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Recreational Equipment Inc. - Catalog Collection
I reviewed catalogs at the REI corporate office in Kent, WA from the founding of Recreational Equipment Co-op in 1938 through 1985. Many of the earliest price lists are marked "Reproduced from the University of Washington Libraries." So the original lists may be available at UWSpecColl. I stopped my review after 1985 because a) in the 1979-80 catalog Iser and Ramer bindings appeared, which I feel marks the beginning of the modern period in ski mountaineering gear, b) starting in 1982 the catalogs (temporarily?) dropped most ski gear, listing package deals only, and c) I ran out of time. See also manning-1988 and whittaker-1999.
1939Ski equipment is listed for the first time. Some prices: cane poles (from $1.00 to $3.00), steel poles (from $3.75 to $6.00), bindings (cable, from $3.75 to $5.25; strap, from $2.25 to $3.75), hickory skis (flat, $5.25; ridge-top, $6.50 and up), parkas ($4.50) and pants ($7.50).
1940Co-op prices (members only) and regular prices are listed side-by-side. Ski equipment is typically 20 to 30 percent cheaper at the Co-op. Climbing equipment is cheaper still, typically 30 to 50 percent off for Co-op members. The October 17 newsleter contains tips on current ski gear. Laminated skis are not recommended due to warpage and weak tips. Practically all bindings sold are cable bindings. The easier the binding is to adjust, the more likely one will have trouble with the adjustment.
1942The January 12 bulletin (one month after Pearl Harbor Day) says that inflation and the economy of scarcity have started. "We are of the opinion that outing equipment will never see the present prices again." And, "If you want it this summer it might be safer to buy it now as it may be gone when the mad rush starts."
1945A few pairs of used Army skis are offered for $4.75. "The army intends to release skis and shoes later to dealers on a fixed price basis."
1948The January 1 price list includes a few illustrations, making it the "first Co-op catalog." Army surplus items include crampons, ring pitons, tubular frame rucksacks, stoves, sleeping bags, skis (basic, $12.95; refinished, $17.95), ski poles, cable bindings, reversible parkas, gaiters, ski goggles, mittens, and sunburn cream. A set of Army surplus skis, bindings and poles can be had for $19.95. The same items from regular sources are $38.65. No boots are offered for sale. All skis are sold with metal edges and not recommended without. A 7/16" x 120' nylon climbing rope is offered for $21.85, while a manila rope of the same size is only $3.30.
1950A limited stock of ski boots is available from $12.95 to $15.95 (normally $20 or more). The available ski bindings include Army rear throw ($1.95), Army bindings converted to front throw ($3.95 to $5.95), A&T front throw (non-micromatic, $4.95; micromatic, $6.95), and safety bindings from A&T ($8.95) and Hjalmar Hvam ($9.95). Canvas ski climbers are $1.10. Reconditioned mohair climbers are $1.25.
Winter 1955-56The growing downhill ski craze is reflected in the Co-op's first winter catalog. Racing skis with plastic bases are offered from Gresvig ($67.50) and Stein Ericksen ($85). More safety bindings are offered, including Cubco, Ski Free and Star. Army rear throw cable bindings are a close-out item at $0.95. High quality ski boots are available from Le Trappeur and Rieker ($19.95 to $39.50). The 1956-57 winter catalog adds a full line of A&T laminated skis, Tyrol safety bindings, and ski boots from Widder and Molitor. Tow grips are displayed prominently but no ski touring gear is listed in these two catalogs.
Winter 1957-58This catalog lists more safety bindings, more boot manufacturers, Edelweiss stretch pants, and Hart metal skis. Ski touring equipment has returned, and is listed apart from downhill gear for the first time. New items include Swiss Trima climbing skins ($13.95), Swiss snow shovels and avalanche cords. Surplus Army bindings, goggles, poles, frame rucksacks, snowshoes, and rain parkas continue to be offered, until they are gone. Traditional mohair climbers are $3.95 new. Trima climbers are said to be the best available, and later catalogs explain that they use special rail attachments inserted in the bottom of the ski to fasten the climber.
