Ski Manufacturing. Most of the nineteenth-century skis held in museum collections were made by men who, like a gentleman in Minneapolis in 1885, decided to start “a manufacturing establishment in the city to make a desirable pattern of shoes [skis] in sufficient quantity to supply any future demand.

However, nothing is known of these early attempts to create a ski business until Mikkel Hemmetsveit moved to St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, to form the Excelsior Ski Companyowned by the Hetting family. Skis were “all the go” by January 1888, and after that first successful season.

Ski Manufacturing nineteenth-century

A No. 1 Skis” were ready before the snow came the next winter. There was enough business to contract out the making of skis to Elmquist and Weinhardt who later set up on their own. When Mikkel Hemmetsveit was enticed to Red Wing, the Excelsior Company appears to have gone out of business.
There were a number of other men who manufactured skis. In 1900 Aksel Holter obtained seven pairs of hickory skis from the Hagen factory in Norway and began producing similar models as “the celebrated Ashland ski, none better,” the price ranging from fifty cents to seven dollars a pair. This was a small business, and the skis were sold locally in Ashland, Wisconsin, at Danson’s, known for its books, candies, and nuts.

Dopp and Watson’s also carried Holters line along with crumb trays, embroidery scissors, and pearl-handled knives. There was no such thing as a ski store in those days. Holter reached a wider clientele by advertising in The Skisport but after disagreements over the management of his factory, he “gave his business” to Martin Strand.

Strand was the most successful of the early ski manufacturers because he catered to the vast majority of skiers who did not wish specialized and expensive equipment. He started his business in 1896 in a shack behind his house in Minneapolis, and he moved to New Richmond, Wisconsin, in 1911. That city enticed him with an offer of five years of rent-free buildings and free heat and light. Strand put up a fifteen-hundred-dollar bond and promised to employ twenty-five locals. The first batch of skis were bent by mid-summer and none too soon, as fifteen hundred pairs were on order.

Most of the skis were made of Norway pine brought by railroad from South Bend, Indiana. The reporter from the local paper gave a run-down of the manufacturing process during the first week of operation. “Having shaped the raw lumber, the pieces are soaked and then steamed and bent, then placed in frames and racks and transferred to the drying room.” After being sanded by machine, they were mortised and trimmed by hand. “Next the skis go to the varnish room where they are striped, given the first coat of shellac, and dipped in varnish, which is the last coat.”

A rubber footrest was put in place before the skis were stacked in the store room. They took up so much room after the straps were attached that these were put on just before shipping.

The New Richmond News and the Industrial Club felt that the “well established business with an exceedingly bright future is going to do much to advertise the city throughout the length and breadth of the land.” It was true. Strand was in business until the Second World War.