When KÄSTLE came to me looking to help them build a pro model, I figured they wanted a park ski, since up until that point, they had focused mostly on the all-mountain and touring side of the sport. I was pleasantly surprised when they asked for my assistance in making not just a park and pipe ski, but a semi-fat all-mountain twin tip, as well as a backcountry fat twin.
I wanted to share with you how I ski them and what I think of their performance, so last weekend I went on a little mission. Well, a big mission, I think I should call it. I took many runs on the hill, put many miles on my car, and, if I must be completely honest, took not as many showers as I should have. But in the famous words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that."
Going deep – the XX110 WEST
I have the privilege of living in Colorado, where there are tons of options for mountains, all within a short drive of each other. The season has just started here, but we’re getting lots of snow already. I decided to head to a couple different mountains and ski the three models of the XX line, all in two days. It was hectic, to say the least.
That weekend there were two different events happening within a two hour drive of each other. The Birds of Prey World Cup ski race, which takes place at Beaver Creek Resort, and the first stop of the Northface Park and Pipe Open Series at Copper Mountain. I strapped my skis on my car on Friday morning and headed up to Breckenridge first to try out the fattest of the three skis, the XX110 WEST. Breck had just gotten snow, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity.
As I’m sure most of you know, when skiing powder at a resort, there are three stages to every run. The length of time for each changes throughout the day, as more and more of the glorious powder gets tracked out.
Stage 1: Standing in line. (the worst stage)
The lovely feeling of anticipation is much better endured without a whole bunch of people in your way trying to get to what you wish was your “private stash” of powder at the top of the mountain. But, it is inevitably part of the day of fun. If you can get through this stage with some jokes and some friends, then it’ll go a lot smoother for your eager mind. But as they always say, there are “no friends on a powder day,” so hopefully, when you lose all of your “friends” after the first fluffy run, you can find some more. Fortunately, this stage gets shorter and shorter as the day wears on and fortunately for me, Breck is my home resort, so there always seems to be someone in line I know.
Stage 2: Skiing the deep stuff.
This is obviously what makes stage one and waking up at the ass-crack of dawn worth with while. The patented HOLLOWTECH design of all KÄSTLE skis, was something I was unfamiliar with when I first signed on. To be honest, I thought it seemed a little hokey. I figured it was just an aesthetic choice by the designer, used to help the brand stick out from others. I was wrong!
My first three runs on the 110-under-foot XX110 WEST’s showed me exactly how wrong I was. The HOLLOWTECH design takes away a surprising amount of weight from the tip and tail. I found that it allowed me to spin off of little buried stumps and pillows with ease, which would normally have been a chore with such a fat, boat of a ski. Not only that, but the lightened tip and tail, coupled with their early rise, ensured that they snapped back to their stable positioning fast, making it easier to stay in control while riding out of landings.
I would like to say that because of the controllability of the skis, I was able to stay upright all day, but really technology cannot completely compensate for how far you would like to push your own limits. I’d say I was buried on my side or face about 25% of the times I landed. To me that’s still a good ratio of falls to landings. I am originally from the “ice coast” after all, where we didn’t have much powder to enjoy.
Stage 3: The ski out.
This is the stage where your adrenaline is still pumping and you are trying to catch your breath, as you snake down the packed tracks of others to the groomed runs and eventually to the lift. To most, this is another boring necessity of a powder day, but I enjoyed it a lot on the Wests. Though the tip and tail of the West are early rise, the middle is still cambered. This means when you are inevitable not in the powder any more, you still have control of the skis and are able to carve. I took the “stage 2” opportunity to hit little side hills and bumps in the road, jumping to switch on occasion and of course doing backflips wherever I could.
After stage three, it’s back to stage one. I completed the loop about ten times before the powder was almost completely tracked out and the lift line was full of families instead friendless powder enthusiasts.
I met up with a few buddies for some apre food and drink, then headed to Beaver Creek to catch some shut eye to be ready for the World Cup race the next day.
