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Obermeyer – The Man Behind The Brand


obermeyer02-562x600If you’re an active outdoors person – you owe a tip of the hat to Klaus Obermeyer.

Last week the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) presented the Industry Achievement Award to  Obermeyer, a German native well-known throughout the industry for his Aspen-based skiwear company, Sport Obermeyer.

In 1947, Obermeyer arrived in Aspen, Colorado, where his friend Friedl Pfeiffer had opened the Aspen Ski School. Over the next twelve years, he spent his days working as a ski instructor on Aspen Mountain.

He founded Sport Obermeyer based on insights he had gained about ski wear while working as an instructor and started the business in the attic of his home. There, one of the first of many innovations was born in the form of a down ski parka stitched together from his goose down comforter.

Obermeyer’s now-legendary story goes like this: while teaching skiing in Aspen he got tired of being cold during long days on the slopes. In those days, people skied in wool coats and suits. Looking for a solution, Obermeyer cut up a down comforter his mother had insisted he bring with him when he moved to America, and fashioned part of it into a crude parka.

“I looked like the Michelin Man and had feathers in my cereal for weeks,” (You have to love that quote). But the jacket was warm. And one of his students paid the unheard-of sum of $250 to buy it off his back. “A new Buick was $1,250 in those days!”, says Obermeyer.

Klaus’ innovations include, but aren’t limited to:
– The quilted down parka – mentioned above
– Developed the first mirrored ski sunglasses from vaporized metal
– Created the first nylon windshirt
– With Friedl Pfeiffer developed the first high-altitude suntan lotion
– Developed a dual layer ski boot. The first with an insulated liner and a rigid, plastic exterior shell
– Created the first turtlenecks with elasticized collars – how many gajillions of those were sold by Lands’ End and LL Bean in the 1980’s and 1990’s?

At age 93, he still regularly skis, swims half a mile a day, bikes and yodels.

Klaus has received many awards in his life including the SIA award…but what does he consider his greatest achievement? “Just to make skiing more fun.” he says.

Obermeyer’s passion for the sport of skiing has carried an entire industry including dozens of other brands and thousands of retailers for over 60 years. That feat may be unparalleled in business ever again.

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