Swiss Lauberhorn Champion

Passing Date: 
Monday, August 25, 2014


Swiss skiing legend Karl Molitor, one of the most successful and charismatic champions in his era, has died peacefully at the age of 94 on August 25th 2014, his family announced in the middle of the week. Molitor, born in the famous ski resort of Wengen in the beautiful Bernese Oberland Mountains dominated by the impressive peaks of Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönsch, enjoyed multiple victories in the legendary Lauberhorn event launched in 1930.
In January 1939 the handsome young man celebrated at only18 his first win on the Lauberhorn run, at 4.480 metres the longest downhill on the alpine World Cup calendar. The same year, he clinched a bronze medal at the FIS World Ski Championships at Zakopane, in Poland, on the eve of World War II.
While Switzerland was neutral during the war, the conflict put international sport on hold for six years yet the local ski club continued to organize the Lauberhorn competitions that ‘Karli’ clearly dominated in those years, winning the downhill six times in total until 1947 as well as twice the slalom and three times the prestigious combined.
In 1948, at the Winter Olympics of St. Moritz, the very popular Karl Molitor captured silver in the combined and bronze in the downhill in the main competitions won by his friend Henri Oreiller from Val d’Isère. He was one of Switzerland true sport heroes when he decided to retire afterwards to run the businesses of his dad Fritz, an Austrian-born shoemaker who also owned a sports shop in the small village. In 1943, Fritz had suffered a heart attack and was not longer able to work properly. Karl also got married that year to another excellent racer, Antoinette Meyer, who died a few years ago.
After his last successes, he also managed the Lauberhorn event for 35 years as race director and president of the local ski club. He also assumed important functions within the former FIS downhill-slalom committee and kept on observing with great interest the racing scene.
His name is also tied for the older generation with a very famous handmade ski boots produced in his own tiny shop located in the middle of the village. In 1947, he brought a few pairs with him during a short tour in USA and showed them to local shops. He created huge interest there as he returned with 600 ordered pairs to be delivered before the next winter. His family had to hire two specialized Italian shoemakers in the springtime to produce them – yet was helped by more than 20 of them in his best years when the company sold around 20,000 pairs in total – half of them sent to USA. He closed the doors of his small manufacture in 1977 after the raise of plasticized boots created in the 1960s by Bob Lange. Molitor was also respected in the 1960s for having created a very modern process to close his boots much easier using metallic ribbons tensed by newly invented buckles. It was way more efficient than the former system using normal shoelaces.  --Patrick Lang


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