HEIERLING SKI BOOTS – THE OLDEST MAKER IN THE WORLD
Today in ski manufacturing there are only a handful of independant ski boot makers. It is perhaps a more difficult product to begin making from scratch and certainly less appealing to all but a few dedicated souls. To start a ski boot brand requires substantial financial investment that must then be combined with advanced technological and industrial development – all of this for a niche market with very limited sales potential. At first glance, designing a ski boot might seem to be straight forward. In reality production of even a limited number requires exceptional technical expertise in a diverse set of scientific and craft fields that only very few have mastered over the past century. One of these is Heierling of Switzerland – it also happens to be the oldest ski boot maker in the world.
For more than three generations, Heierling master shoemakers have dedicated their energies to crafting a handmade ski boot of exceptional quality. First established in 1885 in the mountain village of Graubünden , Davos, Switzerland it has stayed true to its original founder’s vision even in a world that today is more obsessed with new technology than ever before. Franz Heierling invented the first leather ski boot. For over a century since the Heierling craft family have worked on improving technical details of the ski boot such as the adding the first metallic ski buckles, foam injected lining and rear entry design Despite being a small manufacturer Heierling has been a leader in ski boot innovation.
A JOURNEY FROM CRAFT WORKSHOP TO WORLD LEADER
Heierling began hand making leather ski boots in Davos in 1885 and became famous for its hand-made leather boots in World Cup racing. The firm grow dramatically during the ski boom of the 1970’s and 1980’s and continued to make ski boots until 1994 when it was purchased by Salomon. Since then the Heierling Fitting Centre in Davos has become synonamous with World Cup skiers, ski instructors and anyone wanting that extra special boot fit. The company has also continued to work closely with other manufacturers on ski boot development, for example with Atomic on the I-Flex technology used in the Atomic Hawx ski boot.
1883 Franz Heierling opens a shoe-making business beside a shoe store in Davos, at the time an up-and-coming destination for foreigners. Franz Heierling had 2-3 employees and most work invloved shoe repairs and crafting custom-fit shoes.
1885 Skis were brought to Davos for the first time from Norway. Franz Heierling produced the first Heierling ski boots, based on a sample of the Norwegian Lauper boots.
1910 – 20 Davos continues to grow as a skiing resort and the first ski club is founded. Hans Heierling enters the family business and is the first to produce unique hand-sewn ski boots. Heierling also made high-shaft ski boots for ski-jumping. All ski boots are handmade by 3-4 employees.
1925 – 30 The first cable cars are built in the Swiss Alps raising the profile of Davos to skiers across the globe. Innovative new bindings required new types of ski boots with stronger soles. Heiriling adds rubber soles to their ski boots for better grip.
1934 – 39 Heierling becomes a specialist in custom-made ski boots. Internationally famous ski racers like Walter Prager, Martin Fopp and Jack Ettinger, begin wearing custom-fitted racing boots from Heierling.
1941 Hans Heierling II (1925) begins as an apprentice in the family business. Heierling continues to produce ski boots throughout WWII improving their boots by adding instep lacing and straps.
POST WAR GROWTH
1948 During the first post-war Olympic Games in St. Moritz, an increasing number of ski racers come to Heierling for fitted racing boots which by then had gained a favorable reputation for high quality. Emil Alias, the 1938 world champion asks Heierling to outfit the entire German team with boots fitted with brass reinforcements and double-laces. The new boots allow much better edge grip leading to their adoption by many more racers. Heierling has grows to now employ 4-5 people.
1953 After Hans Heierling II obtains his master craftsman’s diploma, he takes over the business from his father and concentrates his efforts on the development of new ski boot models. The first models with buckles, developed by Hans Martin in Zurich, are built.
1956 Racers wearing Heierling boots begin to win Olympic medals – casting an international spotlight. Boots are still made by hand in the workshop in Davos by 6-8 employees work at Heierling.
1959 Heierling moves to a new shop in Davos-Dorf. The workshop is expanded to the renovated barn next door.
1960 Almost the entire Swiss National Ski Team, as well as the USA National Ski Team choose to use Heierling racing ski boots. At the Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, racers wearing Heierling boots win 3 gold and 1 silver medals Heierling becomes an identifiable success story in the ski boot industry growing further to employ 10 people.
1961 – 62 At the current location, Flüelastrasse 4, new buildings for living and the business are built.
1964 Ski boots with buckles are a runaway success. At the Innsbruck Olympics 95% of the racers are wearing buckled boots. Two gold and 2 silver medals are won by racers wearing Heierling boots. Small-scale serial production is started. Production grows to 2500-3000 pairs of boots annually and still made by hand. The well-known US ski racer Bud Werner organizes the export of Heierling boots to the US market. Employment at Heierling rises to 18 employees.
1965 Heierling begins large-scale production of a second ski boot model. Customers’ demands for less expensive boots necessitate the production of boots for the middle price segment in addition to the continuing hand-made production of racing boots. The new model is very successful selling over 6,000 pairs.
