Montebelluna Boot Museum, Italy

Post by blogger | September 22, 2011      

Winter’s are grey and the landscape dreary, but the industrial areas of northern Italy still have spirit and a craft business history reaching back to the 14th century. The food is pretty good too. I covered my Montebelluna and Asolo boot manufacturing tourism in a few WildSnow posts last winter, but I never got around to giving you the goods from the famous Museo Dello Scarpone (Museum of the Boot). So here goes the story in pictures.

First production Tecnica Moon Boot. Got a pair?

First production Tecnica Moon Boot, 1970. Got a pair? Approved by Michael Jackson. Click image to enlarge.

Ski boot museum sign.

Walking over to the museum from Salewa/Dynafit was easy, good signs led the way.

During the First World War, Montebelluna craft shops supplied shoes to the troops, which led to the making of quality leather climbing boots beginning in the 1920s. Ski boot manufacturing increased in the 1950s, with Montebelluna ski shoes in use by Olympic champions such as Toni Sailer. Ski boot production exploded in the 1960s, from 180,000 pairs in 1963 to 700,000 pairs in 1969. During that period, Nordica took notice of American innovator Bob Lang’s plastic boots (some or all of which were, I believe, eventually made in the Montebelluna region), and subsequently figured out methods of mass producing composite ski boots. Since then, nearly all the ski boots sold worldwide have been made in this region of Italy, including nearly all backcountry skiing boots (with more and more being made in China over recent years).

Montebelluna pizza.

But first, lunch. Federico took me to a pizza joint. Scrumptious. I asked Fede if pizza was invented in Italy or the United States. That got a frown.

Boots used on k2 in 1954.

Boots used on first ascent of K2 in 1954, by summit team Achille Campagnoni and Lino Lacadelli. Click to enlarge.

Ski boot buckles.

Can you ID any buckles? That's a wad of PU plastic in the back. When they fire up the injection molders, they have to run plastic test until it reaches the correct temperature and consistency to begin the molding process. When you visit the factories they have big bins of this stuff sitting around, ostensibly for recycling.

Huge ski boot.

Apparently it used to be a tradition for Montebelluna boot craftsman to build gigantic yet authentic boot models to display at Winter Olympics. The museum has a few. Have your feet ever looked this big?

Nordica Air ski boot.

Nordica Air ski boot had a hand operated pump that tightened fit by filling an air bladder. Circa 1983. Seems kinda finicky to me, and was probably cold as the dickens, especially when you pumped them up on sub-zero days. Click to enlarge.

Nordica Air with patent.

Nordica Air with the patent filing papers.

Garmont Gara, 1970s

Garmont Gara, 1977. This was my go-to boot during my brief career as a bump skier in Crested Butte. The steel bands worked well to prevent lower shell deformation, but the forward flex was a bit soft for those days. The same guy who designed these boots now is head of boot product development at Dynafit, a few blocks from here.

Lange ski boot, first production model 1970.

Lange is said to have made the first ski boot specific to women, introduced in 1970.

Metal ski boot.

This prototype offering was not known for light weight or warmth, but worked well for jousting sessions at a nearby castle. Bertele, 1973.

Backcountry skiing boot construction process.

The plastic boot making process developed here in the Montebelluna region involves creating resin and wood mosaic parts such as these which are then used to build the aluminum injection molds.

These speed holes double as the boot buckle length adjustment.

These speed holes double as the boot buckle micro length adjustment. Why didn't we think of that? Time for some mods? Circa 1960.

Metal ski boot.

This one is fairly out there. What's fantastic about this museum is it makes you realize how much innovation and experimentation went into the ski boots we all use.

Backcountry skiing boot from 1968, with buckles.

Vendramini backcountry skiing boot from 1968 had an interesting buckle configuration over a leather shell. Sadly, this was the only ski mountaineering boot I could find in the museum.

Climber in Munari boots.

Climber in Munari boots, the sig translates to something like 'the flying Munari boots?'

Cobbler tools perhaps used for ski boots in ancient times.

Cobbler tools perhaps used for ski boots in ancient times.

Dynafit backcountry skiing boots line manager Federico.

