The question of who owns line skis has been raised numerous times over the years. It usually comes up when a company is in the process of merging. One person starts wondering aloud about the logistics of integrating a whole other company’s skis into their own line. In reality, the answer is pretty simple. One company did not ‘invent’ the line ski, and therefore does not own it. That company is G.I. Joe, for whom the skis were first manufactured in the 1950s.
The question is usually posed with a sense of urgency since the line skis themselves are quite valuable and can be sold for high prices. The real question is: for how long will they remain valuable? The simple answer is: as long as there are still people who want to buy them.
The Birth Of A Iconic Product
The history of line skis began with the military. After World War II, soldiers stationed in Europe were in dire need of winter sports equipment. They had been deprived of all forms of winter sports for so long that the idea of skiing itself seemed exciting and appealing. The idea of skiing wasn’t totally new, as the military already had a small fleet of army skis that they used to slide down on during parades. After the war, the idea of skiing took off like wildfire, and it wasn’t long before civilians were enjoying the sport as well.
However, not all ski equipment manufacturers were created equal. The German company EKO developed a whole line of military-inspired ski equipment that was quite fashionable and ahead of its time. One of these outfits was the EKO Cobra, which became an instant classic.
An even more influential outfit was called JOE, which stands for the U.S. Army’s 101st Infantry Division. This outfit adopted the EKO Cobra as their symbol and named their entire line of military-inspired ski equipment after it. Over the course of the next few years, the JOE brand would become one of the most recognizable and best-selling lines of ski equipment ever made.
The popularity of the JOE brand prompted the U.S. military to form the 101st Ski Battalion, whose membership consisted of the soldiers who were serving and had served in the Army’s 101st Division. The military unit was tasked with patrolling the mountain ranges armed only with their skis in order to promote and encourage recreational skiing. This proved enormously popular, and the unit eventually became known as ‘the green guys’ due to the color of their uniforms!
The Legendary G.I. Joe
It was originally established in 1944 as the 101st Airborne Panzer Battalion and then changed its name to the 101st Ski Battalion in 1947. This unit had a special place in the hearts of skiers everywhere due to their service to the country and their unrivaled contribution to the popularization of skiing in the United States. Today, the G.I. Joe brand is still owned by the U.S. Army, and their equipment continues to be inspired by World War II paratroopers and their unique combat gear!
The G.I. Joe ski heritage can actually be traced back to the company that first manufactured their goods. That company was actually a subsidiary of a much larger corporation named All American Metal Works, which was in turn owned by the German company MAN. The G.I. Joe ski equipment was first designed and manufactured in Louisville, Colorado in 1951, and the name G.I. Joe was chosen for the military outfit due to the fact that the soldiers who used their equipment earned the nickname ‘GI Joe’ after the World War II media character of the same name.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the G.I. Joe brand started to see serious competition. While their original military-inspired look remained popular throughout the decade, there were other companies who started to experiment with similar themes, but in different ways. Some companies designed their skis to look like animal heads or horns, while others used otherworldly creatures as their inspiration for unique looks! One of the companies who dared to defy the standards of the day were the French company Les Cheveux de la Queen, whose daring ‘hairdo’ inspired many imitations. They started by using only the top part of a ski jumper’s helmet, then added the rest of the helmet by gluing on the sides!
While we’re on the subject of French company hats, let’s not forget about Chapeau Brosse, whose name means ‘Crow Hat’ in French. In the 1960s, their outrageous knit beanie hats were all the rage in Montreal, and later in New York City. The company is still around today, making all-time classic hats such as the Chapeau Bordeaux and the Chapeau Puma, as well as seasonal items such as the Santa Claus hat!
The uniqueness of the G.I. Joe brand is evidenced by the fact that their equipment was originally designed and built in the United States, and they continue to be produced there today. The question of who owns line skis is rather academic since the G.I. Joe brand still produces and distributes all of its products in the United States. Therefore, the federal government still owns it, and it does so directly through its business, the United States Army!
A Classic Look That Endures
Even now, more than 70 years after their introduction, the original G.I. Joe skis continue to satisfy customers. This is mostly due to the fact that the original designs were such a classically timeless look that they were easily reproduced by other companies. While there have been many variations and upgrades to the designs over the years, the classic military look of the original G.I. Joe line has never gone out of style.
This classic look is still being implemented today. Companies such as Atomic, the designer behind the brand Firestarter, as well as the North Face have all implemented the classic G.I. Joe look into their own lines of ski equipment. So, even though the question of who owns line skis is far from settled, it is safe to assume that the answer is: “Whoever owns G.I. Joe still owns line skis!”
In the next installment, we’ll talk about the different types of skis that are available for purchase, how to determine the right equipment for your needs, and much more!