If Klammer’s brink-of-disaster Olympic downhill run was skiing’s exclamation point on the 1970s (see page 48), Hermann Maier’s horrendous crash at the Nagano Games was the exclamation point on the 1990s (see page 88). What made it miraculous was that after his crash Maier went on to win gold in super G and giant slalom. He finished off the winter by winning the first of his four career overall World Cup titles.
Snowboarding’s version of an obsessive and promotionally talented entrepreneur like skiing’s Howard Head or Bob Lange emerged in the form of Jake Burton Carpenter, a well-spoken, neatly groomed, athletically handsome guy in his 20s. In 1977, Burton had begun to manufacture a device resembling the Snurfer, a toylike surfboard he’d ridden as a boy. Burton called his a Backyard Board. In 1980, he sold 700 boards for $49 a pop.
In 1970 most skiers worldwide were still wearing leather boots; by the end of the decade their feet were encased in plastic. Although Bob Lange worked from 1957 to 1966 to invent the plastic boot, his impact on the sport was only truly realized in the 1970s. His design—a lower shell containing the foot and an upper clamshell overlap or cuff connected to it by a hinge or rivet—remains the basis of the boot the world skis in today. He made a boot sole the width of the ski and pioneered the adjustable buckle.
No modern athlete may ever duplicate Killy’s dominance of a sport.
Among alpine racers of the past 50 years, none—not even Hermann Maier nor Ingemar Stenmark—has matched the record set by Jean-Claude Killy. In fact, no modern athlete may ever duplicate Killy’s dominance of a sport. The Frenchman won more than 70 percent of all the races on the 1967 World Cup circuit. In a single winter, he won all five World Cup downhills, including the perilously steep Hahnenkamm, three slalom races and four of five giant slaloms. He also won all three alpine skiing gold medals at the 1968 Games.
Sixty years ago, winter was either a powder heaven or a cold, snowless hell. Drought winters presented a real environmental barrier to creating a popular mass recreation sport.
In 1949–50, three aircraft-engineersturned- ski-makers in Connecticut were almost out of business, their metal skis unsellable. Arthur Hunt, Wayne Pierce and Dave richey of TEy Manufacturing were trying to figure out what to do next in another snowless winter.