From schoolteacher to innovator: the man who changed the ski industry


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Georges Salomon – the man who revolutionized the ski industry starting in the 1950s with his innovative bindings – died last week at the age of 84 at his home on Lake Annecy in France, not far from the slopes in the French Alps. Salomon, who built the global ski brand that still bears his name was the visionary who created the modern ski boot and snap-off toe-and-heel bindings that skiers and snowboarders today take for granted.

According to his obituary from the Wall Street Journal,

Originally a schoolteacher, Mr. Salomon set up a workshop in Annecy with his father, a saw-blade manufacturer and in 1947 they began producing sharp metal edges for a nacent postwar Alpine ski industry. Mr. Salomon developed machinery to automate blade production, the company’s first important innovation.

In the early 1950s, he acquired a disused patent for a new kind of ski binding and worked on improvements. He introduced the first toe-release system in 1955, and a series of technical innovations followed including “Le Lift,” the first Salomon binding that replaced traditional leather straps.

In 1962, he introduced Allais safety binding, named for the French Alpine skiing champion of the 1930s.

At the 1966 Alpine World Ski Championships in Chile, French skiers with Salomon bindings dominated. By 1972, Salomon claimed the world market for ski bindings with more than a million sold annually.

A recreational skier, Mr. Salomon tested and honed his company’s products. His shock of white hair and easy manner invited comparisons to philosophers and ski bums, but his aggresive innovation belied such talk.

Salomon’s innovative ski bindings allowed everyone–from beginners to even the most experienced–to ski without the risk of broken bones or torn ligaments and tendons. His bindings gave way before the bone, tendon or ligament did: a significant innovation that helped to exponentially increase the size of the ski market. With the added safety provided by Salomon bindings, the sport of skiing became accessible worldwide by individuals and families alike. It’s no coincidence that the skiing boom began soon after the introduction of these innovative bindings.

Here’s the takeaway: You don’t need special qualifications or academic credentials to innovate. The single most important innovation in the billion-dollar ski industry was created by a former French schoolteacher.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Lefler
Patrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group -- a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster by providing unique value at the product level: specifically product marketing, pricing, and innovation. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.


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