Making a Living by Making a Lifestyle
Born in Bavaria in 1919, Klaus Obermeyer has had a lifelong love affair with skiing, a sport he started at age three. In 1947, at the urging of his friend and ski school director Friedl Pfeifer, Klaus migrated to what was then a fledgling ski resort in the historic mining town of Aspen, Colorado. There, he built an empire. And he made history.
Life is a dance, and we’re dancing on a moving floor. So things are always different, and there are always opportunities. Always new opportunities.
- Klaus Obermeyer, founder of Sport Obermeyer
Sport Obermeyer, founded more than 70 years ago in the attic of Klaus’ home, is now a company that outfits hundreds of thousands of winter sports enthusiasts around the globe with gear and clothing that is in the vanguard of outdoor performance technology.
This effervescent 98-year-old swims a half mile every day and still skis regularly. “Skiing has been my life,” Klaus said. “Everything that happened was because of skiing somehow.”
In 1948, he started a worldwide trend with his groundbreaking down parka, which was fashioned from a comforter that his German mother insisted he take on his journey to America. Klaus explains that previously, skiers rode up the long Aspen lift in long winter coats. That was great for the ride up, but totally impractical for the four-minute schuss down the mountain.
“So you sent your coat back down on the lift,” says Klaus. “The next ride up was a cold one, when you met your coat again about halfway up the lift.”
Who was his first customer for the down parka? Gary Cooper.
Over the ensuing decades, dozens of gear and clothing innovations were developed and introduced by Sport Obermeyer: zip turtlenecks, stretch ski pants, pre-shaped ergonomic gloves, double-lens goggles and the first Goretex® Waterproof/Breathable shell lining. He is unwavering when it comes to quality, and he still influences the brand.
“Never get cheaper, always get better,” Klaus said. “There are so many opportunities to make stuff that really, truly works.”
He reflects on the early days of the resort and on another visionary, developer Walter Paepcke. “Walter thought Aspen was a great opportunity to make a nice town where intelligent people could share music and philosophy and painting,” he said. “It all worked. And it’s fantastic.”
More wisdom from this near centenarian? “Life is a dance, and we’re dancing on a moving floor. So things are always different, and there are always opportunities. Always new opportunities,” he said. “Isn’t that wonderful?”