Cruising around – the XX90 JAMES
It was colder than a witches teat on Saturday, but the fans gathered at the bottom of the Birds of Prey downhill course didn’t seem to mind. Well, actually, there was one bald eagle in the VIP tent whose talons looked a bit blue with frost bite, but other than that, everyone seemed oblivious to the weather.
I took the XX90 JAMES skis out that day before the race and after. Admittedly, I even missed a bit of the show, since I was enjoying the sticks so much. That day was all about skiing switch for me. The XX90 JAMES have a symmetrical build for skiing backwards, just like the other two models in the line. They also have an early rising tip and tail, like the West, but what makes these skis unique from the other two, is that they can handle groomers better than a big fat ski and any powder you may come across better than a park ski. On any given day, they are made for any given conditions you may encounter.
When I was a teenager, I used to ski at Waterville Valley, where I can proudly say that I have skied backwards down every single run they have. It took me at least two days, but I did it. I wish I had access to the James models at that time because the early rise, coupled with the fat stability turned out to be perfect for playing around backwards and forwards on the entire mountain.
They as well allowed me to navigate between tight trees with agility, thanks to the HOLLOWTECH. Again, I must admit that I did not stay on my feet the entire day. I’d like to think it’s because I was “pushing the limit,” but really, I was just a little tired from the powder day before. It was nearly dark when I arrived back at the condo. I only had just enough time for a quick hot tub session with the lovely Kaylin Richardson before I was off to bed. Rough life, I know.
Hitting the park – the XX80 COLBY
I didn’t get a whole lot of skiing in on Sunday at Copper, but that’s because I was talking on a microphone for most of it. The Northface Park and Pipe Open Series was a blast to be a part of. It was freezing cold that day as well, so I tried my best to keep the spectator’s minds off of the cloudy, snowy weather. It wasn’t too hard, since guys like Gus Kenworthy and Mike Riddle were there showing their ridiculously awesome talents.
Before the competition started, I skied with my friends that were participating in the pipe event and was able to get a bunch of runs in the park at Copper. The XX80 COLBY skis are the ones I ski the most, being a competition based park skier. I love them. They are the best park skis I have ever skied on, hands down. There were only a few small jumps at Copper, but I’ve had the pleasure of skiing the XX80 COLBY’s on jumps as big as 130 feet. They can handle any park feature you can dream up. Also, as a side note, I used to break a lot of skis during training and competitions, what with my binding din cranked to nearly the max, but I honestly have not broken a single pair since I signed with KÄSTLE. The durability is insane.
What I like best about the XX80 COLBY, is the weight. When you are spinning 1260’s and 1440’s, it’s essential that the skis are light and agile. The HOLLOWTECH, again, helps big time with rotation. I was delighted that KÄSTLE allowed me to make the XX80 COLBY skinny in the waist. Since style is a huge part of park and pipe skiing, I find that the skis look amazingly better when they are thin and elegant in the air. Not to mention, the thin side cut helps with precision when skiing in the pipe.
I know it may be hard to take advice from someone who’s name is on the skis, but if you get a chance, just try the XX line out. KÄSTLE and I worked hard over two years to come out with the best twin tip skis possible. To me they are all a work of art and by far the best skis I have ever skied on.
Has anyone else out there had an experience on the XX line? I’d love to hear about it and get some feedback.
Keep your tips up…and your tails up, too.
Thanks for reading.
Colby James West is a triple X-Games medal winner, and one of the superstars in the field of freestyle skiing. Other than a lot of his competitors, Colby is speaking out to more than just the hardcore freestyle market – this is to most part due to his character and talent, that he shows whenever you turn the camera on. SKIING magazine just titled him “ski industry’s funny man”. KÄSTLE developed with Colby James West the first freestyle line, with its launch in December 2011. In this four-part blog series, Colby will give his personal account on the faceted life of a pro skier. Expect the next part of the series on the KÄSTLE Powder Journal in January 2014.