I came to America in 1956 with my newly designed skibob in my luggage, and dreams
of promoting the skibob sport enough to get it all the way to the Olympics.
Failure to get permission to use the skibob in most available ski areas in New
York, Vermont, and Connecticut dashed my hopes very quickly. They all showed me the
exit after I demonstrated how easy it was to operate a skibob down any slope. Most
of the resistance came from ski schools connected to those areas.
However it caught the eye of some companies like Hiram Walker Bourbon and Genessee
Brewery for whom I did a TV spot on Mt. Mansfield. The bourbon ad (see photo below)
was shot at Mad River Glen, also in Vermont. I also demonstrated on Whiteface Mountain
in Lake Placid. Look Magazine did a two page story with me on the skibob in Big Bromley,
Vermont in 1958 (see article below).
The skibob was also shown in a big sports exhibition in New York City (I forgot
the name of the annual sports equipment show). The brochure (see photo below) showing
me with my new model, as well as the Brenner bob was printed for that show and later
use. The owner of the company for which I worked (Ferris Mfg. Co.) was going in to
business with me. But, through major mistakes on his part, it did not work out.
In Germany, I was first introduced to the Gfaeller skibob in 1951. I was intrigued
by the new sport and took part in the second skibob race ever run, in Schliersee.
The first race was held in Kiefersfelden, the home of Gfaeller and Reiss Schmidt,
who designed the all wood frame model. Two more races were held in Fischbachau, my
hometown, and in the Spa city of Bad Wiessee.
In 1952, skibob friends of all over Bavaria started the "Skibob Club Bayern".
I was selected their president, a post I held until 1956, when I came to this country.
A manufacturer from Munich by the name of Ludwig Brenner approached me with
a new steel tubular construction. Since we had many broken wood model Gfaeller bobs,
it became a big hit. I designed the double rear skis, which with two steel edges,
were great in icy curves.
To give the skibob top billing in the press and newsreels, I decided to have
a race before the official opening of the winter sports season. We raced on top of
Germany's highest mountain, the Zugsptize, and got the expected press and newsreel
coverage. Further races where held in Kiefersfelden, Fishcbachau, Hausham, and for
the first time outside of Germany in Kitzbuehel, Austria. This was a day and night
1953 was the year when my personal success started, winning the first Cup race
in Fischbachau and the first Bavarian Championship, as well as a race in Kiefersfelden.
1954 was the first German championship, which was won by Hans Buehler from Oberstdorf.
I came in second, but won my second Bavarian title.
1955 was my personal biggest year, winning the German downhill and the slalom,
and also the combination. I also won my third Bavarian Championship. A South German
championship was held with the cooperation of the ski club Bayrischzell. It was combined
with a race for the "Sliver Pine needle", a much sought after prize for which a certain
time had to be achieved. With about 100 skiers and 30 skibobbers participating, only
30 needles were won. I came in overall 20th, and was the only skibobber to ever win
that pin. Beating 80 skiers made me the talk of the town. I also was able to get
a skibob race programmed in the International Winter Sports Week in Garmisch Partenkirchen.
My friend, Sepp Rambach, won that race, but I made the honor steps in the ice rink
with the winning team Fischbachau with full honors, national flags, and all. We also
were invited to participate at the carnival race down the bobsled run in Garmisch.
Three of us skibobbers were dressed as witches, with brooms sticking out of the back
of the skibob, racing down the icy bobsled run. My wife, Erika, and her girlfriend
made it down the icy run on one skibob dressed as bride and groom (see photo below).
Lots of fun and publicity.
1956 was my last skibob season. A Skibob Week was held in Bayrischzell with
all titles to be won. I won the German combined, the South German, and my 4 Bavarian
titles. But, sadly, it would be my last skibob competition I was ever to participate
in. I was racing the skibob model shown on the brochure. I designed that model with
a stronger tubular frame and a sliding saddle. It also could be taken apart as shown
on the brochure for easier transport in a car trunk. I further designed the trailing
front ski. This made the operation of the skibob so easy that you could go down a
slope with hands off the handlebar.
I just hope to live to see the skibob ski bike in the Olympics some day...
--- Lorenz Ertl
March 20, 2008
The 1950's are something of an enigma in regards to skibobbing. This first decade
of our sport is shrouded in a veil of mystery, there is little detailed information
available to illuminate the historical origins in Europe. I am exceedingly pleased
to offer this window to the past by Lorenz Ertl, German competition champion, club
president, and skibob manufacturer. His story begins in 1951, a true pioneer indeed!
Championship race with my latest model
Part of the "Look Magazine" coverage
Start at the Zugsptize race
Sports show in New York
The carnival race down the bobsled run in Garmisch. My wife, Erika, and her girlfriend
made it down the icy run on one skibob dressed as bride and groom