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70 years ago in post-war France, in a small workshop in the Haute Savoie town of Annecy, a young engineer started making steel edges for skis. That young man was Georges Salomon and, as Neil Pedoe recounts, the rest is history…

It all began making wood saw blades in a little workshop on a narrow cobbled street in the picture postcard French Alpine lakeside town of Annecy in 1947. The war in Europe had just finished and the push back to a normal way of life was in full swing. Which in this particular part of the Haute-Savoie region meant tourists coming to play in the mountains.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that not long after François Salomon, his wife and son Georges set up their workshop that they started turning their metal  working skills to the fast-developing sport of skiing.

The driving force behind this switch was son Georges, who grew up in the town through the Nazi occupation and into the post-war period, as early ski tourists started to flow through the area. After studying engineering at night school, George’s first invention was an automated machine for making the steel edges which had only recently been invented. 

 

First firsts

By 1955, the company now exclusively made ski parts, and George had turned to that snagging (literally) engineering challenge in skiing – how to make a safer binding. Since the late 1920s cable bindings dominated the sport, the early designs causing serious injuries by not releasing in crashes. 

Salomon’s adaptation to the original design was a releasable toe-piece called the Skade. Two years later, in 1957 he launched Le Lift, the first binding that released the heel of the boot if under too much pressure. This technology evolved into the S505, the world’s first step-in heel piece binding. 

 

Top of the world 

The die was cast and by 1972 Salomon had become the world’s number one ski binding manufacturer with over 1 million units sold per year.

By the end of the decade Salomon had moved headquarters to Metz Tessy in Annecy and branched out into boots. The SX91, released in 1984, with its variable forward flex control, developed a cult following, with some diehards still riding them now.

With over 10 million pairs of alpine boots and over 5 million pairs of XC boots sold, in 1990 a new decade heralded a new direction, with Salomon’s first ski, the S9000 – the first monocoque ski. 

Two years later Salomon ventured into summer sports with hiking shoes, and then in 1997 with a snowboard offer of boards, boots and bindings. 

At the peak of its popularity, in 1998, sportswear giant Adidas bought Salomon for an estimated £1 billion. In 2005 there was another change of ownership, with Amer Sports adding the company to its collection of iconic brands. Ever since, Salomon has continued to build its technical gear and clothing ranges, with backcountry and mountaineering ranges, and the story continues.