Hart Skis moves to Vail
The Hart History
Hartvig “Hart” Holmberg opened a carpentry and metal shop in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1953 that produced customized cribbage boards, chess sets and other wood and metal games. Hartvig became known for his ability to create fine wood products. Hartvig had a brother Harry who worked as a ski engineer and designer. They knew that the addition of a seamless metal edge would revolutionize ski design. Together they began working on a prototype. After three years of creating and refining, they were ready. And, in 1955 the first Hart metal-edged ski was introduced.
By the mid-1960s, Hart Skis dominated the US ski market with a brand recognized around the world. Freestyle skiing became a worldwide phenomenon in the ’60s and Hart products and skiers were at the forefront in the development of this new sport. The ’70s, ’80s and ’90s saw great Hart US Ski Team, Olympic and World Cup athletes such as Billy Kidd, Hank Kashiwa, Suzy Chaffee and Jonny Moseley. Today, the Hart tradition for world-class athletes, product innovation and performance continues not only in freestyle skiing, but in all mountain, big mountain and powder skiing, too.
VAIL — Business partners Andrew Soulakis and Matthew Greene have lived in Eagle County for some time now. So when the opportunity arose for them — along with a team of owners and investors — to acquire Hart Skis, relocating the company from Utah to Vail was an obvious choice.
They signed on Vail native and Olympic freestyle skier Heidi Kloser, and the rest will soon become part of Hart history.
“Hart is a significant company in the ski world, but it has ran into some hard times in its long history, which dates back to the 1950s,” Soulakis said. “It has been rebuilt recently to become one of the premier freestyle mogul skis on the competition side, but really it has not been able to get the traction it wanted outside of the moguls environment. … We want to take Hart back to where it should be as a brand.”
The company now has a larger management team in place and more working capital, Soulakis said, and will also make use of strategic alignment with other companies en route to that goal. They’ll also take advantage of their new location.
“The Hart name will become much more prominent in the valley,” he said. “But we’re also planning some global initiatives. There’s some big things on the books for next season that are going to bring a little bit of fun back to skiing.”
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VAIL HARTS HEIDI
When Heidi Kloser started looking for a new ski, she wasn’t aware that Hart was relocating to Vail.
She had been with her previous company, Volkl, for more than a decade, but was looking to switch skis.
“I didn’t actually know that they were a Vail company and moving to Vail until after I signed the contract,” she said. “It’s really cool, I’ve never been able to work closely with a ski company before. Now I get to, and get to know them.”
Kloser said the shape of the ski helps her carving, but is also very fun to ski around on when she’s not in the moguls.
“It’s really what I was looking for in a ski,” she said.
She also really likes how Hart seems to be focused on the future.
“They have kids mogul skis, which is something that we did not have when I was growing up,” she said. “It’s really cool to see a company that’s putting an effort into bringing mogul skis to kids and also having really good equipment for my age and wanting to promote the sport.”
That focus on the future is something that’s important to Soulakis on a personal level, as he himself has a two kids in the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail freestyle program.
“I’m happy, personally, as a father, to have my kids skiing in that program, and we as a company look forward to being able to support the younger athletes who are climbing to that elite level,” Soulakis said. “We are probably the only ski manufacturer going into this season who are offering three different youth mogul skis. Most vendors don’t make a single youth mogul ski. We go all the way down to 120 (centimeters), which is a pretty short ski.”
Outside of the bumps, Soulakis and Hart Skis want to bring their brand back into the mainstream and capitalize on some of the sentiment associated with the brand.
“It’s an iconic brand, but through the years it has not been tended to in the way an iconic brand could be,” he said. “Virtually everyone I’ve talked to about this who is over the age of 40 has fond memories associated with Hart Skis and has an affinity for the brand.”
Hoping to return Hart Skis to a place of prominence in the industry, Soulakis says they’re going to use a simple yet time-tested technique to achieve that goal: They’re going to have fun.
“In some ways, skiing has become very clinical,” he said. “We’re hoping to recapture the fun aspects of the sport. We refer to Hart as a family, and we want people to feel like they’re part of the Hart family. We want people to truly feel like they are a part of this brand, because it’s a part of them. They grew up on it, and now they have an opportunity to re-embrace that.”