Norwegian ski heritage and the “rat trap” binding

Nearly 100 years after their invention, Rottefella bindings still dominate the world of skiing

Photo: Wikimedia Commons The resemblance to a rat trap can still be seen in this Rottefella binding from the 1980s.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The resemblance to a rat trap can still be seen in this Rottefella binding from the 1980s.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

Norway is known as the cradle of skiing. The first 50 km cross-country ski race was held in Oslo in February 1888. Before its start some of the 17 starters were smoking a pipe to enlarge the lungs. The winner won a price worth 400 NOK.

The Norwegian mechanical engineer, inventor, and industrialist Bror With created the first split toe binding in 1927. He used his bindings in a ski race, where then Crown Prince Olav was present. He took one look at the different-looking bindings and asked Bror what on Earth he had on his skis. The inventor quickly replied: Oh, they’re just a couple of rat traps I picked up at the hardware store. The binding proved itself a success and the name “Rottefella” (rat trap) was a reality.

Marit Bjørgen and Martin Johnsrud Sundby won the Tour de Ski in Italian Val di Fiemme this year. 88 years after the Rottefella’s invention, both winners from Norway, and in fact all the medal winners in this year’s tour, raced on Rottefella Xcelerator bindings. At the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden, Rottefella is the favorite.

The company Rottefella has since its founding focused on bindings and only bindings. Today they craft superb bindings for both Nordic and Telemark skiing. However, they refine and reinvent them constantly, and distill the skiing insights of their Norwegian heritage into cutting-edge technology. At ISPO 2015 in Munich (a trades show for the sporting industry), Rottefella introduced several new products to improve the skiing experience for everyone from the casual touring skier to the advanced performance athlete who demands the very best binding.

The first breakthrough for the binding was in the Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz in 1928, when the Norwegian military patrol used the bindings and won the gold medal. The patrol leader was the famous athlete, pilot, and officer, Ole Reistad. Today Rottefella has 55 employees and revenues of 184 million NOK and profits of 41 million NOK in 2013.

According to our ski champion and legend Vegard Ulvang the 50 km cross-country ski race is part of our cultural heritage. Lots of luck at the races this winter!

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 27, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Rasmus Falck

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo.