The Rocky Mountains had a record snow year in 2011 and I missed it. I was too tired, too out of shape, too busy trying to raise a family and scratch out a living to get out to Colorado even once that ski season. But it wasn’t just 2011 I missed. I hadn’t skied in the mountains in over a decade, which if you knew me as a ski racer at age 20, you would have thought impossible. But there I was, in Minneapolis in late May, reading about how they were still skiing in Aspen. At the top of the article was a picture that caught my imagination: a fit, smiling, silver-haired man was skiing a brilliant white trail between the evergreens, ten thousand feet high in the bluebird sky.
One look and I knew someday I wanted to be that guy. He was maybe 80 but carried himself like he was 40. One thing was crystal clear, whoever he was, he was loving life.
Turns out I was wrong. In 2011 Klaus Obermeyer was 91.
And the article was wrong. Klaus wasn’t skiing Aspen in May, despite how the picture made it appear. Klaus Obermeyer was busy rehabbing a broken femur, his first serious ski injury in 88 years, and getting back in shape to hit the slopes again in 2012.
Which he did. That’s right. He rehabbed a broken femur. At 91.
But that’s just another story in a life filled with great stories.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning. There’s lots to learn from Klaus.
The Legend of Klaus
Born in Bavaria in 1919 in the small village of Oberstaufen, Germany, Klaus Obermeyer grew up an avid rock climber, ski mountaineer, racer, and jumper.
In 1947 he came to Aspen Colorado to teach skiing at the Aspen Ski School but was ill-prepared for the cold hours spent on the mountain with his students. One night back at his room, he took the down comforter his mother insisted he bring with him from Germany, cut it up, sewed it back together, and turned it into a down parka.
The primitive coat soon caught the attention of one of his wealthy students, and the offer of $250 for it, in a time when a new car cost $1250, was all Klaus needed to hear. He traveled back to Germany and convinced a friend to make seventy-five prototypes in the friend’s down comforter factory.
And Sport Obermeyer was born.
Klaus the innovator
An aeronautical engineer by training, curious by nature, and still today never one to rest on his laurels, Klaus and his company created innovation after innovation in the ski industry since that first down parka in 1947: the first mirrored ski sunglasses, the nylon wind-shirt, the hard-shell-soft-liner ski boot, turtle necks with elasticized collars, and along with his friend Friedel Pfeifer, the first high-altitude suntan lotion. All were designed on a simple premise: make skiers more comfortable and safer pursuing the sport they love.
In life, you have it never made. You’re always working to make it, again and again and again, every day, from hour to hour.
Klaus was also an early proponent of clean, renewable energy, starting in 1980 with his company’s Aspen Colorado office complex, which derives 60% of its heat from solar energy and includes a solar-heated lap pool. In 1991, Obermeyer completed construction of a 5 megawatt hydroelectric plant that supplies clean and renewable energy to more than 7,000 homes in southern Colorado.
Today, Obermeyer is focused on sustainable materials in the manufacture of their skiwear, including making fabric from coconut and bamboo fibers.
I never worry. Every problem has an opportunity attached to it.
Klaus, the man who always shares the smile on his face and the yodel in his heart
It’s easy to understand why everyone wants to be like Klaus Obermeyer: he simply loves living and shares that passion with everyone he meets. Not to mention the man can yodel:
Klaus Obermeyer, the Inspiration behind TwentyFortySixtyEighty
Klaus Obermeyer inspired me to get back in shape, start skiing again, and launch TwentyFortySixtyEighty. Here’s just some of what I’ve learned from him.
- Do what you love and share it with the world
- Stay fit. Eat well. Take care of your body for the long game.
- Take care of your mind. Engage it. See problems as opportunities for growth and solve them.
- Do this every day.
- Do it now.
And finally, this:
I ski every day because the days that you don’t ski, they don’t come back.
I’m down with that.