One thing I love about Europe is nearly everywhere you go in and around the Alps you run into ski history. Sometimes you breathe it, eat it, sleep it. Back in the early 1960s, before composite skis helped cause a consolidation in ski manufacturing, hundreds of “brands” of wooden skis were made in small woodworking shops scattered about the villages of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and so on. Ask the locals. Some will remember who made the skis, and where. Sometimes more than a half dozen ski makers plied their trade within a 30 kilometer radius (many not necessarily specializing in skis, but rather being “wagner” craftsmen doing a variety of woodworking).
A local here in Austria where I’m staying remembered in this small region alone they had dozens of ski makers during the days of wood planks. The names are wonderful; for me as an American skier they echo a somewhat mystical creation story: Ober in Kitzbuhel, Muhlberger in Koessen, Staffler in St. Johann, Haggen Muller in Hopfgarten, Bar in Schwaz, Gramshammer in Hall, Kneissl in Kufstein, and Winkler here in Bad Haering. If you widen the scope there are hundreds more, if not thousands — including a number in North America, Northland perhaps being the best known. Oh, and lest I get beaten with a frozen herring, remember the Scandinavian countries where it really all began. Probably thousands of ski makers there as well.
Commenters, can you come up with more names from Europe or North America?
I visited one such venue that other day. The Winkler wagnereien (woodshop) is still operating, its craftsmen making historically correct hay rakes and that sort of thing. Up into the 1960s they were still making skis. And snowboards?
Comments open, share a historical ski maker’s name!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.