Why would a relatively small ski company decide – seemingly out of the blue – to absorb the absurd expense of becoming a boot supplier? The answer to this question isn’t the usual brand-extension story, although that must be part of the overall strategy. The new boot brand’s laser focus in on the race community, with a real-deal 150-flex model as its flagship.
To solve the puzzle of why anyone would introduce a new race boot brand, we need to rewind to 2018, when ConsilSport, a Czech manufacturer owned by former ski racer Tomáš Němec, acquired a majority stake in Kästle. As a former World Cup competitor, Němec was itching to enter the Austrian pool, which Kästle promptly set out to do in 2019, signing a Rossignol racer named Katherine Leinsburger to race on Kastle skis while continuing to use Rossi boots. Not so fast, cautioned the Austrian ski federation; if you don’t have a sanctioned boot sponsor, you can’t race. If Kästle wanted to put racers on its skis, they would need to become a member of the boot supplier pool.
Fast forward to the more recent past, when Kästle signed Ester Ledecka – the snowboarder who rocked the ski universe when she won an Olympic Super G gold – to race for its factory team. So, there’s your answer: Kästle wanted full access to top talent to represent the brand. It’s a lot to spend in order to be allowed to spend a lot more, which is why the answer begs further questions. I suppose it’s an indication of what can happen when racers rule the boardroom.
Since Kästle’s first target customer is a world-class racer, it shouldn’t surprise that the Kästle boots that came to market last season included an authentic150-flex, competition boot, paired with a 130-flex sibling, along with a small entourage of more flexible clones, two for men (130 & 110 flex) and two for women (120 & 100). Every feature is straight out of the 4-buckle, 2-piece, overlap, race-boot bible, at pricing a full step up from the norm. In a genre in which customization is expected , there are a fistful of custom options: a foam liner, carbon spoiler and better booster strap can all be added à la carte.
I should confess that I skied the Kästle 130P all last season, in all conditions last winter’s bountiful snowfall made possible. They performed exactly as one would expect, without frills or fanfare. Entry and exit were predictably contentious, but once ensconced in their unrelenting embrace, they behaved admirably. On most days, once locked in, I never touched a buckle…