The skiing season is over for most people in Switzerland but one small company in the Bernese Oberland village of Reichenbach in the Kander Valley is already gearing up for next winter...and the one after that.This content was published on May 23, 2001 - 15:51
The Fritschi company, which develops and produces high-tech bindings, is fast making a name for itself in the highly demanding world of skiing.
Its binding systems are aimed at cross country skiers, downhill skiers, telemarkers and until recently snowboarders.
With a staff of 55 and an annual turnover of some SFr15 million ($8.54 billion), the company exports 75 per cent of its production to nearly 30 countries.
In the cross-country area, Fritschi is the market leader with a worldwide share of about 80 per cent.
Brothers Andreas and Christian Fritschi have not only been innovative when it comes to the bindings themselves. They have also been quick to be a little different when it comes to public relations.
For example, the South Tyrolean extreme mountain climber Hans Kammerlander used the company's bindings when he skied down Mount Everest.
He also plans to use them when he tackles the more dangerous descent of the world's second highest mountain K2 (8,611 metres) later this year.
The company, which moved into new purpose-built premises just over a year ago, has a philosophy that aims at steady growth in market niches.
Head of marketing Stefan Burki told swissinfo that the firm looks two to three years ahead in its planning. "You must recognise the need in the market and then have the idea to cover this need, and therefore you have to look forward quite a long way."
The birth of a new binding follows basic designs by company engineers with some help from outside specialists.
"We do not make the parts in Reichenbach. We assemble the bindings here but all parts that are delivered by our suppliers are based on our technology," Burki said.
Fritschi works in an industry where ski speed is matched by equally speedy development by manufacturers.
"Situations in the market change from season to season and very quickly. That is why it's good to be prepared, to know in which direction the market is going and to offer the right product at the right time," Burki told swissinfo.
"Sometimes if that's not possible, you must have a very short reaction time on changes in the market," he added.
"Small is beautiful" is a philosophy at Fritschi and the company seems to want to stay that way. Although there have been several people making offers to take over the firm, the Fritschi brothers have said they have no plans to sell out. However, they say they are open to discussion when it comes to cooperation with other firms.
by Robert Brookes
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