Comparison Review New “premium” all-mountain skis: Augment AM (98 and 108) and Stereo Piste

Alexzn

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This is a small roundup of several skis in the “premium” category that I got to test over a few weeks in March at Squaw Valley. Stats: Male, 6 ft, 192 lb. Expert skier, but not a racer or elite instructor, so definitely have some technical flaws and display them every day. Daily driver: Kästle MX99 (184).

First let me get one thing off my chest: any one of these skis will run circles around anything ”mainstream” from Völkl, Blizzard, or Nordica. The reason: they are built with a combination of wood core, metal, and rubber, which enhances the ski dampness and snow feel. When you go from a regular ski to one of those you feel like the ski turned on suspension. It is as noticeable and as dramatic as I describe it. Unfortunately that construction has a well-deserved reputation of being expensive and that’s where a lot of the premium pricing comes from.

The reference ski that I own: 184 Kästle MX99. A unicorn that feels like an illegitimate ski love child between a Ford Raptor and an BMW M3. Metal, rubber, carbon fiber, and wood core in a traditional full laminate construction, heavy, tiny rocker up front and a flat powerful tail. It is a Red Bull of skis- it gives you wings. This ski hugs the snow like no other and is damp to the point of inspiring you to go too fast in the terrain you really should be skiing much slower. Despite its reputation of being a beast and a truck, it is actually fairly mellow flexing and is a bit more forgiving than its dimensions, weight and specs suggest. 21m turn radius in 184 and it skis its full length (if not longer). Heavy, not very floaty, and does not like to smear very much. Most important, MX99 is out of production now, so it is only a reference, not a competitor to the other skis in this test.

First, the 186 Stereo Piste v3 (86 under foot). Stereo if a new Norwegian brand that makes their skis in Sweden. The construction is semi cap and it has metal and rubber, so, again, it is not a surprise that the skis feel very solid and connected. What threw me off on that ski was the flex that combined a fairly stout front with a softer back. This ski still carves better than most skis in its segment, it just takes more effort to bend the ski that I would have expected. The payoff however is off piste in 2D snow. In my opinion Piste V3 feels even better off-piste than on-piste (which is a bit if a cognitive dissonance for a ski that has Piste in its name). It makes smooth GS turns over literally anything on its path, and it feels surprisingly composed even in a mellow line through bumps. Overall, an 86 mm underfoot 186 cm-long carver has no right to ski that’s well off-piste. I can easily see this ski dominating an East Coast mountain with a lot of tricky off-piste skiing in 2D snow and still ripping the groomers all day under a skilled pilot. A caveat is that with that stiffness and width, it won’t be a great power day companion. Best of all: the price of this ski is not that far off that of regular ski, so it is definitely the value king of this bunch. With some minor tweak in the flex pattern it may become a real threat to the Stöcklis and Kastles of this world.

187 Augment AM98. Not surprisingly, AM means all-mountain and this exactly what Augment had in mind when they designed these boards. For those who do not know Augment, the company used to have a rather unfortunate name of Croc Skis (good thing they rebranded!), and has quite a reputation for making top-notch race-room level race skis largely by hand in a small factory in Austria. As far as quality of construction it is at least a match to the old (made-in-Austria) Kästle. It is a full wood-metal-rubber sandwich, the materials were selected without any nod to the cost, and the 4-figure price quite simply reflects that. But they do ski their 4-figure price and some. The construction is predictably damp, it shows great snow feel throughout the turn but never harsh. Getting on any regular ski after skiing the Augments is frankly, annoying. Compared to Kästle the shape and the feel is almost polar opposite. Kästle is a de-tuned race shape that turns easier than it should do, the Augment is a thoroughly modern rockered off-piste shape that is more stable and composed than it should be.
The defining features of the ski are its wide and generously tapered shovels and an equally generously upturned flat tails. The shovel shape is tricky as it gives all the benefits of the rocker, and yet does not exhibit the hesitant turn initiation that is a common affliction of tapered rockered skis. This Augment turns in with an almost slalom ski-like eagerness. Coupled with a damp ride and a decent rebound, it is a joy on a groomer. Off piste the sensation is the same, a ski that likes to turn but can easily sustain fast rides over choppy snow (that’s where the rubber inside the ski makes its mark). I also think that 19mm turn radius is a bit too small in an 187cm off-piste ski with tons of stabiility. The shovel is almost too large in a sense that sometimes it is easy to overturn the ski and if you are not careful off-piste it can feel a tiny bit hooky in some situations, unlike the Kästle, which is completely turn-shape neutral. I would gladly shave a couple of mm from the shovel and raise the turn radius to 20-21 m. I think the ski won’t be any harder too turn but would gain a bit more predictability. Overall, this is the best new shape I was on in the 98 mm all-mountain category for a while and by some margin. Compared to the Kästle MX99, it is almost as stable and a hell lot more fun in 95% of the situations. MX99 still has that extra muscle, the completely flat tail is more secure in the turn finish and provides a bigger sweet sport. Because it its straighter sidecut, the Kästle also feels more stable on a steep slope with bad snow. But it does take a lot more attention and effort to ski, so I think the Augment will be a better, more approachable, and ultimately more satisfying ski for the majority of the users.

