Innovative manufacturer

Passing Date: 
Saturday, August 29, 2020

Josef Fischer Jr., who built his family firm into a market share leader through innovative manufacturing techniques, died August 29 at age 90.


Fischer AG was founded in 1924 by his father, a cartwright in Ried Im Innfreis, in flat farmland near Salzburg. By 1938, in addition to building wagons, the factory was exporting thousands of skis. After WWII, the teenage Joe Fischer Jr. graduated from the woodworking technical school in Hallein, and joined the business in 1949 – the year the factory installed some of the first ski presses, to speed production. He spent two years studying international trade in Vienna, then rejoined the firm in 1951.


Joe Fischer Sr. died in 1959 and Joe Jr., with his sister, took over management of the factory, By then they were manufacturing more than 53,000 pairs of skis annually, and exporting tens of thousands to North America, where Fischer skis were sold not only through ski shops but by Sears Roebuck, under the Othmar Schneider label. After 1960 Fischer was the first Austrian factory to solve the problem of laminating aluminum to a wood core and steel edges without using rivets. In 1964 Egon Zimmermann won the downhill gold medal at the Innsbruck Olympics on Fischer Alu Steel skis. North American distribution was handled by Garcia Corp.


By the early ‘70s, Fischer was the largest ski manufacturer in the world (a position it would lose to Rossignol later in the decade, then regain in the new century), and set up its own distribution subsidiary in Woburn, Massachusetts. Every step of production was consolidated at the Ried factory. The company bought raw timber directly from logging companies, operated its own sawmill and laminated its own cores. In 1972 Fischer bought the Humanic shoe factory in Graz, renaming the ski boot as Dynafit, and the following year acquired the Loffler knitwear company. Fischer consolidated the subsidiaries under a new corporation, Sport AG. To enter the cross country ski market, in 1972 the factory introduced the first metal-edged fiberglass touring ski, the Europa 77. In 1981 Fischer launched a new division to manufacture carbon-fiber aircraft parts, first for Airbus and later for McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing. In 1988 Fischer opened a modern factory in Mukachevo, Ukraine, initially to produce cross country skis for the Soviet market. In the post-Soviet era Mukachevo grew to become one of the largest ski factories in the world, making skis for several leading brands.


In 1990 the company went public and Joe Fischer stepped away from daily management. Then in 2002 the Fischer family regained control and privatized the firm. Joe Fischer retired in 2009.


In Austria, Fischer was named Honorary Councilor of Commerce in 1971. He also received the City of Vienna Cross of Merit; City of Ried Honorary Citizenship; the Crystal Pegasus for his lifetime of professional achievement; the Golden Cross of Merit of Upper Austria; and the Silver Cross of Merit from the Republic of Austria. He served as president of the Association of Austrian Sporting Goods Manufacturers and Suppliers (VSSÖ) and was named Upper Austrian of the Century. --Seth Masia


Submitted by Dave Auer (not verified) on

I was with Fischer from 1998-2010 serving as the US President and US Distributor. Somewhwhere in my early days with Fischer it was the #1 manuafcturer of skis in the world. As I recall they were producing approx. 20% of world wide ski production 1 million+ pair of alpine and X-C skis. They were making not only Fischer product but for Salomon (I believe 200,000 pr a year in both alpine and X-C), Rossignol, Volkl and others. You would walk the warehouse and marvel at all the brands using Fischer for manufacturing in both Reid Imkries (spelling?) Austria and the Ukraine.They were one of the early ski manufacturers to recognize that producing skis in Central Europe was not economical. One of the first setting up and moving most production out of Central Europe (Austria) to the Ukraine. 

In regards to Fischer FACC (Fischer Advanced Composite Componits) Fischer partnered with the former Austrian Trade Minister to create FACC. I believe Fischer owned 49% and the trade minister 51%. I believe in 2007-8 with the global recession Fischer sold their FACC shares, to focus on their core business, the Fischer brand and ski maufacturing. Unfortunately many of the companies they were producing skis for pulled a significant portion of their production from Fischer which precipitated the FACC selling.

Fischer has had and continues to have a strong presence in World Cup Racing. Both in Alpine and crosscountry. US Athletes like Olymic medalists like Bode Miller and Kikkin Randall have competed on Fischer wining multiple World Cup and Olympic medals. From approx. 2003-2006 Fischer became the #1 ski supplier to the US Ski Team Alpine and still is the #1 supplier for the X-C Team. Fischer continues to be a dominate force in ski racing!

Mr. Josef Fischer Jr. was an icon and a gentlemen. A true pioneer and brand I was proud to represent in the US as its president.

David Auer
Fischer Skis US




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