THIS IS THE STORY OF THE ORIGINAL 3-PIECE BOOT.
Throughout the early 70’s a smart guy by the name of Eric Giese had worked for NASA in the days of early space suits for the first landings on the moon. The big problem in space suits is they had cooling, heating and electric lines running throughout the suit and as the astronauts did space walks they had a big problem with them kinking and getting crimped when people tried to walk with their knees and ankles flexing. The solution was articulating hinges which had ribs to allow flex in the ankles, knees and elbows to preserve the shape of the suit around the joint.
In 1978/79 living in Aspen, Eric applied this concept to skiing. He independently developed some very unique boot design concepts that included a floating ribbed tongue instead of an overlap. His goal was to enable the boot to flex without bulging/distorting in the lower shell. This was the largest single problem of the day, especially since ski boots at the time had no ankle hinge. The ankle is of course a critical area of fit where any distortion would immediately causes a loss of control. This is how the ribs of the original Raichle flexon tongue were conceived.
Eric then approached the US distributor of Raichle and presented his concept with a rough prototype. The US distributor saw the potential of the design and brought Eric and his boot to Switzerland, Raichle world headquarters. They had a large meeting including people from the US distribution, and the President of Raichle Switzerland, Heinz Herzog and many others in the company. They debated whether they should go ahead with the project. The Swiss felt it was too radical, too different looking, knowing they are a conservative company. Finally in a last ditch effort, Eric put one of their existing boots on one foot and his prototype on the other and jumped up on the conference room table. He flexed them both and their boot bulged out, looking horrible. He then said something to the effect of, “Guys, you need to decide what you want, do you want this or this?!” The decision was obvious.
In 1979, ten years after the first moon walk, the first 3-Piece boot prototype was built by Raichle. After many different prototypes it was brought to market during the winter of ‘80/’81. This flexibility with direct force path function concept, was later named the Flexon Concept and ultimately this first boot was named the Flexon 5, and later the Flexon Comp.
One of the first pro ski racers and freestylers to compete in the boot was Billy Shaw on a prototype in ‘79/’80 and hot dog freestyle skier Peter Ouellette. The boots quickly caught on and became one of the top boots of choice by Olympic racers and freestylers. There was later the legendary Bill Johnston who won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympic downhill as well as Nelson Carmichael who dominated mogul comps throughout the late 80’s.
The Raichle boots at the time had been manufactured in an old World War II style factory on the border of Germany. In 1983, Raichle built a new modern factory on other side of town in Switzerland. As the new factory got up and running, the president of Raichle who privately owned the company suddenly sold it to a man that came into the picture out of nowhere named Peter Werhan. Peter was actually the grandson of Conrad Admour, the chancellor of Germany. Prior to this, he had married a Swiss woman named Beatris and lived in Switzerland. Peter and his family loved skiing, which made his new acquisition the perfect blend of work and play. Peter lived the sport of skiing and was very charismatic and enthusiastically ran the company well. Sales grew at an alarming rate world wide to the point of barely being able to keep up with production. The boot was on the podiums of Olympic and world cup race and freestyle competitions internationally with no other boot able to match its performance due to the strong patents Raichle held.
In the late 80’s, only a few years into running the business, Peter was driving home from the factory and died in an unfortunate car accident with his secretary in the car. Peter’s wife immediately inherited the company and took over running it. It was never the same after that and by 1996 the business was on the verge of bankruptcy.
It was then that Raichle was purchased by a Swiss banker Dr. Grosnick who was in the business of buying companies in distress and reorganizing them to become profitable. Dr. Grosnick also purchased Kneissl skis shortly after. As successful as the boot was, because the Flexon boot molds & design went unchanged for so many years, it was natural human instinct to try to end the boot and create a newer, latest and greatest version. They knew the 3-Piece concept worked and over the years attempted to make newer versions. They made wider, higher volume versions and lower priced versions but none ever delivered the performance of the original. What they didn’t realize is that they already had, quite literally the greatest boot ever and no matter how many new and changed versions they made, the skiers would always came back asking for the original.
In 1999 Dr. Grosnick insisted that the Kneissl brand offer a boot and made the rash decision of re-naming all Raichle boots to Kneissl branded boots. The company didn’t do as well as anticipated and was sold a year and a half later to the parent company of Roces. From there the molds were bought and sold and passed around without much being done with them. All the while it maintained a stronger core following of skiers addicted to its performance. These pro athletes had built their careers on this boot as well as thousands of skiers like you that also couldn’t give them up. Everyone was suddenly forced to search for parts and boots on Ebay and scrounged ski swaps to keep them on their feet.
We’re boot fitters, and we know better than anyone that something had to be done. We took it upon ourselves to go back and search out the original molds and bring it back to life not in some new and distorted form, but in the original construction and design that had been proven over the past 25 years to be the most popular 3-Piece design in the world. We purchased the original molds tested every feature, kept what worked, then added some of today’s most advanced technology to make them work even better, never stopping until we were skiing them again. We hope you enjoy these boots as much as we enjoy bringing them back to life. The revolution in 3 piece boot design started here, and will now continue from here ... For the good of skiing.
Special thanks to all of the original pioneers of this 3-Piece boot design, and the people, brands, shops, companies and skiers that kept it alive even when it was no longer available. If you’ve got an interesting piece of this boot’s history, please send it and we’ll consider including it.