187 Augment AM108. More of the same Augment all-mountain goodness in a wider big-mountain chassis. This is a ski that the original Blizzard Cochise always wanted to be, but never could. More stable, more predictable, and somehow easier to turn and a lot more fun. Cochise feels like a truck, Augment feels like a BMW X5: all the utility and still plain fun to drive. The same complaint about the shovel shape applies here, maybe even more; this ski would definitely benefit from a straighter sidecut up front, the tip is so big that someone who drives the skis fairly close will even occasionally bang the tips (as me how I know :). It is significantly more engaging than Kästle BMF105HP and is just as stable and damp. And it feels to have more power than Stöckli SR107. It is still not quite the same level of dampness than the MX99, but the width and rocker-taper makes the Augment a clearly superior 3D snow ski. Initially, I liked the AM98 more than AM108, but by the end of my date with these boards I was not so sure: the AM108 grows on you, it is so nimble and playful for a ski of its waist, and yet so secure everywhere you go. It is not cheap, but you get what you pay for and then some. Even with the MX99 in the garage, I won’t mind having my own pair of AM108. As a quiver anchor AM98 still makes the most sense, but as a big-mountain 3D snow ski AM108 is really hard to beat right now.

A few superficial comments on these new skis: Stereo Skis graphics is restrained and sharp, yet it manages to be rather unoffensive and generic. A new brand should be more visible. Even more so with Augment. A ski design can be simple and great, or simple and plain. Augment protos were just plain. A splash of color of a strategically-placed logo would help that ski to stand out. For $1,000+ you should expect more visual oomph, so I hope some changes will make it into the production run. None of this criticism changes how these ski: they ski great.
 

GB_Ski

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According to their website, Piste V3 @ 186 is 88 underfoot.
SizeWidthTurn RadiusWeigh
186126-88-113 mm19,5 m1950 gr
177123-86-109 mm19,0 m1740 gr
168120-84-107 mm18,6 m1680 gr
 
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Alexzn

Alexzn

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Great review, @Alexzn. Have you had the opportunity to demo Renouns or Stöcklis? I would love to hear your thoughts on those skis as well.
Yes. As much as I was impressed with Renoun Z90 I didn't like their free ride model nearly as much. Stöcklis are great, my daughter loves her SR107, I always preferred (old) Kastles, I thought they just have more horsepower. I would take both Augments over equivalent Stromriders, they also provide more horsepower in an easy-to-ski package. Stereo has an opportunity to undercut Stöckli on price while providing the same of nearly the same ride quality. I have not been on their free ride model (Apex) yet, so can't comment further.
 

anders_nor

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@anders_nor , are you familiar with the Norwegian Stereo brand?
yes, they do demos every 2nd week on my mountain, or... used to pre corona! piste RS is agressive!

Prices on the stereo skis are quite good in the US, since USD is very strong vs our norwegian krone which has been suffering with low value due to oil prices. its an expensive ski/brand here.

As for visual ooomph, yeah thats not really the norwegian way.
 
