Been in the ski business for over 20 years and grew up in a ski shop. Have seen a lot of brands come and go, ebb and flow, and a lot of trends and technology take hold or more often NOT. Every company has some times of success and not so much.
The ski industry is "Eurocentric" and what works in Europe doesn't necessarily translate to the US market. The European ski market is influenced a lot by racing and carving. These two things mean zero in the US ski market. US skiers want easily attainable performance without a lot of skillful input, they simply don't take the time or have the interest in learning how to ski technically. Lots of new ski tech is meant to appeal to the US market, fat skis, rocker, etc. Some of these are good developments, some not much.
Given this. A few of the key manufacturers are struggling with the translation from Europe to America.
Arguably, one of the most important ski brands in the US. In the last twenty years gained a huge following with the premium market,advanced skiers and most recently with ladies. The brand's hallmarks were precision, edge-hold, and quality materials and construction. They might have been a little "too much ski" for the avg American consumer, but they still sold well. Maybe came a little late to the "rocker" party, but maintained it's relevance in the market. However, in the last 5 seasons, it seems to have lost a lot of traction.
Ever since K2 (or it's parent company) purchased Volkl, the brand has floundered. I have heard rumors that the company lost several key ski designers to other companies (Blizzard, maybe Kastle, and others). The ELP rockered skis (now the majority of their lineup) have been average performers at best. But, appears to be the technology that they think will appeal to American skiers with average ski skills. They have sold a bunch of skis for sure, but only because of an inherited reputation. When compared head to head (in similar categories) with most other manufacturers offerings, the Volkl models (esp. with the ELP rocker) don't fare very well. ELP skis feel very vague and swimmy at low edge angle (which most American skiers employ). Yet, Volkl is stubbornly hanging on to that tech. AND, it has changed the design of it's most iconic model (Mantra) from a full camber (latest with a smidge of early rise in tip) ripper to a full rocker ELP ski. Gulp!
IMO, Volkl needs to scrap their whole rocker program. What they need to do is build conventionally cambered skis with a little early tip and tail rise, with a little softer longtitudal flex. Same materials and build quality. Is it a little bit of "me too"? Yes. But the ELP mess will lead to the demise of an excellent brand.
Probably offers some of the best quality and performance in the market. It is truly a premium product. But, at it's peril. The product is excellent, no question. But the brand's pricing is totally out of control. It would be understandable if these skis were 20-30% more expensive than "comparable" models from other manufacturers. But, twice as much? Since Kastle uses facilities in the Head (and Elan) factories, they don't have the big capital expense of their own facilities and any associated overhead. The materials used are probably premium quality, but the production costs can't be twice as much.
The strategy is obviously to maximize profit. But, they are pricing themselves out of relevancy. When I put on a consumer demo event, the Kastle products are the favorites by quite a wide margin. But, when it comes to actually selling them to the average ski consumer, it is tough. Sure, I sell a few to the "hardcore" folks that have lots of disposible income (mostly older empty nesters). But, the average family guy who has to work for a living, can't or won't justify it and usually buys a lesser ski at half the price.
If I could sell an MX88 or MX83 at $799 rather than $1200. I would sell a ton of Kastle, and I sure that a lot of retailers would as well. The brand would take off like wildfire. As it is, Kastle will raise their prices next season, making them an even tougher sell. These will be the best skis nobody can afford to buy.
I have some other complaints as well. But this post is already way too long as it is.