Sailer Skis

Toni Sailer Fibreglaski

Toni Sailer Fibreglaski

The first successful all-fiberglass ski was the Toni Sailer ski in 1959.  Art Molnar and Fred Langendorf invented and built the ski in nearby Montreal.  There had been other attempts to build all fiberglass (plastic) skis starting as early as 1952, but none had made it into production.

There were a couple of correct responders for last week’s trivia question.  I met Paul Mickelson in the gondi lift line on Saturday and he correctly identified the Sailer ski.  He is a ski history buff himself and contributed that Ernie McCulloch, legendary Canadian ski instructor, played a significant role in helping develop the Sailer ski.  Via my blog Jack Pickett also provided the correct answer and knew that Art Molnar was one of the inventors.

Pete Stangel and Ed Hackett both submitted the Kneissl White Star.  However the White Star was first available in 1960 and it was actually a wood core wrapped in fiberglass.  The Sailer had a foam core so it was truly an all-fiberglass ski.

Despite the use of his name, it’s unclear how much Toni Sailer actually had to do with the ski.  He did test the ski and in a November 21, 1960, Sports Illustrated article was quoted as saying: “It’s an ideal ski for average skiers.”

The use of Sailer’s name was a shrewd business decision.  In the 1956 Winter Olympics Toni Sailer won all three men’s alpine gold medals – a feat no one had accomplished before.  He was a charismatic, handsome athlete whose celebrity transcended his sport.

By 1959 Toni Sailer had given up pursuing gold medals for making money!  He was in films and made records.  A poll in his native Austria asking what Austrian had done the most for his country ranked Sailer 5th , just behind Mozart.  Some Austrians were surprised by this since Mozart never made anything like the money Sailer made with his records!

Sailer also partnered with businesses for the use of his name.  Such was the case for Sailer-Tex (a fabric manufacturer specializing in stretch materials) and Toni Sailer Skis.  The Sailer name gave a product instant credibility particularly in the European countries.

As mentioned, the Sailer ski was developed by Fred Langendorf and Art Molnar.  Langendorf was an engineer who specialized in fiberglass and I have not uncovered much subsequent information about him.  However Art Molnar has a long resumé in the ski and snowboard world.

Molnar fled Hungary during the 1956 Revolution and landed a job working for Langendorf in Montreal.  Molnar designed the first Sailer ski and then in 1963 designed a later model with a ribbed fiberglass core where the ribs were separated by air channels.  This latter design made the ski extremely light, but still strong.  In 1967 Molnar left Langendorf to go to work for K2 and develop a line of skis using foam cores.  Then in 1971 he moved to Lange where he helped produce the first Lange ski.

Finally in 1973 Molnar started his own ski company utilizing the ribbed fiberglass core he initiated at Sailer.  Molnar skis were light in weight with a soft flex and developed a cult following among powder skiers.  Molnar was able to keep his company afloat for ten years before having to close his factory in 1983.

After a break from winter-related businesses, Molnar moved to Oregon to work for Morrow Snowboards in 1994. Ironically Morrow Snowboards would later become a subsidiary of K2.

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32 Responses to Sailer Skis

  1. anddrew langendorf says:

    Fred was my dad…he was the heart and soul of sailer skis……if you can’t find much on him in the ski world …you did not look very far.

    • Ruth Fifer says:

      Is Fred Langendorf still living? If so, Thank You for providing me contact information.

    • Tania Bricel says:

      Dear Anddrew,

      Please read my comments below, dated today March 11th, 2015.

      Thank you.

