Klaus Obermeyer has been passionate about skiing for over 85 years, despite the fact that when he began skiing there were no chairlifts in Europe, there was no insulation for outerwear and no effective sunscreen. German-born Obermeyer worked as an aeronautical engineer for Dornier and Messerschmitt during World War II but found himself running a ski school for American officers on top of the Nablehorn in Oberstdorf, Germany immediately following the war. “I think the war brought the people of Germany and the USA closer together by having the chance to get to know each other, ski together, and share the beauty of nature after the war was over,” Obermeyer says with his typical humor. Soon after, he fell over and when he got up, he was in Aspen (as his version of the story goes).
He began teaching skiing with his friend, Friedl Pfeiffer, who had recently opened the Aspen Ski School. Obermeyer wanted to share his passion for a sport he enjoyed so deeply, yet he quickly found that clients often became cold and quit. This left him without a paycheck. He needed to find a solution to keep a roof over his head, so he began brainstorming and soon he spent his nights in his attic cutting up the down comforter his mother sent along with him (because any continent with North in its name must be frigid), to make the first insulated jacket. He wore it to work where he stayed warm and comfortable all day. His students quickly began to offer to buy the jacket right off his back. It was time to begin manufacturing the jacket.
This proved to be fairly difficult as he quickly found that no one in the market was making insulation. The simplest solution was right under his feet and he decided to sweep up the cast off material from the floor and stuff the jackets. All of the insulation fell to the bottom. It wasn’t long before they were sewing seams throughout the garment to keep insulation in place and in 1948 the first insulated jacket came to market under the name Sport Obermeyer. His list of innovations did not stop there. Throughout his life he has had a hand in developing or improving dual construction ski boots, high altitude sunscreen, ski sweaters, ergonomically shaped gloves, turtlenecks and zip turtlenecks, “flow” boots, quilted parkas, mirrored sunglasses, nylon windshirts, the boot fit press, stretch ski pants, and two pronged ski brakes, to name just a few. Klaus Obermeyer has been integral in shaping the ski industry as we know it today (read our more indepth article).
Klaus turns 100 December 2nd, 2019 and we look forward to seeing him at Outdoor Retailer, finding out what great new styles and innovations he has in store for all of us, and saying “Happy Birthday” again.
A big thank you for keeping us warm!
~Holly Battista-Resignolo, Publisher
Photo Credits: Obermeyer
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