Most CEOs have a particular morning routine — they wake up insanely early, get through important emails, meditate, or work out. Klaus Obermeyer, the Sport Obermeyer ski apparel company’s eponymous founder, swims half a mile, practices akido, bikes, lift weights, and stretches. Obermeyer isn’t like any other CEO though: He’s 98 years old.
Obermeyer’s secret to his long-lasting vitality? “If you are not active, you are usually not alive, so I believe in continuously staying active.” And consistency is key, so the next time you feel like skipping that spin class, take some advice from this nonagenarian. “I don’t miss a day,” he confirms. “I live a healthy life to keep my body as strong as possible.” Obermeyer also eats balanced meals (“I cook my own breakfast in the morning”), tries to avoid sugar, and drinks a lot of water. And most importantly, he tells people “always remember to be happy and enjoy life.”
This natural enthusiasm has been with Obermeyer his entire life. He started skiing in his home country of Germany at the age of three, when he made his first pair of skis by using the wooden boards from orange crates his father bought. “After I saw my first skier, I thought ‘Oh my gosh, phenomenal’ and knew immediately it was my destiny. I took those boards and nailed my buckled house shoes on, and tied a string around my knee to keep the tips up. I ventured outside and built myself a jump.” Obermeyer received his first pair of real skis at five, when his mother arranged for a pair to be made by the father of Stein Eriksen (Eriksen later went on to be a famous Norwegian alpine ski racer and Olympic gold medalist).
Obermeyer moved to the US and in 1947 landed a job as a ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado at a time when skiing was still a relatively new sport here. When he noticed that popular ski clothes of the ’40s were not warm or functional enough to keep people on the mountains, he founded Sport Obermeyer as a way to encourage people to engage in the pastime he loved. When the natural-born inventor cut up a comforter his mother packed for him when he moved to the States, the first quilted down parka was born.
The innovator went on to create a number of firsts that helped revolutionize the ski industry, including the first high alpine sunscreen, mirrored ski sunglasses, nylon windshirt, and dual-layer ski boots. He didn’t patent many of these technologies because he was mainly interested in furthering the sport itself. With 70 years of innovation under his belt, Obermeyer muses, “I think the inspiration comes from wanting to make skiing more fun for people.”
His business philosophy is merely an extension of his life philosophy: “Create win-win situations, always.” He still heads into the office every day and greets everyone with a smile. “We try to be a family and not a factory. We are celebrating life every day; that makes every single day great.”
Even now, when Obermeyer talks the sport that launched his business success, it’s with a twinkle in his eye. “Skiing gives you a freedom of life. I love it because it combines the experience of speed with the beauty of the outdoors. Little trees standing there like people with snow on them, and the zero gravity you get when you are in the air, jumping — you are weightless. There is no other sport that combines all of these amazing things.” And yes, on a sunny day, you’ll still catch Obermeyer on the slopes — albeit on slightly updated skis.
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(Photos via Obermeyer)