Necessity is the mother of invention. Cliché as it might be, it rings true at the Skier’s Edge. In 1985, Joel Loane, CEO and founder of the Skier’s Edge, was told that he could no longer run. Injuries and overuse of his knees created alarm for his doctors. Instead of giving up he was determined to find a way to stay in shape and continue his favorite sports.
Chapter 1: The Beginning of the Skier’s Edge “Art of Design” series explores the origins of the Skier’s Edge. Joel Loane has created and innovated his whole life. Growing up in a professional athlete family, he stayed active and knew the importance of physical fitness. His father, a professional baseball player, always pushed him to go further. Bit by bit he began to piece together what would become the Skier’s Edge. From a sketch on a restaurant napkin he began to build out the machine. Sourcing parts from local machine shops he began assembly in his home garage of Atherton, California.
To make his dream a reality he needed cash to fund his company. Cash to make something from scratch. He turned to something that he loved greatly. Car restoration. He set for himself a test. A test that could show if his idea was far fetched or something that he could turn into reality. Taking his beloved Porche to the Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, California he wasn’t sure what to expect. A surprise of a second place win started offers of $30K – $40K for the prize-winning car. Now he had money to make an idea into reality.
After some elbow grease and modifications, Joel had a working model of the Skier’s Edge, although it was just a machine with no name at the time. Excited to show his doctor, Mike Dillingham (physician to the San Francisco 49’ers), Joel made an appointment. Mike’s reaction was positive, confirming what he had already begun to understand: he was truly on to something. Little did he know a chance encounter at a car wash would change the course of his life forever.
At the car wash, he happened to notice a lapel on a man’s jacket. The man was William Utzinger, and the lapel was the insignia of the US Ski Team. Utzinger, a head physician for the US Ski Team had his interest piqued as Joel struck up a conversation. Telling Utizinger about the machine; explaining the lateral movements, the non-impact workout, the cardiovascular conditioning, and especially how fun it was! Utzinger was instantly interested and wanted to experience the machine for himself.
Not wanting to waste any time, Utzinger wanted to see it right away. Joel explained that he could come over sometime that week. But right away meant right now. Utzinger wanted to see what Joel had made. They drove over to Joel’s garage, where Utzinger was more than impressed. He knew the US Ski Team would benefit greatly from such a machine and was ecstatic to have Joel give them a demonstration right away.
Easy to say, harder to do. It just so happened that the rest of the coaches were far away near Lake Tahoe. Not one to turn down a serendipitous opportunity, Joel said he could go up there. Packing up his car with a few machines, he ventured up to Tahoe to show the other coaches. Following Utzingers lead, they were also impressed and receptive to the dramatic impact the machines could have for their athletes. Knowing that they needed them immediately, they set up a meeting with President of the US Ski Team, Alan Roth. Roth listened to his team of doctors, and he knew how important it was.
Joel, not knowing what to expect from the meeting, was taken aback by Roth’s offer. “Official Exclusive supplier to the US Ski Team” isn’t something offered to just anyone. To make it happen, there were some conditions. Primarily, they needed 10 machines… in only a week. That’s a massive ask, for someone who had to assemble them by hand by himself. But fortune favors the bold, and Joel embodies that. Thus began a partnership with the US Ski Team that would shape the course of the Skier’s Edge for over 30 years.