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Preview: The Evolution of Kästle and the MX Collection, The Back Story

Kästle skis and the iconic MX collection were brought to the states in the mid-2000s and immediately set the bar of what a premium ski could and should be. At the time skis were skis, and each brand stayed in line with everyone and no one really wanted to rock the boat with pricing. Price points and collections were pretty much set: $600 to $700 for flat skis and $900 to $1,000 for system skis. In reintroducing the Euro brand, upstart Kästle changed all of that with its stellar MX collection.

How did Kästle begin a decade and a half ago? Well, a group of investors decided they wanted to resurrect a prestigious brand in the skiing world. They looked at a few names that were no longer on the ski walls; Hart and Authier were two of the considerations, and then Benetton, the former owner of Nordica, was no longer using the Kästle name when it started calling its skis "Nordica," so the investment group made a bid on the Kästle name.

Bringing back a brand as iconic as Kästle required a core collection of skis to create some buzz, so the Mountain Cross (MX) series was born. The MX series was a five-ski collection from 70 to 108 mm underfoot. These were not your typical all-mountain skis when they were introduced; they were built to a higher standard than anything else offered at the time. The design and construction were closer to a race ski than anything else out there. The MX skis evolved a few times during their first decade or so on the market, increasing the Hollowtech in the tip, adjusting the sidecuts, and even adding a millimeter here and there to waist widths. But what really separated the MX skis from others in the market was that they were built to a race-level standard in the race rooms of the Head factory in Austria, which is where they were made until this current generation.

Kästle has always been first and foremost an Austrian brand. That is where its heritage started roughly a century ago and where its roots will always be. Kästle still maintains its design center in the hills of Austria where its all-new World Cup race skis and Limited Edition skis are produced and new designs are conceived. Before people start saying that an MX is not an MX unless it is built in Austria, slow your horses and let me remind you that we are in a world economy and a BMW is still a BMW whether it is built in Munich or Spartansburg, SC -- the same can be said for Mercedes, Volvo, or any brand built outside its originating country.

For 2021, this is the first time I can say with confidence that the MX collection is all new, even to where the skis are produced. Kästle is under new ownership, the Sporten group. While that name might not be recognizable to our US readers, it is one of the biggest and most respected groups in Europe. Sporten’s Czech Republic production facility is one of the most state-of-the-art production facilities in the world. I could tell as soon as I picked up the new MX88 at the 2021 Outdoor Retailers show.

The upcoming MX line has been modernized with new shapes, new oversized Hollowtech, waist widths that return to their roots like MX88 and MX98, and simpler graphics with the embossed “Kästle” in the top skin that was lost in the middle generations. The early Kästles had a tactile feel in your hand that told you the ski was indeed special. Well, I can say that has been brought over the Czech borders and to the new factory and is ingrained in this collection. As good as the previous facility was, it had some limitations; now in its own facility, Kästle will be able to produce exactly the ski it has always dreamed of producing.

These new MXs feel like true MXs all the way down to their beautifully finished chevron base structure. But this means nothing if they do not perform to the lofty standard that Kästle set for itself with the original MX88, the standard of the 88mm ski world -- check out the 2021 Kastle reviews in our Ski Selector.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

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Interesting.......always appreciate insightful stories about the ski industry. Question: who/what was the driving force that helped make Kastle skis special when they were reintroduced to the U.S. in the mid-2000's? Was much of the success attributed to the engineering group? Was it a combination of engineers led by owners that were aligned with a mission and goal to create an world class product? If much of Kastle's success was attributed toward the engineering and design does anyone know if Kastle's engineers went to Sporten Group? If the engineers left is there reason to a: expect another boutique ski company to emerge in the future? b. Is there reason to believe that future quality is at risk ?
 

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