Questioning the status quo. That and no less is what Siegfried Rumpfhuber wanted to do with his Salzburg-based ski making business Original+. And he succeeded – also because the start-up is so close to its customers. So close that every skier gets their own pair of tailor-made skis at Original+; a pair that fits their stature and their skiing style. In his interview the founder speaks about taking the leap and becoming self-employed, about the artificial intelligence behind his skis, and initial hurdles he had to overcome.
L.L. / As a passionate skier, former FIS racer, certified skiing instructor, ski guide, and mountaineer you know the skiing industry inside out and you turned your passion into your profession. What type of winter sports can you no longer do without?
S.R. / Giant Slalom was always my passion, you get a closed-off slope and you can just focus on that feeling in the curves. That’s amazing! Even after the end of my active career I still enjoy these kinds of rides very much. Aside from that I enjoy quiet cross-country skiing, gliding like that is simply fascinating. When ski tours started to gain popularity about ten years ago, I was working for Kästle and I got a taste for it, too. With this type of sport, it’s the moments with friends on the mountain that are the most gratifying.
L.L. / You have been working in the skiing industry for a long time; you used to work for Fischer Sports and Kästle Ski. Where did the desire to found your own brand come from?
S.R. / I was a consultant and I took care of development and product marketing projects. But I also had the idea of customising one’s own skis stuck in my head, too, and that’s why, in 2015, I founded the company Original+. After two years of development we started selling models for the areas of allround, allmountain, and slalom in October 2018 – and they can be customised in terms of technical and visual aspects and made to fit individual needs.
L.L. / When you make skis at Original+, you bring together artificial intelligence and passion for craftsmanship. How does that work? And what does the name Original+ stand for?
S.R. / The name underlines the fact that our products are genuine and unique. The + indicates that there is added value, added value that the skiers get through our skis and the fact that they are customised. Artificial intelligence is mostly in our software which is called ORIGO and which was programmed especially for us. We feed the software our user data which captures the skiing style and the stature. By looking at 815,000 personality types the tool then calculates what the perfect configuration out of 600 different construction options would be. The result is super precise and sophisticated. And all results are continuously improved during our ski tests and based on the feedback we get from it. Some skis that work for many types of personalities are pre-made, others need to be custom-made.
L.L. / What’s your favourite Original+ model? And why?
S.R. /That’s Original+ mod. 7, our polyvalent allround ski. It was our first model and the idea behind it was to make a ski you could hand to a skiing instructor on Arlberg the first day of the season and which would serve him well and let him master all challenges until the end of the winter season. The number 7 is our best-selling model – and the number always stands for the width underneath the binding, in this case it’s 77 millimetres. Our model 8 is popular in North America and Scandinavia. And around Christmas we are going to launch our slalom model.
L.L. / There are many challenges that come with founding one’s own company. Where did you encounter the most problems?
S.R. / The project started a year later than planned because we had to discard our first draft completely. We looked long and hard at the construction and we had to make tough decisions. But now we are 100 percent convinced of the design. The product simply needs to work.
L.L. / Ski building, ski service, guide, and lecturer – your professional life is quite varied. Do tell us about it!
S.R. / Our brand for high-quality and individual ski service is called Kante Scharf – it’s intended for all skiers and complements what we do at Original+ perfectly. I am a lecturer at the University for Applied Sciences Salzburg where I work in the Design & Product Management Master Programme – which is lots of fun! Aside from that I guide ski tours and I do consulting through my company Exolite.
After my job at Kästle I consciously took half a year off to enjoy winter sports to the fullest, and during that time I also worked with a coach and looked at what direction my life should take. I ended up bundling up all my interests and now I work in many different areas.
Wordrap with Sigfried Rumpfhuber:
Ski or snowboard?
My favourite slope in Salzburg is in…
My hobbies, aside from skiing:
mountain biking, hiking, ice climbing, architecture, rallye cars.
When I need to relax…
I drink tea.
My tip for Salzburg:
go up Untersberg and check it all out from above.