After the museum, historical research continued by speaking with Dynafit boot products manager Federico over a fine Italian meal. My Montebelluna trip was sponsored by Dynafit and Scarpa. Thanks guys for the help and for all the fantastic backcountry skiing gear you produce!


14 Responses to “Montebelluna Boot Museum, Italy”

  1. Dan September 22nd, 2011 9:57 am

    Thanks Lou. Helps one to appreciate what has gone into ski boots. Of course, we skiers can take some credit too…we were the test bunnies! Many of those “early” ski boots look more like medieval torture devices from today’s perspective. I wonder how our current designs will appear 60 or 70 years from now? Maybe Louie will get to make the comparison?

  2. Andy M September 22nd, 2011 10:09 am

    The signature in the Munari photo is more along the lines of, “Gold [referring to a medal or rating, perhaps] to the Munari boots with Vibram.”

    I did some of my first shaky tele turns (on piste at that point) and years later experienced my first terrifying whumph nearby. The Dolomiti are special mountains.

  3. Lou September 22nd, 2011 10:18 am

    Thanks Andy, I just did a hack translation using Google, I’ll bet the boots got some sort of design award, or perhaps the Vibram soles?

  4. Wes Morrison September 22nd, 2011 11:15 am

    I skied in the Nordica Trident Air System boot back in the mid 80’s. It was not cold, and the air pump worked well, but like many rear entry boots, it had one little hinge point in the forward flex, and killed my shins. If you watch the opening scene of “Hotdog” the lead actor is wearing the same boots.

  5. Ben September 22nd, 2011 12:53 pm

    Lou, have you ever thought about a web display of historical AT / ski mountaineering boots to complement your binding museum? I’m curious about this and don’t know the history – when did plastic AT boots with vibram soles and walk modes appear? Long or shortly after plastic alpine boots? What kind of boots would have been used with some of the 70s/80s AT bindings in the museum, like a Ramer or Silvretta?

  6. Lou September 22nd, 2011 1:58 pm

    Ben, the boots are much harder to acquire, store, display. More, there are so so many more of them than there are bindings. I do have selected models in my collection and will probably acquire a few more if I see them, but I’ll leave the full collection up to someone else. Perhaps Andrew McLean would be interested, when he gets tired and needs a break (grin).

  7. Greg Louie September 22nd, 2011 2:40 pm

    In retrospect, they should have a pair of Walter Bonatti’s boots in that K2 case . . .

    What’s the meat on top of that pizza, Lou?

  8. Lou September 22nd, 2011 4:19 pm

    Indeed Greg, the controversial story of Bonatti on that first ascent of K2 is always good to know. Info:

    Fede will have to name that meat, I forgot and can’t find my notes.


  9. Ben September 22nd, 2011 8:10 pm

    Lou, I hear you, I can barely find space to keep boots that I actually might use. But if you ever find the time to write a brief history of boots used for touring, illustrated or not, I for one would be interested in reading it. I’m sure there are people out there who would donate pictures for use with it.

  10. Mark W September 22nd, 2011 8:56 pm

    Those Nordicas with the air system were called Tridents in USA. I remember them. The concept seemed really cool to me, as did most anything else alpine skiing related as that boot was popular when I started skiing circa 1983. Good stuff. Those Garas look somewhat familiar as well. I agree that it is somewhat a shame there aren’t more ski mountaineering boots in there.

  11. Kevin S September 22nd, 2011 9:02 pm

    To Ben’s comment, back in the mid 80s we were using rear entry Dachstein AT boots with Silverettas on Kastle or Hagan skis. But we always debated modifying a Scott boot for AT duty but never did it. Some of today’s rando racers remind me of what a Scott boot might look like if they were still around. Cool article!

  12. Mark W September 22nd, 2011 10:42 pm

    Lou, you were a mogul guy for awhile eh? So was I in junior and senior high. Every now and again I’ll go and bust a good line at Copper just to see if my Dynafits (and knees) can keep pace. They still can.

  13. Lou September 23rd, 2011 6:29 am

    I’m pretty much staying away from moguls these days, unless they’re on the exit trail for a peak!

  14. Hojo September 29th, 2011 3:31 pm

    The moon boot [sadly] isn’t even close to dead. Saw them all over Chamonix 2 years ago.

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