Kastle FX96 HP ski test Japan: one ski quiver rulers

Kastle FX96 HP skis are the bees knees, or should that be the perfect one ski quiver skis?

That’s our verdict after a 2 week ‘off the grid’ mission round some less known resorts in Toyama, Tochigi and Fukushima Prefectures in February 2020.

Not the best season in J-land but we found plenty of sweet snow on the FX96 © Owain Price

We already rated their big brothers, the FX 106 HP, our favourite skis tested at the annual Aussie Ski Industry trade and consumer tests at Perisher last year. Logically, we should have done it the other way round – Japan generally does get a few more pow days a season than Perisher after all.

But while we loved the solidity of having 106mm underfoot on home snow downunder, truth be told I didn’t even notice slimming down to 96mm in Japan. In tight spots, not to mention trees, the FX96 are that bit more maneuvrable too, but they still charge in pow.

Showing the Kastle FX96 topsheet skiing in Japan
Thumbs up for FX96 at marvellous Minowa in Aizu © Carmen Price

Built to be light but tough, with a triple wood carbon-fibreglass wrapped core (see below), they are light enough for day trip and side country missions matched with FREETOUR 12 2.0 bindings, while losing next to nothing performance wise.

If you don’t need/want/can do lots of switch skiing, never mind park, so asymmetrical is not important, otherwise the Kastle FX96 is just about the perfect all rounder for any keen skier looking to upgrade.

We were big fans of the superseded Kastle BMX series, but the FXs do a better job.

I’m sure if I get back on the FX106s again I will love them as much as last year, but the FX96 is a tad better on the groomers. We hit some spring snow in Toyama that made me think of home and how well they handled varied conditions.

Easier to ski in lazy cruise mode than predecessors, the FX96s respond instantly when pushed © SnowAction

Sure, it was the lowest snow season in Japan for as long as a century according to old-timers in the gassho (thatch roof) villages of Ainokura below Taira ski area in Nanto, Toyama. But we still found some stashes – especially at Minowa in Aizu, Fukushima.

Plus we did plenty of piste-bashing, and here the Kastle FX96 carves like, well, a kastle .. These are just a great groomer ski, super stable at speed, very easy to find the sweet spot on.

They are relaxed for noodling around on with slower family/friends too, something not so true of previous more demanding models on that front.

Doing a pizza turn on Kastle FX96
All important pizza test passed (well skis did, if I was 5 I might get a rocket from the instructor!) © Owain Price

If you are unsure, test both the Kastle FX96 and 106 and draw your own conclusions. Assuming we get a season downunder in 2020, Harro’s Snowsports at Lake Crackenback have both in stock. They proved very popular over the 2019-2020 season at their Niseko and Furano shops.

SRP is AUD $1399 flat, $1599 with Attack 13 binding.

Kastle FX96 topsheet
Ready to rock

Kastle FX96 Cross section construction & specs

Available in 172, 180 & 188cm lengths.

Tip133 mm
Waist96 mm
Tail119 mm
Kastle FX96 cross cut construction view
Kastle FX96 cross cut construction view © Kastle
  • POWERZONE SANDWICH-SIDEWALL CONSTRUCTION
  • RESISTANT MATT PROTECTION VARNISH
  • CARBON-FIBERGLASS WOUND CORE
  • TRI-TECH
  • POPLAR / BEECH WOODCORE
  • POPLAR / PAULOWNIA WOODCORE
Heading out into back country with Kastle FX96
Freeride freedom © Kästle GmbH // Daniel Zangerl – Eye5