Salomon turns 60

We will probably all be content to make our sixtieth although there will be the inevitable feeling that our glory days lie somewhere behind us. It seems that way for Salomon, once one of the powerhouses of ski equipment design.

salomon advert 1965
“Your guardian angel”, Salomon advert circa 1965

It was 60 years ago that François Salomon and his son George rented a 50m² workshop in Annecy old town and started making saw blades and ski edges. Within five years George had introduced a perfected cable binding to the market and developed an automatic machine for making steel edges. Then in 1955 Salomon introduced one of the first releasable toe-pieces, the Skade and two years later perfected the cable binding heel in the form of le lift. In 1950s France, emerging from the harsh war years, there was something of an vogue for American sounding names. Jean Beyl had introduced his “Look Nevada” in 1950. The Nevada is arguable the grand-daddy of modern binding systems. The Nevada II toe design remained in production for 40 years.

allais binding
Allais toe piece with “le lift” cable heel

Salomon continued with cable based heel designs culminating with the (Emile) Allais safety binding in 1962. By this time the company had a worldwide distribution network and was starting its ascension to world leadership. The technology behind the Allais and Skade evolved into the S505, the world’s first step in heel piece, introduced at the end of the 1960s. The bindings didn’t have the same 10-16 level DIN settings of today but rather a soft, medium and hard setting. This could lead to pre-releases. The S505 was followed by the S444 and by 1972 Salomon was the world’s number 1 binding maker with more than a million units sold per annum.

s444 S505

In 1976 Look’s single pivot patent expired and Salomon was able to adopt its advantages of long elasticity in the S727 binding. At the end of the 1970s Salomon started manufacturing ski boots and left Annecy town for larger quarters in Metz-Tessy. The SX90 was a rear entry boot and the company achieved real success with the SX60. However it is the SX91 Equippe which debut in 1984 that skiers remember. A two clip rear entry boot with variable forward flex control it has been described as the best ski boot ever made. They can still be seen on the ski slopes today.

salomon sx90 salomon sx91
SX90 and SX91 - a dozen year’s development to reach perfection

In 1990 Salomon introduced the first monocoque ski, the S9000. They looked call although were no better than existing designs, the advantage was cheaper manufacturing costs. They scored further success in 1998 with the X-Scream all mountain ski and 1080 freestyle ski. Salomon also made progress in cross-country skiing with the now almost universal SNS binding system and managed to ride several new waves such as snowboarding and rollerblading. However in 1998 the business was sold to Adidas for 8 billion Francs (about € 1.6 billion in 2007 prices). By the early 2000s Salomon ski brands were out of favour and Adidas finally sold the group to Amer Sports (which also owns Suunto and Atomic) for € 485 million in 2005. Sales had declined and they took a considerable loss on this deal.

salomon s9000 ski
S9000 monocoque ski

At the time of the sale Salomon had 1600 employees including 60 in the Ain who made cycles for Mavic. Salomon was manufacturing 250,000 pairs of skis per year and had a turnover of € 653 million but made just € 28m.. Amer started restructuring with around 400 job losses, provoking strikes and protest marches from the employees. It remains to be seen whether Amer can rekindle the Salomon magic but next season may see a return to form in the shape of the 1080 Gun freestyle ski and X-Wing range of freeride skis.

S727 introduced in 1978

Posted by davidof on Monday, 26 November, 2007 at 10:48 PM

Very interesting.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 30 November, 2007  at 08:51 AM

I have an old Salomon SX90 ski boot that I love because of the excellent fit and comfort. The boot is in fine shape but the top buckling strap broke.  Do you have a replacemrnt?

Boot size is large...44 I think.  Boot color is grey but the strap is black.

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 11 March, 2009  at 09:42 PM

Do you know how the SX revolutionary boots style was launched?

First, it was not a success at all and no dealer wanted to pre-purchase stocks before winter season.

So G. Salomon hired young staffs and sent them in every possible resort, with the single mission to ask for “the new designed Salomon boots” - and nothing else. After a few weeks of lobbying that way, pre-sales started. The rest is well known.

In the racing segment, those iconic boots were only challenged by the classic designed, but fully fittings-filled Dynafit Comp-3F. No one else came close.

Their design was so advanced for the time that is inspired a SciFi french comics artist: 1st opus of the 1982 3-album saga “Krane le guerrier” by Gourmelen & Bret shows an astronaut skiing on pink, frozen nitrogen slopes of a small planet, wearing orange SX90s.

I had a pair of SX90 Equipe boots from 1983 to… 2003. I changed for new Salomon ‘classic’ 5-buckle boots ONLY because the foam of the old ones was hardened and any adjustment pressure became really impossible to bear.

The outside was still looking great, almost like new, despite the friction scratches all over ; not any element needed any change over the years and the ease of slip-on & operation (immediate release/reset of preset settings when needed) is unequalled.
I still have the matching boots bag, but the similar line gloves died long time ago.

When a youth, I dreamed of S727 whose design was terrific, but I couldn’t afford ; I just looked with jealousy to those of an all-time friend, a girl doing competition in a local club…
Later I could have the further S737 standard bindings, mounted on Head comp SL skis. Very reliable and looking great too, the whole was given to a friend for a future bindings’ re-use. Since then, I keep my pair of Rossignol 7SK (yellow) skis & poles equipped with a perfectly matching set of yellow DR9 Equipe comp bindings. Din 7 to 14 adjustment scale!

I would never change that for those silly dwarf-meant shorty parabolic skis of the today’s style…

Posted by  on  Thursday, 07 April, 2011  at 01:12 PM

The business associated with skiing is odd.

So few ski well, especially today. Often those who ski well are given free gear. It is kind of a market manipulation by the manufacturers who know that nothing drives sales like fads and peer pressure.

The SX91 was a great boot, still is. It just got lost in the fashion, fad, and style wars.

Posted by  on  Friday, 30 November, 2012  at 06:56 PM

So few ski well, especially today. Often those who ski well are given free gear. It is kind of a market manipulation by the manufacturers who know that nothing drives sales like fads and peer pressure.

Posted by  on  Monday, 15 July, 2013  at 08:46 AM
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