Many people who come into the shop may be curious about the beautiful Authier (say “O-T-A”) skis they see displayed at the entrance and by the stairway. These skis are part of the heritage of California Ski Company.
Authier skis date back to 1910, when John Authier opened his own workshop in Biere, Switzerland. Mr. Authier’s shop specialized in making quality wood tools, including skis.
Authier’s history can be viewed as going through four distinct eras. In the all-wood ski era, the first heat-bent Authier skis were named after famous Swiss mountains. Next was the Plywood era. Because of shortages of wood after the second World War, Authier introduced it’s first plywood skis. This is when the first “Vampire” models were seen on the slopes and, shortly after, on winners' podiums throughout Europe. Next came the metal, then plastic, eras: Authier successfully embraced new, advanced technologies. Last was the “revival” era starting in 1989.
The company was heavily involved in competitive skiing after World War II and the plywood Vampire model was the weapon of choice. In 1949 the Swiss government asked Authier to build all the equipment for its effort at the 1950 World Championships in Aspen. This was the first World Championship held outside of Europe. Georges Schnieder won the slalom on his Vampires and their surface shows the medal he won that day. By 1950 the Vampire model had won so many medals that John Authier started publishing the “Golden Book of The Vampire Ski” on a yearly basis. These books list the many victories for each year notched by Vampire wielding carvers. The list of names is impressive to say the least.
In the early 1990’s, Authier joined forces with Pirmin Zurbriggen. Zurbriggen was a retired racer as well as gifted engineer. Engineers understand materials. Ski racers understand what a skier needs his equipment to do. Pirmin Zurbruggen was both and Authier made their finest work skis during this period. In addition to very high tech (for the time) construction, Authier did a few “special” skis that were designed to ski as well as anything on the planet while also being aesthetically stunning. The Vampire name was rekindled from its glory days during the plywood era. This ski got a wood veneer topsheet. It was actually an exact replica of the 1956 Vampire Competition model. The 1910 model commemorates Authier's first year of production and sports an uniquely polished aluminum topskin.
California Ski Company became associated with Authier skis in 1990. Just as we do today, our staff felt then that a ski that is softer flexing tip to tail yet could hold its torsional rigidity was the ideal ski. The secret to the Vampires' success was its length-long flexibility combined with technology that was years ahead of the competition. Carbon, Zircal, and Kevlar were materials as yet unknown to the lay skier. Authier used them all in one ski in 1992!
California Ski Company sold hundreds of Authier Skis in the early 90’s. Many of our current customers still talk about their old Authiers with great affection. By the middle of the decade, however, Authier was out of business. The technology was simply too expensive. In 1992, the “Vampire” model (entryway display) sold for $635.00. The “1910” model (staircase display) ran $775.00 that same year. Only the best shops could even consider selling such skis.
Alas, the end of the final Authier era…
Take a look at them next time you’re here. They are from 1992. They look like they are from 1956. They skied like they were from 2006!
And if you ask nicely, we might even give you an Authier pin!
Here's what Snow Country magazine said at the time:
Snow Country Magazine, Oct. 1991
“Authier, a tiny Swiss company, makes high performance skis that can only be found in the exclusive resort shops. Normally, we don’t review skis that are so hard to find, but Authier’s top models are of such exceptional quality, they are worth seeking out.”
“We try not to be influenced by a ski’s cosmetics, but in the case of the Authier Vampire, how could we resist? The classic appeal of the wood-grain topskin inspired us almost as much as the ski’s dazzling on-snow performance."