Winter 1958-59The Marker touring attachment is offered for the first time, an acknowledgement that safety bindings don't work well for touring. The 1960 winter catalog explains that this gadget "fastens to [the] ski for uphill climb and prevents ski boot wobble even with loose cables. Remove for descent. Fits any safety binding." (A photo of the Marker touring attachment finally appears in the winter 1967-68 catalog. It is a removable toe iron with flanges that keep the boot toe from moving side-to-side.) Marker bindings are first offered in the 1959 winter catalog.
Winter 1959Roffe S-T-R-E-T-C-H pants are $44.50, far more expensive than any previously offered by the Co-op. A drawing of a pretty woman in tight stretch pants offers incentive to buy. The first $100 skis appear, a laminated metal and hickory model with a kofix base from Kastle.
Winter 1960Ski touring boots are offered as such for the first time ($15.95), an acknowledgement that downhill ski boots like the Munari Master ($75, "for the ultimate in parallel skiing") may not be the best choice for touring. The 1961 catalog has a drawing of this touring boot, showing a lugged sole. (Ski boots have for some years had flat soles.)
Winter 1961-62Buckle ski boots appear for the first time (Henke Speedfit, $65 to $70) along with Miller release bindings ($16.95). Canvas ski climbers return after several years absence ($2.50).
Winter 1962-63The Swiss "Piolet et Ski" calendar is offered, suggesting that ski mountaineering is growing in Europe. Fiberglass skis make their debut, from Plymold, Toni Sailer and Kneissel. Army cable bindings make their final appearance in this catalog ($1.85).
Winter 1963-64This catalog contains several touring innovations from Europe and features a cover photo of a ski mountaineer in Switzerland. Vinersa mohair climbers ($13.95) have plates that clamp over the ski using rubber straps and require no modification to the ski except to notch the tail for a hook. For low-budget skiers, Army mohair climbers ($4.95) and canvas climbers ($2.95) are still available.
The Ramy-Securus release toe iron is designed for touring and downhill skiing. The 1964-65 winter catalog introduces another touring toe iron, the Eckel Tourist. It has wings that keep the boot toe centered while touring, but which spring open in a twisting fall. There are also the first signs of Nordic touring gear: Konsberg lightweight touring skis and Rottefella cross country bindings.
Winter 1965-66Lange plastic ski boots appear for the first time. "Light, waterproof, virtually indestructible." Look Nevada bindings also make their debut and Solomon step-in bindings appear in 1966-67.
Winter 1966-67Harscheisen are sold for the first time, two for each ski ($4.50 for a set of four).
Winter 1967-68In 1967 the first "modern" Co-op catalog appears, with 8-1/2" by 11" pages and color photographs. The winter catalog has photos of step-in downhill bindings from Cubco, Look, Salomon and Marker. Another touring toe iron is available from Attenhofer. For the ascent, it fits on the ski over a metal plate, and is removed for the descent. Thus, while downhill skiing has shifted to step-in bindings, ski touring still relies on cable bindings. Three choices are available for touring toe irons:
- Non-releasable toe irons like the old Army bindings (no longer sold by the Co-op).
- Releasable toe pieces supplemented with a touring attachment like the Marker or Attenhofer, to prevent toe wobble during the climb.
- Specially designed touring toe irons like the Ramy Securus and Eckel tourist.
Winter 1968-69Downhill ski boots achieve new levels of immobility with the Raichle "Red Boot" and the fiberglass Rosemount, which join the venerable Lange leg-breaker. Buckle boots now dominate the market. As compensation perhaps, the catalog carries for the first time a full line of Nordic ski equipment, from Karhu. Two alpine touring boots are also offered, the Henke and Hit-Explorer. The latter boot has two buckles at the top.
