Guys Who Built the Sport



The end of last season saw the passing of two of American skiing’s legendary inventors.

Bob Lange invented the plastic ski boot and founded the company that bears his name. In 1948 he began tinkering with his leather ski boots, reinforcing them with fiberglass that he’d been using to repair a boat. Over the next two decades, he turned his experiments into a business, developing the first successful plastic boot in 1963. By the 1970s Langes were the worldwide race boots of choice. Though Lange later sold Lange, he went on to make important contributions to fields from golf to spinal surgery. He died at the age of 74.

Paul Ramer was a skiing mad scientist par excellence. From the 1970s on, he invented groundbreaking versions of dozens of implements essential to backcountry skiing and mountaineering, including touring bindings, climbing elevators, climbing skins, metal snowshoes, adjustable ski poles, an avalanche transceiver, ski-pole splints, metal and Lexan shovels, self-arrest grips, one of the first superwide skis, and a ski lubricant called Notwax. Oddly, what felled him in the end, at the age of 57, was Creutzfeldt-Jacob syndrome, a variant of mad cow disease.