The cliché proverb of “necessity is the mother of invention” rings true when looking at the mind-blowing list of innovations Klaus Obermeyer's fingerprints are plastered on. From the first down parka to mirrored sunglasses and aluminum ski poles to the initial ski brake, Klaus has contributed to the evolution of skiing since he started ideating in Aspen in 1947. Arguably, however, Klaus’s contributions to ski boot design are as impactful as anything he has conceived.
“San Marco means comfort, good fit, support, and warmth!”
Picture historic images of legendary skiers like Dick Durrance or Jean-Claude Killy pressing their shins against soft leather ankle-high boots in late 40s and early 50s. In hindsight, it was amazing that aggressive skiers were able to draw lines on steep faces in those days because the terrible leather ski boots proved to be a serious hurdle. Not all skiers in those days were Killy or Durrance, and the tourists in mountain towns like Sun Valley and Aspen struggled to have fun and improve their skiing because of the obstacles posed by their equipment, namely the ski boots of the time.
Klaus Obermeyer, seeing an opportunity to innovate and improve the experience on snow, got to work. First, he added a comfortable cushioned inner-boot made of rubber that was manufactured by Wagner and Rieker under Obermeyer’s own label Garmisch. In 1958, Obermeyer sold the Garmisch boot for $44.95.
How’s Sport Obermeyer promote the most innovative ski boot of the time?
“Maybe you get your kicks mogul hopping. Running slalom. Making those first track through the fresh powder snow. Geländesprunging, or touring the backcountry. Anyway, you’ve found the fun in skiing. And you know how vital good equipment is. Especially boots. Boots that really fit. So why suffer? Treat your feet; offer them comfort. You get the fit of your lifetime with Garmisch. The secret’s in the support—solid support. And in all the right places. Four widths and twenty sizes worth, extensively tested and hand crafted from the toughest chrome tanned leathers. So throw away your foot-weary worries and find out just how good a skier you can be. Have more fun, to boot!”
The Garmisch ad from 1958 feels like it could promote 130-flex plug boots in one of today’s ski magazines. But, look at the picture of original Garmisch boots to see how far we’ve come (thanks to innovators like Klaus Obermeyer who crafted equipment to help us progress on snow).
Fast forward to 1967 when Klaus imported San Marco ski boots, another revolutionary leap in on-snow technology. These dual-layer ski boots (boots with a soft liner inside a plastic shell) were a game changer and today’s ski boot technology still pulls from the original moulded plastic shells that Obermeyer introduced to American skiers in 1967.
“I recommend SAN MARCOs. There is a model for every level of skiing—from beginner to the fastest skier in the world, Alessandro Casse, winner of World Speed Record at 11.4.411 mph,” Klaus said in SKI Magazine’s January 1975 issue. “SAN MARCO means comfort, good fit, support, and warmth!”
It’s been a wild ride when you look at the history of skiing footwear. Lange and Raichle, Full Tilt and Tecnica all have played a role in ski boot design over the years. At the heart of ski boot innovation, Klaus Obermeyer has played a central role, too.