“Who thinks about sleep, or about money? The world is waiting for me, and for Elan. In the year 2000, you will see, a magnificent factory will stand in this place,” Rudi Finžgar once proclaimed passionately. And so it happened, but he did it 30 years earlier, in 1970.
Rudi Finžgar, a skier, expert craftsman, inventor, pioneer, visionary and, most importantly, a brave and determinedman, made his dream a reality much sooner than he expected. But his adventure started back in 1945, when he set up Elan as a small company, his father purchased machines in the United States, and Rudi became the company’s first director.
Rudi Finžgar began to dream about producing skis when he was only 18 and learning the carpenter’s trade in his father’s workshop in Kropa. As a talented ski jumper, he knew a lot about the quality of skis. During World War II, he made skis for Partisans fighting against enemy occupation. With the war over, Rudi initiated fresh ideas and plans that made him the man with the most credit for establishing the Elan co-operative for the production of sports equipment in 1945.
Innovators by Nature
Throughout its 70-year history, Elan has become a household name synonymous with ski innovation. In Elan, Rudi Finžgar, nicknamed “Der Rote Teufel aus Titoland” (Red Devil from Tito’s Land) by those who envied his achievements, found a home and playground for his innovation. The Begunje Development Institute, which soon developed a reputation as a trend-setter in the skiing industry, has been an incubator of countless new inventions that have marked and revolutionised skiing. Elan’s first bestseller was a minimalist and simple ski called Impuls (Impulse). It was launched in 1969. In the same year, Elan produced its first all-plastic fibreglass ski with a polyurethane core and phenolic resin laminates. The real breakthrough came in 1974 with the Uniline skis. Their geometric design, which combined a rather extreme sidecut with a specific flex pattern, made it possible for skiers to use Uniline for slalom as well as giant slalom.
Another, seemingly unimportant, novelty that was also introduced in 1974 marked an important milestone in ski design. For the first time in the ski industry, the top surface of the ski was covered with a transparent foil with the trademark name Elan printed on the underside. The year 1976 marked the beginning of the RC skis era. In 1988 Elan introduced the first compressed (‘Comprex’) wood core skis that brought two major advantages: they were lightweight and the mass was concentrated under the ski boot. Their multi-point-mass system improved the control of the ski, allowed enhanced damping of vibrations and increased acceleration in turns. The company also developed a special edge sharpening technique that was based on ski width.
The Pioneers of Carving Skiing
Elan has always flirted boldly with the future. First, it made the VSS skis with an adjustable sidecut. The VSS skis had two 5mm-wide slots cut into the tip and tail of the ski that could either be expanded to 10mm or narrowed down to 0mm using a special clamp. These skis were just a step away from the SCX technology, which introduced a new ski geometry featuring extreme, almost eccentric, sidecuts that have revolutionised skiing. Another equally innovative achievement was the MBX model, which marked the beginning of the monoblock ski design. The year 2006 saw the introduction of the cutting-edge WaveFlex technology. The impossible became possible in a ski that combined a consistent flex with a high torsional strength. All this knowledge and experience has culminated in the Amphibio range, which allowed Elan, as the first producer in the world, to combine camber and rocker in an ultimate all-round ski. In the winter of 2015/16, the skiing world will be introduced to the Amphibio 4D technology. The skis which until now had a left and right construction now also differ in their front and rear sections. The tip is convex in shape and the tail is concave. The convex front delivers maximum control and helps with a more precise turn entry, while the concave rear guarantees a dynamic exit from, and start of, a new turn.
All these innovations have also been demonstrated in competition skiing. The legendary Ingemar Stenmark, the most successful ski racer in the history of World Cup skiing, who won a record 86 World Cup races, three overall World Cup titles and 16 discipline titles, two Olympic gold medals and three World Championship titles, competed on Elan skis throughout his entire racing career. Elan skis were also used in most Slovenian Alpine and Nordic skiing milestones set by skiing legends such as Bojan Križaj, Mateja Svet, Boris Strel, Jure Franko, Matjaž Vrhovnik, Mitja Kunc, Primož Ulaga, Miran Tepeš, Matjaž Debelak, Matjaž Zupan, Franci Petek, and Primož Peterka. When Jan Boklöv pioneered the V-style in ski jumping, he did it on Elan skis. Slovenian extreme skier Davo Karničar became the first man ever to ski down the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, as part of his Seven Summits Project, which saw him ski down the highest peaks on each of the world’s seven continents. Throughout Elan’s 70-year history, many champion skiers have skied, raced and won using Elan skis. Today, the team of Elan athletes includes the renowned American freeskier Glen Plake, Japanese ski jumper Sara Takanashi and her Slovenian colleague Peter Prevc. In the ski cross world, Elan is excellently represented by Filip Flisar, and in Alpine skiing its logo is displayed on the skis of the Italian Max Blardone.
Gym, Water, Clean Energy
In addition to skiing, Elan is also involved in many other fields. In its eventful history it has manufactured tennis and badminton rackets, kayaks, canoes, boats, sailboats, gymnastics equipment, and state-of-the-art wind turbines used in the production of clean electric energy.
Elan has been manufacturing vessels ever since 1945, when it started producing kayaks and canoes. During this time, Elan Marine has grown into a world-class manufacturer of yachts and sailboats which continue to meet the needs of the most demanding customers and sail all the seas of the world.
Another Elan activity that boasts a rich tradition is the production of sports equipment. Elan Inventa’s products can be found in gymnasiums, sports halls and arenas all over the globe. The company’s recent projects include a number of venues that have hosted major sports events, e.g. Women’s Handball World Championships in Brazil in 2011 and in Serbia in 2013, Men’s Handball World Championships in Spain in 2013 and in Qatar in 2015, and EuroBasket 2013 . Elan Inventa’s products are certified to the highest and most respected international standards.
Elan Wind Power
Elan Wind Power is a young division of the Elan Group founded in 2009. It produces high-quality and complex composite components for the wind turbine industry. The rich knowledge and experience acquired in more than 50 years in the marine industry have been transferred, diversified and implemented to suit the needs of the wind turbine industry. Sustainable development has always been one of Elan’s most important values. In this respect, Elan Wind Power is a symbol of environmental friendliness, energy efficiency, ecology, clean energy, and, most importantly, the spirit of today.
Source: RTVSLO.si | Polona Prešeren, Sinfo