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ski otter 2

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Great reviews, thanks.
I wonder if any of these, especially the Augment AM 108, has any float or noticeable playfulness to it (like the Kästle FX 106HP has, for instance)? I liked the SR 95, but the deeper the pow gets, the more it sinks. And the 105 is great for crud, very easy and stable, but not so much if one wants playfulness or float past 4" or so.
 
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Alexzn

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108 Augment has lots of float. The shovel is big. It’s not super turny in 3D and it is still stiff and will still need some speed to bend properly but as far as planing up the snow it’s pretty good. As I mentioned before, it is also surprisingly easy to maneuver for a ski of its length, width, and weight. It is just not as quick as a true 5-point design in the trees. Also, it does not float like my Kore117 but it is still up there.

I also remember one moment when I was really impressed- I was following a really good skier down a pretty steep slope in poor visibility (for those who know Squaw it was Headwall Face, the line right next to the rock at the skiers right) when I saw a good size rock sticking out of the snow in my path. So I did a sharp brake then a jump turn to point my skis in a different direction. And the Augment was flawless throughout that sequence. So if you call sharp reflexes playful, then it is playful.
 
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AngryAnalyst

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It’s funny you highlighted the tip shape on the Augments, my biggest reservation is the relatively tight turning radius. Sounds like if I like relatively straight skis these are not the ones I’m looking for?
 

HootSki

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Regarding the Kästle MX 99 being the reference ski and these skis running circles around anything ”mainstream” from Völkl, Blizzard, or Nordica, I would agree based off my experience with my Kästle MX89s. However my question is why did ski magazine rate the MX99 12 out of 14 skis in the all mountain category a couple of years ago? I just don't get their ratings sometimes....
 

Tony S

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Nice review, Alex. Regarding the below ...

Compared to Kästle the shape and the feel is almost polar opposite. Kästle is a de-tuned race shape that turns easier than it should do, the Augment is a thoroughly modern rockered off-piste shape that is more stable and composed than it should be.

The defining features of the ski are its wide and generously tapered shovels and an equally generously upturned flat tails. The shovel shapte is tricky as it gives all the benefits of the rocker, and yet does not exhibit the hesitant turn initiation that is a common affliction of tapered rockered skis. This Augment turns in with an almost slalom ski-like eagerness. Coupled with a damp ride and a decent rebound, it is a joy on a groomer. Off piste the sensation is the same, a ski that likes to turn but can easily sustain fast rides over choppy snow (that’s where the rubber inside the ski makes its mark). I also think that 19mm turn radius is a bit too small in an 187cm off-piste ski with tons of stabiility. The shovel is almost too large in a sense that sometimes it is easy to overturn the ski and if you are not careful off-piste it can feel a tiny bit hooky in some situations, unlike the Kästle, which is completely turn-shape neutral.
... this is the first review that really makes me want to try an Augment. I skied a couple courtesy of the Pugs and they weren't my thing. This one sounds different. Would be fun to get on one in the right (short) length. Yes, even though I'm pretty certain we have very different um, styles. Thanks.
 

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However my question is why did ski magazine rate the MX99 12 out of 14 skis in the all mountain category a couple of years ago? I just don't get their ratings sometimes....
You will have to ask them that. The MX99 (and new MX98) are stellar skis but a bit mroe traditional, the Augment has the power and damping but better off piste and in mixed condtions.
 

markojp

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Regarding the Kästle MX 99 being the reference ski and these skis running circles around anything ”mainstream” from Völkl, Blizzard, or Nordica, I would agree based off my experience with my Kästle MX89s. However my question is why did ski magazine rate the MX99 12 out of 14 skis in the all mountain category a couple of years ago? I just don't get their ratings sometimes....
No idea. Fabulous ski.
 

ted

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Interesting that you thought the tips were slalomesque on the Augments.
The sidecuts are almost the same as Völkl Freeride(Kanjo/M5/Kendo) skis before the 3d radius. 39ish tip to waist and low 20s tail to waist. I don't think anyone would call them slalomesque. But maybe the taper extends further back shortening the radius. More to ski design than just numbers!
 
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