Founder Of Vasque Footwear

Bill Sweasy had a passion for the outdoors—whether it was a leisurely bike ride to his downtown office, or his tireless philanthropic work to preserve the ecology of beautiful Red Wing. It was only natural for Sweasy to develop a footwear brand that enable people to get outdoors with technical expertise.

Sweasy wanted to learn everything he could about making the right kind of shoes for the outdoor industry. This led him to the alpine peaks of the Tyrol region of Austria, a premier center of equipment and technique development, in 1963. True to his leadership style, he consulted with the brightest and best in the business. He traveled with George Rudolf* and together they visited the leading manufacturers of ski, climbing and outdoor sporting gear.

Photo: Photo taken by Sweasy on his trip to Austria in 1963; George Rudolf is on the left.  The Hammerwerk Felix Ralling metalwork shop crafted iron mountaineering equipment in Fulpmes, Austria.

Photo: Robert Klima of Klima Lederbekleidung, a footwear and leather goods company in Linz, Austria, 1963. Klima worked to improve ski boot design.

Photo: Sporthaus Hannes Schneider, St. Anton, Austria, 1963. Schneider founded the first ski school in Austria in 1920, and had an equipment shop in the basement of this facility. Today, this shop rents ski boots and sports equipment.

Photo: A group of school boys in front of Sport Scherl, St. Anton, Austria, 1963.

Photo: Werkgenossenschaft Fulpmes, Fulpmes Austria, 1963. This small iron hand tool manufacturers’ cooperative, now simply called Stubai, builds on a centuries-old hardware and tool crafting tradition in the Stubai valley of Austria.

The early development of Vasque footwear focused on mountaineering. For Sweasy, this meant the boots had to be highly functional in rugged conditions. He brought the innovative sole technology of Vibram® to the United States, making Red Wing and Vasque among the first brands to feature “famous Swiss Vibram® lug soles.”

*George Rudolf is the founder of the Ski Hut, an influential source of backpacking and climbing gear for outdoor enthusiasts in California

Photo: Sweasy on a trip through Switzerland in 1976.