Colorado Business Hall of Fame Laureates: Klaus Obermeyer
The five laureates inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame for 2015 represent the state’s most distinguished group of business leaders from past and present, selected for their professional contributions to the state as well as their community service.
At 95, Klaus Obermeyer does not get discouraged, no matter what the day brings. Obermeyer, an avid skier who founded Sport Obermeyer more than half a century ago, has never worried about snowfall, recessions, even snowboarders.
“The challenges and the opportunities never end,” he says. “That’s always there for the taking. We are dancing through life. If something negative comes, we know there is something positive connected to it.”
Obermeyer was born in Oberstaufen, Germany in 1919. In the 1940s he moved to the U.S., and worked as a ski instructor in Aspen. He famously made his first down coat out of a hotel comforter, and later founded his eponymous company. Sport Obermeyer opened its warehouse in Aspen in 1961. Over the years the brand has offered innovative products that are now mainstays in the industry, such as nylon wind shirts, the boot fit press, and high altitude sunscreen. In 2007 the company introduced sustainable fabrics with 47 percent recycled textiles.
And the company does not limit its target audience to skiers. When snowboarding caught on several years ago, the sport’s giant, Burton, sent over a board for Obermeyer’s son to try. “I think snowboarding has introduced the idea of wider skis that float in lower speeds,” he says. “Most people are able to ski in deep snow, but they didn’t used to. The snowboard’s shape changed the whole way you ski.”
Skiing is still his passion, and is the focus of much of the company’s gear and apparel. Two years ago Sport Obermeyer was tapped to provide the uniforms for Wengen, a renowned ski school in Switzerland. Obermeyer was thrilled at that order, which totaled more than 1,000 items of clothing. “The Swiss are particular when it comes to money and uniforms,” he says. “It’s great we are making their uniforms.”
Economic slowdowns and tough snow years do not depress the cheerful Obermeyer. “A lot of things we do not have control over,” he says. “If it snows then we look intelligent, if it doesn’t snow then we look dumb.” The key, he says, is to offer products that are attractive, competitively priced, and well-made. People will shop for snow gear no matter what kind of winter they’re having, weather-wise or economically.
Looking forward, Obermeyer says, there is nothing but good news. “It is important to truly, clearly look at situations and what it is that one should or could do to make it a better thing,” he says. “Always when somebody comes to my office and says we have a problem, I say, wonderful, with problems come always opportunities.”
through the years
1919 Obermeyer is born in Oberstaufen, Germany.
1947 Obermeyer moves to Sun Valley, Idaho, then
1947 He teaches skiing in Aspen, makes a parka from a down comforter and starts his company, Sport Obermeyer.
1961 He opens the first Sport Obermeyer warehouse in Aspen.
2014 Sport Obermeyer presents the color palette for the skiwear line for the 2014/15 season: crimson, limelight, knockout pink and vibrant shades of blue, which the company says “reflect a vastly improved mood in the industry.”