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“Much-loved Allgäu gold on your skis”

The Josef ESS factory in Sonthofen/Allgäu produced fittings such as nails for mountain boots, ski boot protectors, ski tips and the like.

The “Allgäuer Skibeschläge-Fabrik Josef ESS Sonthofen/Allgäu was founded in 1924 by Josef Ess and initially produced hand-forged nails for mountain boots, ski boot protectors, ski tips and the like.

In 1934 ESS went over to the production of ski bindungs and was a major player in this field right up until the 1980s, with the Allgäu board binding selling in its thousands throughout the world. In 1946 the first double-sprung cable binding was introduced, and this remained the standard model for many years.  

In 1956 the Nevada safety binding was brought onto the market by the French firm LOOK, and from 1960 Nevada bindings were also made in Sonthofen. One advertising leaflet from the 1960s proclaimed:  The ESS NEVADA II was preferred by most of the German ski elite  during the 64/65 winter season...

For the 1968/1969 season ESS reinvented the successful NEVADA line in gold. This “exquisite luxury version was not made from solid gold, but it was nevertheless 18 carat gold-plated and very shiny. This luxury item cost 500 DM (safety board with automatic heel release) – the standard issue cost 112 DM. As a comparison: the average monthly income of a male employee was approx. 1,290 DM.

Who on earth would have bought the “high gloss exquisite luxury version? Even the weekly magazine DIE ZEIT asked this question, and came to the conclusion that it was probably only ski snobs and playboys, and that even the most expensive equipment did not improve your skiing or stop you breaking an ankle.

Author: Astrid Schwarz M.A.
Museum Stadt Kempten

Literature: Catalogue of the ESS Company, 1968/69.

“Skiing on gold“ DIE ZEIT, edition 48/1968, 27th November 1968.

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