1966 – 68 Serial production is increased, with export to new markets like Canada, Japan and England joining the already successful markets of USA and Switzerland. The first models with injection moulded plastic soles and shafts are produced. Approximately 15,000 pairs are produced.
1968 The workshop is enlarged and renovated. Heierling has 26 employees.
1972 The first steps from leather to synthetic have taken place. In addition to ski boots made with plasticized leather and injection-moulded soles, Heierling also introduces the first full-synthetic boot, Hot Shot. This is the first custom-made ski boot with a foam-liner. Once again, Heierling is able to bring a ground-breaking product to market.
1974 The use of synthetics in ski boot-making continues to increase. The new twist closure is well-accepted by customers and determines a new direction in ski boot-making. Heierling begins to make hiking boots.
1975 – 76 In cooperation with Weinmann, Heierling develops the Snowbird Line, produced in Singen. This product is launched successfully world-wide under the brand name Heierling (System Weinmann). Production in Davos is stopped and moved to Yugoslavia, Italy and Singen, Germany.
1978 – 80 Annual production increases to 45,000 pairs of ski boots and 12,000 pairs of hiking boots. A new warehouse and logistics are built up. A cross country skiing line is introduced.
1980 – 1999
1982 Weinmann begins to brand ski boots with the twist closure under its own name and Heierling is now the agent for Switzerland and Lichtenstein. Hans-Martin Heierling (1964) is studying orthopaedic shoe-making, thereby being the 4th generation to ensure the continuation of the Heierling business.
1983Thomas Heierling opens a new company called Sportschuh-Fitting-Center, at the same location as Heierling AG used to be. This business reactivates Heierling’s original core business – making custom-built ski boots. Again, foam-liners are used.
Heierling AG now produces 90,000 pairs of ski boots, 160,000 pairs of cross country ski boots and approximately 15,000 pairs of hiking/leisure boots annually.
1984 – 87 Hans-Martin Heierling, now finished with his studies, also starts working at Sportschuh-Fitting-Center and the brothers Thomas and Hans-Martin Heierling form a general partnership. The Fitting Center has an increasing number of non-racing clients. As well, many ski racers take advantage of Heierling’s know-how and get their boots fitted here. Lighter, cold-resistant synthetic materials are increasingly used and rear-entry boot models are introduced. For various reasons, sales of models with the Weinmann twist closure are decreasing. Big changes in the winter sporting equipment market are creating a highly competitive environment and making the sale of serial-produced goods increasingly difficult.
1994 – 97 Heierling ski boots AG is purchased by Ski Brand Salomon. The last ski boot to carry the name Heierling is produced in Montebelluna in 1997. Subsequently, Heierling-branded boots are no longer manufactured. Since 1994, Hans Martin HEIERLING has been head of the HEIERLING Fittingcenter in Davos. He is a well respected consultant in the skiboot industry as well as being the inventor of the ATOMIC Flex.
2000 – 04 The Heierling brother’s Fitting-Center is becoming increasingly well-known and acquiring a growing customer base. The Heierling Salomon Racing Center is established. The success of the “golden age of Heierling” returns and World Cup athletes from various nations win medals while racing with boots fitted by Heierling.
2003 A licensing agreement for children’s ski boots is negotiated with Alpina. The Be3 Flexxi children’s ski boot, with I-Flex technology, is introduced (see video) and Heierling is back in serial production.
2005 – 10 A licensing agreement is negotiated with Atomic. Heierling co-develops the Hawx I-Flex Technology by Heierling, together with Atomic, and continues its long-standing tradition of innovation.
HEIERLING SKI BOOTS TODAY
What do you get when you combine over a century of tradition with cutting edge technology? The new Heierling H1 ski boot. Features include high tech Templast material and a Swiss wood tension spring for optimal shock absorption along with the usual details of fine leather crafting. Heierling makes use of state of the art stability and individualized custom fitting technology to craft the perfect containment system of the foot.
The Heierling H1 features luxurious fur lining throughout the inner boot, keeping feet warm and providing easy entry into the boot. Due to its unique construction the H1 is at once elegant, modern and comfortable. The clever shock absorbing, non-slip soles allow for controlled walking from snowy slopes to asphalt pavement. The hidden shock absorbing wood wedge provides extraordinary vibration control and comfort. The H1 somehow combines relaxed comfortability with precision edge control – a “non-accidental” result of the recently developed Heierling Flex System. The innovative Templast 350 plastic is more stable than conventional ski boot material and flexibility remains stable even in extreme temperature fluctuations. This means uncomfortable pressure points on the foot never build-up.
The look of the Heierling H1 is at once modern, classic and luxurious. Sporting an enhanced anatomical fit, the hallmark Heierling details give the H1 a timeless beauty to go with its extraordinary performance features. This is a boot for skiers wanting only the very best. Heierling Ski Boots are perhaps the ultimate expression of understated sophistication available to skiers today.