      Tania Bricel
      Daughter of the Pioneer of the Toni Sailer Skis, Mark Bricel

    • Bob Koken says:

      Anddrew, you can email me at granbyq2@bellsouth.net

      In remarks below I mentioned my connection to Toni and the ski company. I spoke with my father, Bernd Koken, and he confirmed what I thought to be true. Your Dad, who I knew well when I was a kid, was the designer of the Toni Sailer Ski, and as much the heart and soul early on as anyone else. My Dad was very fond of Fred — who wasn’t? My Dad oversaw the manufacturing of the ski, one team member being Art Molnar. There were others, too. He certainly remembers Mark Bricel, who was in the boot business in yugoslavia or some such place and my Dad offered him an opportunity to get out of a challenging environment, and come to Montreal to import boots into Canada. The heart and soul of the Toni Sailer Ski Company in its hey day he was not. Though perhaps after Dad left in 1967, he became more active. But the ski’s popularity waned in the late 60′s and was sold I think to Spalding subsidiary, Shakespeare. It was a great ski for its time, but a devil to manufacture. Problems matching the camber in the ski made it a tough sell and forced a lot of make goods by GM Plastics. As my Dad said, it was hard to find a pair where both skis were perfect. And contrary to the main article, Toni did have input into the design improvements that were needed with each new model. Anyways, feel free to email me.

    • Raimondo Persenico says:

      I was working with Fred at Spalding in 1970 and 1971 and was his guest various times in Bromont and I remember you, Tom and Barbara also when you came to Italy and visited the Ferrari plant. Nice memories. Ever again to Italy? Have a nice day and who knows

  2. Thomas Altruda says:

    My mom has a pair of Toni Sailer Skis in nice shape. Are these worth anything?Also, when and where is the next Retro Ski meet?
    taltruda@hotmail.com
    631-680-8396

  3. Norm Letarte says:

    The Toni Sailer Ski was manufactured At AB Plastics in Granby Quebec. I helped
    in marketing the ski, and basically pioneered the sales from Madawaska,Maine
    to Greenwich,CT. and beyond.

  4. Art Molnar says:

    Correction
    The Toni Sailer Ski was manufactured by G.M. Plastic Corporation in Granby Quebec
    not by AB Plastics. As the Designer and the Manufacturing Mgr. of the Toni Sailer Ski
    In Granby I know that I am right.

    • Norm Letarte says:

      Art, you are right. I stand corrected

    • Bill Langmuir says:

      Art…I feel like I’m contacting a legend. I’m the historian/archivist at Toronto Ski Club in Collingwood and we are celebrating our 90th anniversary this year. In the process of mounting a permanent display of all the great marques, I’ve donated to pair of Sailers…1 is all white with “Ernie Mcculloch” technical advisor (behind the heel piece – I think 1963) and a 2nd pair (white again) but with 2 diagonal red slashes below the Sailer signature at the tip (later model?). If you’re able to confirm the age and difference between the two I’d be delighted. I do remember the “Molnar” ski but oddly enough, not from southern Ontario but my trips to Vail in the late 70′s…a bit like “the ski” very funky graphics!

      Many Thanks
      Bill Langmuir
      langmuir@bconnex.net
      (my cousin Irving is now widely regarded as the father of back country skiing in North America – also won the Nobel Prize in 1932, good at math, good at skiing – not a bad combo!)

    • Tania Bricel says:

      Dear Art,

      You are correct about where the Toni Sailer ski was produced at G.M. Plastic Corporation in Granby, Quebec.

      It is unbelievable, reading all the comments from everyone that everyone is leaving my Father’s name out, Mark Bricel and trying to take credit. I am finding a lot of reading material about the Toni Sailer Skis where holes need to be filled in and the only person who can fill them in, is Mark Bricel.

      I also have all the letters to prove who started the ski with Toni Sailer and my Father is still alive. It was not you, or Fred Langendorf, it was my Father, Mark Bricel.

      I have a few things to say to Norm Letarte as well. Norm, who pioneered the Toni Sailer ski? I think it is time we set all records straight, it was my Father, Mark Bricel, you were a sales representative under my father’s direction.

      Anddrew Langendorf, I am sorry to inform you that your Father, Fred Langendorf was not the heart and soul of the Toni Sailer skis, my father, Mark Bricel was. I have all the documents to prove it, including that my Father is still alive. I am Mark Bricel’s daughter. Unfortunately, something got lost in the paperwork.

