Bill Danner and Hans Woitscatzke, friends from Harvard, were looking one day for a winter activity that was environmentally friendly, healthy, cheap, and easy access. They were able to purchase a patent for a downhill ski covered in fish-scale patterns on the cheap because it had failed miserably; the ski went slower on the descent than ones without the strange pattern. But Danner and Woitscatzke saw something in the product. They were looking for an alternative to waxing, which they felt was the barrier to entry for Nordic skiing—both complicated and time consuming. They wondered if the pattern might let a Nordic ski climb without wax.
When testing proved that Danner and Woitscatzke’s idea worked, they took the design to several Nordic ski manufacturers. They all refused to build the ski for them. Finally, a German furniture building agreed to make the first pairs, gluing the polyethylene scale pattern onto the bases. Retailers hesitantly carried the Trak skis, which were often stuck in a corner. But Danner and Woitscatzke had a solution for this too: They painted all of their skis bright orange so that they would catch a customers attention in both the store and on the trail. After Bill Koch won an Olympic silver medal in Trak skis in Innsbruck in 1976, sales went through the roof.