/Ski
188 cm20,2 m2020 g/Ski
Testing the Kastle FX96 at Guthega, Perisher
Having fun on the FX96 at Guthega © Owain Price / snowaction.com.au

Kastle FX 86 & FX86Ti

The previous week was a tad colder, with a bit more windblown, but basically almost identical conditions too the FX96 day. We didn’t have our day trip routine down pat, so didn’t get on snow till before 11am. But it was quiet anyway.

I was the only one on Kamikaze. Which was windblown firm perfection.

And perfect to test how the FX86s held on. Which they did exceptionally well.

Looking at the GoPro 360 clips now a few weeks later (had to wait till I was reunited with my new Mac capable of viewing 360 properly) reminded me how nice and whippy they are. A bit quicker to turn the the 96s in truth.

But the bit of extra width allows the bit of extra stability and fat turn speed out in the open which is my personal preference.

Apart from an embarassing pole-less season on carve skis in the mid-90s shorter and turnier has never been a big attraction.

Why turn if you don’t have too?

The 86 also has a Ti option, and the same applies.

For someone who does like their carvy turns and their freeride freedom to go all over these stack up well as an alternative to the MX88 – which we rate the ultimate Thredbo/Supertrail/long carve bomber skis if that’s your style.

FX86 Ti Stats

Tip123 mm
Waist86 mm
Tail114 mm
153 cm10,6 m1490 g/Ski
161 cm12,2 m1570 g/Ski
169 cm13,9 m1650 g/Ski
177 cm15,7 m1725 g/Ski
185 cm17,6 m1805 g/Ski
FX86 chairlift view © snowaction.com.au

The Verdict

OK, fatter is better for me. But not too fat. The Kastle FX96 is my go to out of these two. Though the more I sit here sadly viewing the GoPro 360 footage the more I wonder – they were 2 great days! You may beg to differ.

They are all the same price: $AUD 1,250 flat ski or package with Attack 13 binding $1,495.

Special Kastle FX Deal for September:

Get 10% off plus FREE binding mounting with the package option in September – be ready to rock for wherever you can ski next! Talk to Mitch at Harro’s soon 02 64561642 or see the website & message them off their socials