Luzi Hitz - Ski historian, collector and ISHA board member
Luzi Hitz, a noted Swiss ski historian, ski collector, indefatigable researcher and writer and ISHA director, died November 28, 2019 in Corseaux, Switzerland. He was 89.
A passionate ski collector and historian, Hitz dedicated much of his life to celebrating and preserving the sport’s rich history. He co-founded the virtual museum swissskimuseum.com, and was the premier ski historian in his home country of Switzerland.
Born in Zurich in 1930, Hitz lived in Paris and Toulouse as a young boy, returning to Switzerland in 1940 with his family. He learned to ski behind his grandparents’ house in Klosters when he was seven. As he recalled, his class was the first that was not taught the telemark turn as part of the ski-school curriculum. “My friends and I were happy, as we considered telemarking to be old-fashioned,” Hitz said.
He attended college in St. Gallen, and then earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich. After his first job with Swissair, he worked until the end of his career with Nestlé. After three years living in the United States and Brazil, he returned to Switzerland, where he led a team responsible for the design and implementation of new factories worldwide.
Hitz began collecting skis at an early age, starting with a pair of World War II-era skis that had belonged to his father and two 1930-era pairs that his children found in the trash in the 1960s. He ultimately collected more than 250 pairs of alpine skis dating from pre-1900 to current models.
Embracing digital technology to reach a wide audience, Hitz worked with Pierre Schneider to launch swissskimuseum.com, a virtual museum dedicated to the history of Swiss skiing, and prized as a resource for ski historians. He regularly contributed to the website, which includes coverage of gear, resorts, racing and all things Swiss-skiing related.
“Luzi was very passionate about the history of skiing in Switzerland,” said Schneider, a longtime friend. Schneider said they often would spend hours debating content for the website, with the results predictable. “We had many discussions and sometimes even arguments on the ‘Who, Where and When’ about Swiss ski products,” Schneider said. “He mostly won due to his expertise and many years of research.”
A member of the ISHA board of directors, Hitz frequently contributed to Skiing History, including “Ernst Constam and his Marvelous Uphill Device” (together with Morten Lund), “Swiss Made” (A Glance at Switzerland’s Skiing History), “The Hotel Palace in Gstaad,” and “The Parsenn Derby.”
A keen supporter of other collectors and historians, Hitz freely provided his time and insights as a mentor. He helped, for instance, his longtime friend Laurent Donzé with his collection of cross-country skis, considered the most extensive in the world.
Hitz is survived by his wife, Marguerite “Tigi” Hitz, son Marc Hitz and daughter Elizabeth Barbara Hitz. Though he will deeply miss his friend, Schneider said Hitz’s efforts as an influential ski historian will live on. “The Swiss Ski Museum project,” Schneider said, “is Luzi’s legacy to the ski world.” —Greg Ditrinco