Klaus Obermeyer at 95

At 95, a Lifelong Skier Says the Source of His Vitality Is His Workout. Klaus Obermeyer, founder of the Obermeyer ski apparel brand, swims and practices aikido every day.

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Klaus Obermeyer, the founder of Sport Obermeyer and at 95 still an avid skier, swims every day at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Colorado.

At the age of 95, Klaus Obermeyer is still getting in more ski days than most people half his age.

“If there’s snow on the ground, I’m on the slopes,” the founder of Aspen, Colo., clothing company Sport Obermeyer says. His energy is an inspiration to his employees, who made a bumper sticker that says, “Be like Klaus.”

Growing up in Oberstaufen, an alpine village in Germany, Mr. Obermeyer was an avid ski racer, mountaineer and rock climber. He moved to Aspen in 1947 to become a ski instructor and that year founded Sport Obermeyer, Ltd. His company is credited as a pioneer of the down ski parka and the plastic ski boot, among other innovations. “Being outside and active was the best way to test my product,” he says. “And it still is today.”

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Growing up in Germany, Mr. Obermeyer was an avid ski racer and mountaineer. He moved to Aspen in 1947 and founded the Obermeyer ski apparel brand. ‘Being outside and active was the best way to test my product,’ he says.

Mr. Obermeyer admits that he isn’t zooming down double black diamonds the way he did when he was in his 20s, but he is out on the slopes for at least an hour or two when conditions allow. “Being out in nature keeps you young,” he says.

Even more than skiing, though, he says the secret to his vitality is a Japanese martial art, aikido, which Mr. Obermeyer has practiced for 35 years.

Unlike martial arts such as karate or Muay Thai, aikido doesn’t use kicks, punches or other striking movements. A practitioner isn’t trying to defeat or injure the opponent, but rather to redirect the momentum of the opponent’s attack.

“This is a peaceful martial art form,” says Mr. Obermeyer. “The idea is not to hurt, but to control your opponent.” Mr. Obermeyer says he applies this principle in business and everyday life. “Every attack that comes at you can be seen as an opportunity,” he says. “You can make it work in your favor.”

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Aikido’s techniques are circular, not linear. Mr. Obermeyer likens the movements to dancing. Rather than blocking an opponent, he redirects his opponent’s attack with throws or pins that are meant to unbalance the attacker or neutralize the attack. “I don’t fight back,” he says. “I just step out of the way so my opponent falls on his face.”

Klaus Obermeyer went through his daily martial arts routine at the Aspen Meadows gymnasium. He has practiced aikido, a peaceful form of self-defense, for 35 years.

Mr. Obermeyer practices aikido every day and says working out is the only way to keep his body and mind sharp enough to run a business and still have fun on the slopes. “Your body is like a car,” he says. “It needs maintenance and care. If you don’t work out, your body will slowly deteriorate.”

The Workout
Mr. Obermeyer practices aikido with an instructor at Aspen Meadows Resort fitness facilities or at his home, where he has a gym and mats. He works on the fundamentals of balance, position and breathing. Aikido technique requires one to extend power, join with the direction of an opponent’s attack and end the attack with a pin, a throw or other form of immobilization. “The idea is to become one with the attacker,” Mr. Obermeyer says.

Another place the principles of aikido apply are the swimming pool, Mr. Obermeyer adds. He swims a bit more than a mile every day, either in the pool at his home, the solar-heated lap pool at the Sport Obermeyer offices or in the 25-meter heated saltwater pool at the Aspen Meadows Resort.

“I find it easy to take a mindless state in the pool,” Mr. Obermeyer says. “When I swim, I’m forced to breathe deeply, and I like that I can stretch out my whole body.”

Klaus Obermeyer says swimming helps keep him fit for the slopes. He likes how it enables him to breathe deeply and stretch his entire body. “I like to think it prevents me from shrinking as I get older,” he says.

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Klaus Obermeyer says swimming helps keep him fit for the slopes. He likes how it enables him to breathe deeply and stretch his entire body. “I like to think it prevents me from shrinking as I get older,” he says.

“I like to think it prevents me from shrinking as I get older,” he says. The Aspen Meadows pool is located outdoors, he adds. “I swim year round, even in snow storms.”

Mr. Obermeyer says he uses the gym at his office or the resort’s fitness center every day. “Being old is not an excuse to be lazy,” he says. If he’s short on time, he’ll work out in slacks and a sweater rather than change into workout gear.

He goes on the elliptical machine at a steep incline for 20 minutes. “It’s a great machine to get my legs in shape for ski season, he says. He does pushups, sit-ups and hangs from a pull-up bar to stretch his body. Occasionally in winter, he’ll take his ski poles and go snowshoeing outside.

The Diet

Mr. Obermeyer eats two to three eggs, whole grain toast and potatoes for breakfast. He skips lunch and instead snacks on fruit throughout the day. He has an orchard on his ranch that grows plums, apples, pears and raspberries. He eats a light dinner, often a salad with ingredients from his garden, such as dandelion greens, radishes and chives with toasted pumpernickel bread and some slices of Swiss cheese.

Mr. Obermeyer, 95, swims a little over a mile a day. ‘Being old is not an excuse to be lazy,’ he says.

“I try to be vegan, but I’m a vegan who cheats,” he jokes. “My main concern is not to eat more calories than I burn.”

Gear & Cost
Aspen Ski Company gave Mr. Obermeyer a lifetime ski pass, so he skis free. He owns eight pairs of skis. The traditional aikido outfit is known as a gi, a robe-like jacket and top that can cost anywhere from $40 to $170.


“Music defeats the point” of aikido, Mr. Obermeyer says. “You want to achieve the Japanese state of mushido, where you are totally thoughtless; your mind is blank.”

By Jen Murphy
Source: Wall Street Journal
Photos: Blake Gordon for The Wall Street Journal