Orville and Wilbur Reminiscence

By Beacon Staff

The annual fundraiser for the Warren Miller Freedom Foundation was held the other night at the Yellowstone Club. Klaus Obermeyer, the largest manufacturer of ski clothes in America, was the featured speaker. I took to the stage with Klaus and we told stories to our guests about our careers and friendship, which dates back to 1948.

Klaus and I talked about the three weeks we slept side-by-side in the back of my 1946 Ford coupe. I had torn out the backseats and installed a double bed mattress so I could sleep in it on weekends when I went surfing or skiing. The bed was comfortable and we saved a lot of money camping outside of the car as we went on our three-week sales tour starting in Sun Valley. I was selling Army surplus parachute shroud ski boot laces and Klaus was selling his genuine imported Bavarian koogie ties.

My shoelaces retailed for a dollar a pair and Klaus retailed his koogie ties for $1.75.

We traveled and slept in the car from Sun Valley, Idaho, to Seattle and then down the West Coast to Los Angeles while we called on every ski shop we could find in the Yellow Pages.

When I first met Klaus he had recently arrived in America. We met in Ketchum, Idaho, when he was digging a big hole for a septic tank. He landed in New York with $10, his skis and boots and a down quilt his mother made him take with him when he left Bavaria.

Klaus had dozens of funny and historical stories to tell. He can still do an excellent Bavarian yodel, and he did.

Klaus skied the first time in 1924, which was the year that I was born. This is his explanation of how and why it happened: After he saw his first skier glide by near his village in Bavaria, he took some slats out of a shipping crate and nailed a pair of his old shoes to them. Since the slats had no turned up tips on them, he tied a rope from the front of the straight boards and the other end to his knees. As he straightened up his ankles and knees, the roped pulled the tips up.

Klaus lives on a ranch 20 minutes down the valley from downtown Aspen. Just enough drive time to unwind after a day of working in the Obermeyer office or a powder snow day on Ajax.

Our Freedom Foundation teaches entrepreneurial and business skills to young people. We plan on offering startup capital to young people with a good business plan and who need the same financial aid that I needed when I started my film company, as I was loaned one hundred dollars each from four different friends. That $400 was the seed money that produced more than 600 movies during my lifelong career of skiing and filming. Incidentally, those four original investors got all of their money back and interest too.

Selfishly, I really enjoyed spending the weekend with Klaus and his family. Unfortunately, he had crashed skiing (at age 94) a few weeks before he flew up here to be with us so we didn’t get to really share how great our mountains are. In another week he will be able to ski again and continue to star in another ski film that is being produced by his son.

A friend of mine told me that when he listened to us tell ancient ski stories it was as though he was listening to Orville and Wilbur discussing the results of their first flight at Kitty Hawk! So much history!

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