Brand story: Salomon

Salomon

The Salomon story is really one about engineering, innovation and smart pivots, stretching back to before the second world war, when François Salomon made saw blades in a little home workshop. After the war, when the newly liberated tourists started returning to the mountains to ski, François saw an opportunity to adapt his skills to ski edges, or carres, which allow skis to turn sharply. But it was his son, Georges, who really took the business forward. Having studied engineering at night school, Georges’ first big idea was to build a machine to manufacture the edges, allowing him and his father to focus on developing ski equipment instead.

Georges came up with two game-changing ideas in the fifties, when skiers still used fixed leather straps as bindings, often resulting in broken bones as legs twisted with jammed skis. The first was a releasable ‘Skade’ binding, which attached to the toe-end of a boot; the second was a system he called ‘Le lift’, which allowed the bindings to release on heavy impact. Initially advertised as ‘Your guardian angel’, it eliminated a very literal pain point. Today’s ski bindings are still made with the same basic design.

By 1972, Salomon was the world’s number-one binding brand, making 1 million of them a year. It branched into ski boots in 1979, with the forward-flexing SX91 in 1984 considered the most influential ski boot of all time. In the nineties, Salomon began making snowboards, skis, and Alpine hiking shoes, while Georges’ obsession with innovation saw him buy US golf manufacturer TaylorMade, whose founder Gary Adams had designed the world’s first metal driver.

Salomon was bought by Adidas in 1997 and then sold to Chinese sportswear giant Amer Sports in 2005 when Adidas moved out of ski equipment and clothing. By then, Salomon was just as well known for its shoes, worn by the likes of trail-running champion Kilian Jornet Burgada, whose fastest-ever ascents of mountains including Everest, Matterhorn and Mont Blanc have brought the sport to wider prominence. More than 1 million pairs of the Speedcross shoe he wore are sold in Europe each year.