An intriguing history of Canadian ski manufacturing
Name:Bluenose skis, Chalet skis, Clément skis, Andreef ski, Clément Concave ski, Salomon X-Scream ski, Rossignol Bandit XX, K2 Axis ST Smart Four, Head Kers Intel, Anton Glider, Toni Sailer ski
Affiliated Discipline(s):Alpine skiing
The evolution of skiing is a long and complex web of stories, research and artifacts spanning roughly 10,000 years, depending on which ski historian you speak to. Historians are divided on where and when skiing started; some argue northwest Russia and/or Norway and others point to evidence into rocks and preserved in bogs of engravings depicting skiers. This featured illustration, created by the National Geographic, points to the Altay region in China, as the starting point of skiing in 8000 B.C., where they used horsehair for better traction in ski ascents (much like today’s skins used by today’s ski mountaineers and backcountry skiers).
The following vignettes are part of an article entitled, “Made in Canada,” researched and written by Bob Soden, as part of the Canadian Ski History Writers Project, funded by the Chawkers Foundation of Canada through a grant to the Canadian Ski Museum. To read the full story please see HERE.
From Canoes to Camber
Canada played a role in the continued evolution of skis – multiple thousands of years later – when Canadian skis were first produced by a canoe manufacturer. From shipyard-fashioned wood to modern fiberglass, an intriguing history of Canadian ski manufacturing over almost a century.
From Voyageur to Vorlage
The Liverpool Woodworking Company manufactured the well-known “Bluenose” ski, crafted in “hickory, white ash, birch, maple and pine.” By 1929, the rights to the Bluenose ski had been purchased by the Canada Ski Company, which moved production to Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.
From Shipping to Schussing
From 1929 through 1935, J. Albert Cloutier, father of Canadian ski-racing champion Rémi Cloutier, manufactured and steam-bent maple-wood skis, which he sold at his Cloutier Hardware store in Ste. Agathe, Quebec. Rémi Cloutier recalled recently that his father produced 7,500 pairs of skis a year, meanwhile imparting to him, through his success, the economic lesson of value-added production.
From Langlauf to Laminates
In 1939 the Splitkein Factory of Oslo, Norway, made an agreement with the Canada Cycle & Motor Company of St. Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec, to produce their laminated skis. The technology of laminating together many thin strips of wood, sometimes up to fifteen or more, was ideal in strengthening the narrow langlauf, or cross-country, ski.
In 1940, Clément Skis, a manufacturing firm in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, registered the design for a wood ski that was quite revolutionary and which presaged many later ski designs. The ski was made in two distinct parts, an upper and lower layer, positioned and held together by a U-shaped channel footplate. The upper wood layer acted like a leaf spring, bearing down on the fore and aft midsections of the lower wood ski layer. As a result of the separate layers, the Clément ski enjoyed the advantages of being a flexible flat-top ski as well as a stiff dome or ridge-top ski.
From Wood to Wong
In the mid-1940s, ABC – founded by Heinz Kuch – acquired the assets of the Andreef ski plant, and became a laminate ski manufacturer. The production line was later moved to St. Laurent Blvd. in Montreal. Heinz’s son Eric Kuch took over the daily operations of the factory in 1968. ABC sold custom laminated skis across Canada to major department stores and smaller distributors such as Streeter & Quarles’ “The Ski Shop,” at Place Ville Marie in Montreal and at the St. Laurent Shopping Centre in Ottawa.
Quite a run, while it lasted
The Canadian ski manufacturing party might have continued to this day, except for the arrival of imports produced at a fraction of the cost of fabrication in Canada. But it was quite a run; From canoes to Sailer, from lofty crests to lowly troughs, it was all downhill from the 1960s onward. But it was a thrilling schuss while it lasted.