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K2 Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Fifty years after its inception, iconic American ski company K2 is not only still going strong, but remains an industry leader in product innovation. K2 maintains its irreverent and humorous attitude – never taking the ski world too seriously, but today’s K2 engineers keep their eye on the ball, churning out progressive gear every season. By Brigid Mander

Fifty years after its inception, iconic American ski company K2 is not only still going strong, but remains an industry leader in product innovation.  K2 maintains its irreverent and humorous attitude – never taking the ski world too seriously, but today’s K2 engineers keep their eye on the ball, churning out progressive gear every season. 

The company has come a long way. K2’s founder, Bill Kirschner, started out making veterinary splints and cages with his father and brothers, and their company become a world-wide supplier of cages. By the 1950’s Bill and his brother Don had been experimenting with making fiberglass skis.  They didn’t hit up on a concept that worked, however, until the early 1960’s.

In 1964, K2, named for Bill and his brother Don (2 Kirshners) and the peak K2, delivered 250 pairs of the Holiday, the world’s first fiberglass and foam core ski. This was a complete deviation from what European ski manufacturers were doing at the time, which was to plate traditional, stiff, wooden skis with fiberglass.

K2 recruited US World Cup racer Marilyn Cochran as one of the first skiers to ski on one of their protoypes. “I really liked the ski a lot,” says Cochran-Brown.  “I loved the arc – they snapped around really quick. I could hit the K2 hard, and it would just snap around for me.” In 1969, she won the World Cup overall title in GS on her K2s. By 1971, K2 was doing its own distribution. The rest, of course, is history.

During its 50th year, the company has found itself in the company of a few other half century-old entities – like lift service in powder mecca of Niseko, Japan, and another American icon, the Rolling Stones.  K2 has been marketing the first of four limited edition skis, a Rolling Stones topsheet on the Sideshow and Sidestash skis.

Playing on the idea that K2 has been a leader in rocker ski technology, and the Rolling Stones have just been leading the musical rocker world for decades, it became an ideal-and fun-partnership.  K2 also released a book, titled “50 Years of Serious Fun” about its history.

“The 50th anniversary book project for us was definitely a deep dive into the psyche of the brand,” Jeff Mechura, K2’s head of global marketing, told ESPN.com earlier this winter. “What's even cooler is that the people that make K2 what it is today aren't much different from back then. The people then were connected and passionate, similar to those who are here now who love what they do. That's why we're calling the anniversary book "50 years of Serious Fun.”

From a garage to being a global, influential in its industry, publicly held company, K2 has changed the ski world, for the better, and remains an inspiration to have fun on the snow.