Vice President for R&D, Racing and Operations, Atomic Skis
Rupert Huber has worked for Atomic for nearly 39 years, long enough to remember when skis were flat and boring. He's even been there long enough to forget how exactly he came by his nickname, Killy. But when you learn that his four years on the U.S. pro circuit began soon after the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, it's not hard to guess its origin.
In his post-racing career, Huber can take credit not only for Atomic's groundbreaking Beta design, now in its fourth incarnation with a fifth on the way, but also for the Fat Boy, the original wide ski for powder, which like many inventions, came about by accident. "We took pieces of rejected snowboards and tried them in deep snow," he says. "It worked so well we made them new."
Huber grew up in the heart of Austrian ski country, in Radstadt, some 35 miles southeast of Salzburg. He skied as a boy, of course, but in the off-season he attended a special school for the engineering of ski and sporting goods. Despite that very specific technical training, he says that when making skis, theory is less important than practice: "A lot of it comes out of experience."
The Beta design, for instance, was pure trial and error. "The basic idea was to try making a ski in different shapes," he says. "If you have a flat ski, it reacts completely differently than if you use a different kind of crosscut, a U or whatever." The goal was to make skis that were lighter without sacrificing stability. The latest version has the distinctive double-humped Beta top surface as well as titanium pulsers, which look like hooded silver arrows in front of and behind the bindings. These pulsers can glide as much as three millimeters; Atomic claims they boost torsional stiffness while reducing vibrations by half. The latest Betas also feature a "skin" of aerodynamic dimples, the inspiration for which came to Huber on the golf course. "I have a handicap of 25," he moans. "I just don't have enough time to play."