Like many—okay, most—of us, when I heard the news that Full Tilt was being shut down as a brand, to be replaced by a boot collection under the K2 umbrella, I thought that was it: The end of an era.
However, I recently had the chance to chat with K2 Senior Marketing Manager Khai Krepela (yes, that Khai Krepela), who actually rode for Full Tilt for eight years—about half of the brand's existence! He immediately put my mind at ease regarding the future of the iconic boot design that’s found a home over the years at Raichle, then Kniessl, then Full Tilt, and now K2. To get right to the point: the boot that generations of skiers have learned to love will live on under a new name, with expanded resources to drive its development.
The K2 FL3X collection will “become what Full Tilt should have been, but just never had the resources for,” Khai told me. “We hope to bring this boot line to what it should be.”
22/23 K2 FL3X COLLECTION (YouTube)
The Full Tilt shape, or more specifically the Flexon, is a classic three-piece shell. Khai gave me the quick rundown on the long history of this boot, from Raichle to Kneissl to Full Tilt. To keep that story going, he explained that there needed to be a financial boost for the technology to stay up to date, and make sure that the boot “keeps crushing along with the best of them.”
A change of hands is nothing new for the Flexon boot, which was originally produced by Swiss manufacturer Raichle. (For the hardcore boot nerds, the Raichle Flexon article on Wikipedia goes into extensive detail on the boot’s history). Interestingly, K2 actually bought the Flexon molds back in 2004, two years before Full Tilt debuted as a new brand under the K2 Sports umbrella.
Three generations of the Flexon boot: the original model from Raichle (center), a version from Kneissl (right), and the re-issue from Full Tilt (left). Photo: Robert Neubecker
Now, some 16 years later, a new chapter is beginning for the Flexon. Khai pointed out that in the long run, Full Tilt’s pockets just weren’t deep enough to keep up. “Full Tilt was the biggest core boot brand, but it’s actually a pretty small pool,” he said. “It was maintaining, but it wasn’t growing.” That meant that the company didn’t have the resources to experiment with new technology and keep up with other manufacturers. Consumers could go online and find arguments that other three-piece boots were “better because they continued to update,” Kai said.
In the end, the absorption of Full Tilt by K2 wasn't as drastic a change as you might think. The two brands already shared an office—from Khai’s desk in Seattle, he only needed to stand up to see Connor Clayton and Steve Hartl at Full Tilt. Both internally and logistically, very little has changed, at least for now. There’s a very good reason for that, Khai says: “It wasn’t broken, so we didn’t want to fix it.”
It wasn’t broken, so we didn’t want to fix it.
The full 22/23 K2 FL3X Collection, from top left to bottom right: Revolver Team, Diverge LT, Diverge SC, Method W, Revolver Pro, Revolver, Method B&E, Method, Revolver W, Diverge LT W, Diverge W, Method Pro W, Method Pro, Revolver TBL, Revolver TWP, Revolver Team W, Revolver Pro W, Evolver.
Although K2 isn’t out to change the DNA of the boot line it inherited from Full Tilt, there’s still room for improvement. “What is new is that we did add more boots to the line,” Khai said. “That’s another perfect example of why it came over to FL3X.” The women’s side of Full Tilt wasn’t as extensive as it could have been, he pointed out. Now a women’s touring boot has been added to the collection. In the first year that this classic boot design is with K2, the women’s side is already bigger than it’s ever been.
In terms of technological advances, there’s nothing new this year. For those that may be worried about new parts for old boots or vice versa, everything is still compatible. As a former Full Tilt rider himself, Khai is keen to allay everyone’s fears. “I get it, sometimes people just have a boot that fits right, and they don’t want to change the shell, they just want to change the components,” he said. “All of the FL3X components will be compatible with Full Tilt ones, and the other way around.”
For those of you interested in learning which K2 FL3X boot corresponds to which Full Tilt model, the good folks at Newschoolers.com have put together an excellent article on the topic.
Taylor Lundquist gets her own pro model, the Revolver TBL. Photo: Christian Raguse
Khai told me that K2 is obviously aware of the negative feedback from some of the “core people” about the discontinuation of the Full Tilt brand. He emphasized that everybody involved in the transfer lives and breathes skiing, and wants make sure that they’re doing the right thing. “People might think that every decision is just business,” Khai said. “But sometimes, for the core of the sport, this needs to be done to keep things alive.” There are great things coming down the line, Khai said, and he reiterated that this boot line is, and forever will be, directed at the freestyle/core audience.
Even so, Khai said one of K2’s goals is to open the three-piece boot shape to a broader market that might not know about it yet, or who may be drawn to it for different reasons. The FL3X line can appeal to more than hardcore freestylers or freeriders; its advantages also speak to older skiers and people with mobility issues. “It’s a lot easier to put on a three-piece boot than it is a two-piece boot,” Khai pointed out. “There are people out there where that’s a huge benefit. In recent years, the shape has been dominated by freeskiers, but it’s easier for a 70-year-old to squeeze their foot into when it’s cold.”
All of the former Full Tilt athletes, from Phil Casabon and Henrik Harlaut to Tom Wallisch, have transferred over seamlessly to the new boot line—pro models included. Photo: Christian Raguse
Don’t worry—K2 isn’t intent on taking your favorite boot from the park to the retirement home! While they're keen to introduce it to a wider audience, they certainly won’t forget where they came from, Khai assured me. The FL3X collection will remain focused on the core audience, and will also continue to retain a team of pro athletes, just as Full Tilt did. Even so, the change of name alone will open up the boot collection to a broader market. A customer who knows little about skiing might be more inclined to pick up a boot from K2—a widely recognized brand name—than a boot from Full Tilt, a name that, after all, spoke only to a niche market.
The FL3X collection represents a new name with new objectives. But with passionate people like Khai Krepela on board, the ethos and the foundation that the Flexon boot shape stands for—whatever the brand name printed on the side—will never be lost. “I just want people to know that there’s a lot of really good people who are looking out and making sure that this going to keep pushing our culture further,” Khai concluded.
Who knows? Perhaps in the future, that oft-repeated pearl of wisdom for skiers with boot problems, “Just get Full Tilts!” may in time switch to, “Just get FL3X!”