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

As part of the ongoing restructuring Salomon head Jean-Luc Diard has been replaced by Michael Schineis who also runs the Atomic brand.

Posted by davidof on  Tuesday, 27 November, 2007  at 09:22 AM

am I past it?  I still look at the sx 91 boot and think it looks quite modern.....

Posted by  on  Tuesday, 27 November, 2007  at 12:06 PM

I know what you mean, I was just looking for some S727 bindings on ebay! The SX91 in white would have a kind of Star Wars look to it.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 28 November, 2007  at 07:00 PM

I’d love to get another pair of SX91’s they were a fantastic boot, you could instruct beginners and then go for a quick blast just by moving the flex stop.
Infinitely adjustable you could spend hours of an evening fiddling with them to get the perfect fit only to wish you had not started......
And for me, with feet like a duck they were great....because they fitted...... and finally in the ski boots only races to the cafe when well worn they had no equall especially as the tips wore away like a ski..... eeeh those were the days....

Posted by  on  Friday, 30 November, 2007  at 12:43 AM

You mention that adiads took a big loss.. But when adidas bought the Salomon-Group it included Taylor Made. When they sold did not. This brand by itself outgrew its parent 3 times over. I say they cut off the lossmaking piece and kept the diamond at a profit..

Posted by  on  Friday, 30 November, 2007  at 03:06 AM
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