      Anddrew, I know your Dad, Fred was married at least 3 times but I believe I know you from when you were a small boy with your Mom, Heidi when we visited at your home in Bromont, Quebec.

      The reason that none of you is able to reply to people’s questions, or comments is because the only person who knows the answers is Mark Bricel.

      Greg Morrill, kindly contact me and I can put you in touch with the pioneer of Toni Sailer skis, my Father, Mark Bricel.

      Bill Langmuir, please feel free to contact me as well. I have been to the Toronto Ski Club in Collingwood several times and not long ago held a special event there.

      Thank you.

      • Seth Masia says:

        Mark Bricel and his partner Mel Medis had a marketing/distribution firm in Austria, with the rights to sell Toni Sailer branded clothing in that country. When Langendorf and Molnar developed the fiberglass ski, Bricel and Medis contacted them. Toni Sailer travelled to Montreal and met with Langendorf, even before the ski went into production. Sailer offered the use of his name on condition that Bricel and Medis could have an exclusive on European sales.

        And so it may be said that Bricel conceived the idea of selling a Toni Sailer ski, and share credit for making the ski a commercial success, but he did NOT invent the fiberglass ski.

      • Bob Koken says:

        Tania, I’ll be talking to my father tomorrow and will ask him if he can explain the roles of the key figures behind the Toni Sailer Ski Co. My father resigned from GM Plastics in about 1967, so while we kept up with Toni until he was in his late 70′s, there’s little I can add post-1967. Since my Dad was vice-president and then president of GM during the company’s formative years, he might know a thing or two. Feel free to email me at granbyq2@bellsouth.net. Bob Koken

        • Bob Koken says:

          Correction: My father kept up with Toni into his late 50′s, I’ve been reminded. I hope to help shed more light on the history of the ski that bears his name.

      • Dan Genge says:

        Hi Tania, My son want to build skis, and I mentioned to him about the Toni Sailer Ski that really didn’t make it but had a unique manufacturing process. Do you know how the extruded core for the Toni Sailer skis was made or know how I could find out? Do you know who may have the molds? Thanks, Dan

  5. Stu Gough says:

    I really had fun skiing on my Sailers — had three pairs. First the all white ski, followed by two pairs of the red LR55′s. Kept the last pair for quite a few years, think it was about 5 years ago that I finally admitted I wasn’t skiing again…

    • Bill Langmuir says:

      Stu – your response to the Toni Sailer dialogue is now 3 years old….I may be a bit late!

      Any connection with Leo Gough, Elizabeth Gough…Toronto Ski Club? My dad and Leo new each other, remember meeting Liz when I was little, maybe 8-10.

      Just curious.

      Bill Langmuir

  6. Tony Hungerbuhler says:

    Were the first experiments done at St. Andrews East,Qc, Long Sault Woodcraft with Jim Simpson and Stan Sacks and Fred Langendorf? The first problem was the paralleling of the fiberglass mat. This was overcome by using an electrical current,I believe.

  7. John says:

    I have a pair of Mulner skis yellow patent no.3, 861, 699 I’m interested in selling them, how much are they worth.

  8. Fred Mageau says:

    I’m the secretary of the Quebec Ski Museum located at Mont Sainte-Anne and we are very interested in obtaining a pair of the first Toni Sailer skis for the museum. If any one has a pair available, please post a reply…

    • Tania Bricel says:

      Dear Fred Mageau,

      Please read my comments that I posted today March 11, 2015.

      You may contact me if you wish.

      Thank you.
      Daughter of Mark Bricel-Pioneer of Toni Sailer skis

    • Kyle Bromley says:

      I have a pair of Toni Sailer skis which I would like to sell. They are the all white ones. The have never had any bindings on them and are 210cm I believe. The skis are in great condition. I have held on to these skis forever. If interested, please email me and I can provide pictures. Thanks

  9. Barry says:

    Fred Langendorf went on to import Spalding skis (Persenico from Italy) and Caber boots for many years in the late 60′s – early 70′s. Spalding was a sport division of Questor which purchased Persenico to manufacture the Spalding brand which won many World Cups and Olympic medals mainly by Italian racer Gustavo Thoeni. Ingemar Stenmark raced his whole career on Caber boots till they were purchased by Rossignol.

