To the Editor:
I read with interest Greg Morrill’s column about the ski company Beconta in the Jan. 2 issue of the Stowe Reporter. As a close member of the Beconta family, I thought I would weigh in and offer some clarification.
In the early 1960s, my father introduced two of his close friends to one another. The two, Jim Woolner and Karl Wallach, ended up forming a partnership and buying Beconta, which, at the time, was located in the city. Within the first couple of years of their ownership, they moved the company to Elmsford, N.Y. The significance of this change in ownership cannot be overstated and I’m surprised that it was omitted from Greg’s piece.
Wallach was principally responsible for the purchasing from Europe, while Woolner handled U.S. distribution. Together with Kip Pitou (Penny’s brother) at the helm as general manager, they transformed the company to become the dominant supplier in a growing U.S. ski industry. Other key members of the team included Peter Juen, Barbara Hilty, Egon and Klaus Zimmerman, as well as those mentioned in Greg’s article. Gale Shaw was their Vermont rep and a frequent presence at headquarters in New York.
My dad was in the printing business and thus handled all Beconta printed materials including catalogs, posters, etc., and contributed generally to their marketing. I think he spent more time in their office than his own. He flew to Vegas every March for the annual ski show, with catalogs on board.
As the fanatical skier in my family, I was a beneficiary of the relationship. I was privileged to be able to go to the warehouse on a regular basis where I would be set up with the latest in equipment and apparel: Nordica, Volkl, Look, Ellesse, Moriarty, etc.
Less known to some in the ski industry was Beconta’s other division: Puma. The Puma division actually eclipsed the entire ski division. Beconta made the Puma “Clyde” the iconic shoe of the era, much as it had done with the Nordica “banana” boot. They sponsored many in the NBA, MLB (Reggie Jackson) and NFL, with particular attention to the New York Jets.
The decline: As Greg correctly stated, the loss of Nordica, a brand they had grown to prominence, came as a shocking blow and marked a turning point. They also lost Puma at some point in the ’70s so it was a one-two punch. They continued with Dolomite, Kastle and Look for a number of years as dealers remained loyal. I represented them briefly, servicing dealers throughout Vermont prior to my opening of Front Four ski shop.
It was a fun, expansive time in the industry; Beconta was a fun place to be and be part of. They are to be credited with growing the sport and recognized for their contributions to resort communities both East and West.