Winter 1969-70Nordic skiing takes off, with a full catalog page devoted to it for the first time. Nordic skis are divided into racing and touring catagories. Cross-country ski books from John Caldwell and Michael Brady are offered, along with Northwest Ski Trails by Ted Mueller and Snowshoe Hikes by Gene Prater. Silvretta offers the first integrated cable and toe iron touring binding, the Saas-Fee ($14.95). This binding fits any skiing or climbing boot, but as noted in the 1970-71 catalog, offers heel release only.
Winter 1970-71The Marker Snaplock is a cable with a release spring in the back, offered for touring. Presumedly it can be combined with a Marker release toe and touring attachment. Avalanche probes appear for the first time (collapsible, 8 feet long, $13.85).
Winter 1971-72Downhill ski boots suddenly sprout high backs, from Henke, Lange, Raichle and Molitor. Jet Stix are available for any boot for $14.95. The Marker Rotomat TR heel can be locked for downhill skiing and unlocked for walking, but has limited heel lift. A touring attachment enables the new Gertsch binding (the first plate binding sold by the Co-op) to be used for touring.
Winter 1973-74Nordic ski gear has grown to fill five catalog pages and is divided into four categories: mountain touring, general touring, light touring, and cross-country racing. The sturdiest Nordic gear is represented by the Fischer Europa 77 ski, Kikut 813 boot, and ABC "Victory" cable binding. Also, aluminum frame snowshoes are offered for the first time, from Sherpa/Tubbs. Alpine ski touring gear is unchanged.
Winter 1974-75The Silvretta Alpine Touring Binding adds a flexible plate underfoot for more lateral stability than the Saas-Fee. (But it is still a cable binding.) From Raichle comes a four-buckle leather ski mountaineering boot ($85).
Winter 1975-76The 2275 Hz Pieps is the first avalanche beacon offered by the Co-op ($49.95).
Winter 1976-77The modern era of alpine touring gear arrives with the Iser plate binding, Coltex adhesive skins, and special-purpose touring skis by Rossignol and Trak. The Iser binding uses an Iser release toe and a Marker Rotomat heel mounted on a hinged, flexible nylon plate. (Gertsch offers a plate binding employing a removable hinge adapter for touring, but I think it is less noteworthy than the fully integrated Iser binding.)
Winter 1979-80I found no catalogs in the REI collection for the 1978-79 season. In 1979-80, the Ramer binding appears with the Iser and Gertsch G-70, confirming that modern alpine touring gear has arrived. These plate bindings hinge freely in touring mode, release forward and sideways in downhill mode, and in the case of the Ramer, include heel elevators for climbing. The Skadi avalanche transceiver is offered by the Co-op for the first time, together with the Pieps 2. Specialized alpine touring skis are available from Head, Rossignol and Fischer.
Winter 1980-81Heavy duty Nordic gear is represented by Trak ATS, Rossignol Randonnee and Bonna 2400 PC skis, together with Norrona 920 and Kastinger Hitour boots. For those who prefer lighter Nordic boots, heel locators are available ($8.25). The first plastic mountaineering boot appears, the Koflach Ultra ($224.95). In later catalogs, other manufacturers pick up this trend.
Winter 1981-82Under "Adventure Skiing," the catalog states, "The rediscovery of the telemark turn has opened up new horizons for X-C skiers. The snowy wilderness is now accessible, and this package is ideal for exploring its outer reaches." The Co-op offers Snowfield, Summit, and Extreme boots from Asolo, Troll bindings, Rossignol and Trak skis, and Steve Barnett's book Cross-Country Downhill. Alpine touring gear has consolidated around Ramer and Iser bindings for now. Three-buckle plastic touring boots with lug soles are available from Raichle ($179.95). The catalog states, "Alpine Touring equipment provides the ski mountaineer with the best of two worlds: the control and performance of Alpine Skiing and the freedom of Cross-Country. If you enjoy solitude, deep powder skiing, no lift lines and would like to climb mountains year around, you'll never find a better sport than Alpine Touring."
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