    • Tania Bricel says:

      Dear Barry,

      I do not know who you are but please read my comments as it seems something got lost in the paperwork, my father started the Toni Sailer skis with Toni Sailer. My Father is still alive and I am working now to get all the records set straight with the documents to prove it.

      It is very disheartening how Art Molnar, Fred Langendorf and Norm Letarte all try to take credit when a large part of the story is missing, how the Toni Sailer ski came to be!

      Please read my comments, I responded after finding this information yesterday, March 11, 2015 the day that my parents are celebrating their 64th Wedding Anniversary.

      Thank you.

  10. Mike Raeburn says:

    Interesting information on the history behind Toni Sailer Skis. I bought a pair in the sixties, the white ones with the corrugated internal construction. The first pair I got were damaged so I had a new pair sent to me at Saas Fee where I was skiing at the time. They came from the European distributors in Lichtenstein. I fitted them with Salomon toe pieces and Marker long-thong heelpieces.
    I was Scotland’s first ski mechanic and found fitting the screws particularly difficult because some of them hit the side of the internal corrugation which was not vertical. This resulted in the screw going squint until I made a suitable groove in the side of the corrugation. It took ages to get right and there was a degree of strong language as a result!
    I skied on them for many years and still have them. I am determined to give them a final run this year and have rebuilt the bindings and waxed the bases. The base Ptex is just about worn through now so the snow will have to be good to avoid any damage. Only slight problem I can see is they are 215cm and I now ski on 172cm K2 Rictors. I shall have to dig back into the muscle memory and resurrect the proper way to ski!

  11. mrsportpsych says:

    I saw Ernie McCulloch ski down the last pitch of the “Flying Mile” in 1966 and it was a ‘Frozen Waterfall’. He was on the first FiberGlass skis by Tony Sailer http://retro-skiing.com/2011/02/sailer-skis/ – and his track was like a skate. I asked him how he stopped the ski from chattering: He gave me his Ernie grin and said: “Don’t let ‘em Start”! About ten -fifteen years later we bumped into each other at Tremblant, and took a run together, reminiscing over the season I taught for him; he accelerated away from me on every turn, I started two feet behind him and was at least ten turns behind at the bottom. Ernie won races by 2 second margins.

  12. Kyle Bromley says:

    Hi all,

    I have a pair of Toni Sailer skis which I would like to sell. They are the all white ones. The have never had any bindings on them and are 210cm I believe. The skis are in great condition. I have held on to these skis forever. If interested, please email me and I can provide pictures. Thanks

    Kyle

  13. Bob Koken says:

    I have been reading with fascination about the history of the Toni Sailer Ski Co., a division of GMPlastics of Granby, Quebec. GM Plastics began in the foam and plastic business. It was owned by Aubert Brillant. My father became president of the company sometime in the early 60′s. I remember some of the people mentioned by others, most clearly though I remember Mark Bricel and the Langendorfs. Fred was a terrific guy. I can fill in some of the gaps about the designers, who was the heart and soul, etc., by asking my 89-year-old father, Bernd Koken. Toni became a great family friend. He visited us often in Granby and my parents traveled with him a couple times to Nassau, and visited more than once with him in Kitzbuhl, Austria. I stayed as a guest of his in 1972 in Kitzbuhl at Haus Toni Sailer, his small hotel. He waslike family. One summer Toni came to visit and brought a few members of the Austrian ski team, one being the great downhiller, Karl Shranz. I have many memories of the Sailer Ski, including how Dad would take is out of school to Mont Sutton or Bromont to test new models like the LR 45′s and 55′s as well as the RE models. Great memories!

  14. Barry Richardson says:

    When I was a kid I had a pair of Toni Sailer Bluebirds. A beautiful light blue, I think may have nbeen a Rossignol product?

  15. Jack says:

    I sold sailers for George Buchika

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