It is often said that the path to success is not linear, but a long string of peaks and valleys. No brand illustrates that idea better than Kästle, which owns a decorated yet tumultuous history. Kästle lays claim to 132 World Cup and Olympic medals, yet has twice experienced prolonged disappearances from the market entirely. However, nearly a century after its inception, the Kästle brand stands proud today, positioned to resume the spot it once held among the ski industry’s elite brands.
History of Kästle Skis
Kästle was founded in 1924 by Anton Kästle in the city of Hohenems, Austria. Kästle developed a reputation as a quality craftsman with his brand soon finding itself among the leaders in the industry. But as the company began to gain traction with its popular Arlberg model, World War II broke out. Faced with a raw material shortage, Kästle suspended its production of consumer skis and closed its doors.
After the war, the company picked up where it left off. Just three years after resuming ski making, Trude Beiser won the gold medal in downhill at the 1950 World Championship in Aspen. This sparked an ultra-successful decade of competitive showings for Kästle, which saw its athletes win three medals—all gold—at the 1952 Olympics in Oslo and another twenty medals four years later in Cortina. Kästle skis were a staple at the sport’s highest levels. At the 1956 games, the entire American team raced on Kästles.
The next decade saw a dip in Kästle’s reputation as the rest of the industry moved towards fiberglass and metal skis. Anton Kästle, a woodworker at heart, defied these technological revolutions until 1964 when he experimented with a three-layered ski made of fiberglass, wood, and metal. This method was labeled compound-metal-plastic, or CPM, and is cited as one of the first iterations of sandwich construction. Unfortunately, the brand’s transition from wood to CPM was not flawless, and in 1968 Anton Kästle sold the company.
Kästle would hit its stride once again in the 1980s. The decade kicked off with Lichtenstein’s Andreas Wenzel placing first overall in the 1980 World Cup, the first Kästle skier to do so. Switzerland’s Pirmin Zurbriggen upped the ante with World Cup titles in 1984, 1987, and 1988. In 1990, he would become the second man ever to win four overall titles.
Unfortunately, things came crashing down quickly. In 1998, Kästle was acquired by a group of investors and folded into Nordica. Kästle-branded skis ceased to exist on the market.
In 2007, a new bunch of businessmen acquired the brand with a revamp in mind. It didn’t take long for Kästle Skis to reappear in ski shops, with their appropriately named Comeback Collection garnering praise within the industry.
In the last half-decade, Kästle transitioned from new kid on the block (or, kid-who-moved-away-for-a-decade-only-to-return-to-the-neighborhood-right-before-high-school) to up and coming force to be reckoned with. In 2015, the company moved its headquarters back to Hohenems, even producing a small number of their skis in an on-site factory. The same year saw Kastle skier Lorraine Huber take home first on the World Freeride Tour.
Kästle’s history might not suggest sustained success going forward, but there is reason to believe the brand is here to stay this time. In 2018, Czech company ConsilSport bought Kästle and outlined an aggressive plan to expand the brand and restore it as one of the industry’s most recognized names.
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