Aspen icon Klaus Obermeyer celebrates his 97th birthday

Klaus Obermeyer celebrates his 97th birthday Friday by singing a Bavarian tune with Rupert Oberlohr at a party attended by family and friends.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Klaus Obermeyer is credited with a lot of “firsts” as a groundbreaker in the ski apparel business, including inventing the first parka.

Now he’s got another signature distinction to add to his illustrious resume. Obermeyer said he was informed during a recent interview with a reporter from Forbes magazine that he is “the oldest CEO in the world.”

Obermeyer is founder and CEO of Sport Obermeyer, which he started in Aspen in 1947. He celebrated his 97th birthday Friday with scores of friends at his company’s headquarters at the Aspen Business Center.

It was a familiar scene — Obermeyer workers were handing out apple strudel topped with a generous heap of whipped cream. A Bavarian band, complete with cow bells, accordion and alpine horn, provided the entertainment. Klaus let out a few yodels. And, of course, women lined up to kiss him.

“When I’m 103 years old, I will have skied 100 years.” — Klaus Obermeyer

After the party, he reflected on his dedication to staying fit, his company’s ongoing success and an intriguing personal goal.

The man who has given so much to Aspen said Aspen has also given a lot to him.

“I am one with Aspen. It’s been my second hometown since 1947,” he said.

Klaus said he remains in “perfect health,” which he attributed to his exercise and fitness routine. He still practices the martial art of Aikido and he stretches and swims a half-mile every day.

“That gets me in one year all the way to Denver. And the next year I come back,” he quipped.

But he’s serious when he says he is a firm believer that it’s even more important in old age to continue working out. If you don’t, he said, nature thinks you don’t need those muscles and joints and ligaments any longer.

He also continues to ski. He is eagerly awaiting Dec. 10 when Tiehack is scheduled to open for the season.

While Klaus has no trouble living in the moment, he’s also looking ahead six years to the 2022-23 ski season.

“When I’m 103 years old, I will have skied 100 years,” he said. He figures that will probably be a record.

Longevity is in his genes. His maternal grandfather lived to age 112 in Germany, he said.

Meanwhile, he keeps a steady hand on the helm of the skiwear company. The lack of snow in the eastern U.S. last year “was tough on our dealers,” he said. “If there is no snow, we don’t look so intelligent.”

This year is looking up for sales. The East is cold enough that resorts can make snow. After a slow start, the Rockies are gaining snowpack and resorts in Northern California and Northwest have picked up good snow.

Sport Obermeyer continues to introduce new lines each winter to stay fresh and competitive in the market. There’s no resting on laurels, even for a company in its 69th year.

“You can never say you have it made or you’re already on your way down,” Klaus said.

So he and his team are already working on the design for the 2017-18 ski clothing line.

“I say we’re so far ahead, we’re behind,” he said with another one of the laughs that come easy and often while he converses.