Wolfgang Lert — “Wolfie” to all who knew him — died peacefully at his home in San Francisco on Friday (Feb. 13), three weeks short of his 92nd birthday.
“Wolfgang Lert was very important in the ski industry, being the original importer of Bogner and Meggi,” Wendy Stagg said in an e-mail about Lert’s impact on her parents, Taos Ski Valley founders Ernie and Rhoda Blake. “He founded Hagemeister-Lert, designed all the Meister sweaters initially, but even more important for us, was a very close friend of Ernie and Rhoda as long as I can remember. His 1961 article for Ski Magazine remains the classic Taos article.”
Born in 1917 in Kiel, Germany, to symphony conductor Richard Lert and novelist Vicki Baum, the Lerts came to the U.S. in 1931, to Hollywood so Baum could work on the film version of her novel, “Grand Hotel,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1932. Captain of UCLA’s first ski team, upon graduation, Lert became Ski Coach. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at the beginning of World War II, where a medical discharge prevented him from joining the 10th Mountain Division, the ski corps that had so much influence on the d e v e l o p - ment of to - day’s U.S. ski industry.
He spent the rest of the war in the Office of War Information. He married fellow OWI staffer Ruth Clark in 1944; they re mained together until her death in 1997. While editor of Western Skiing, forerunner to presentday Ski Magazine, Lert formed a close and lasting friendship with the Blakes. “He later joined with Hans Hagemeister to form Hagemeister-Lert, Inc., a skiwear importer and distributor that played a major role in shaping ski fashion in the United States,” Peter S. Lert, his son, said in an e-mail about his father’s pioneering accomplishments, which included the introduction of buckle ski boots and stretch fabrics for ski clothing.
“Wolfie skied at Taos Ski Valley — where he chose the name for the “Snakedance” ski run — from TSV’s first season onward and continued to ski until late old age,” his son continued, “realizing a lifelong dream when he spent his 90th birthday on skis in Chamonix, France.”
After retirement from Hagemeister- Lert, “Wolfie” remained active in the skiing history field, and was a founding member of the International Skiing History Association. He is survived by his brother, Peter J. Lert of Los Gatos, Calif.; daughter, Dr. Valentina Lert, of Telluride, Colo.; and son Peter S. Lert (Dianne Timberlake), of Graton, Calif. Memorial do na tions may be made to Doctors Without Borders, International Heifer Project or the International Skiing History Association.