In 1974, Astra purchased Trygve Liljedahl’s ski pole factory in Lillehammer, which was the world’s leader in its field.
Liljedahl was a visionary and enterprising industrial leader, and the first person to make a major industry of ski poles. At its height, the company made more than a million bamboo poles annually. Liljedahl produced ski poles for both elite and recreational skiers, and practically had a monopoly among elite, professional skiers in the early 1970s. Liljedahl’s poles were unquestionably the best. He was a colourful character who wouldn’t hesitate, for example, to hire a helicopter to take him to a competition site to hand out a new ski pole model to elite skiers. He arrived in Skjerdingen in Gudbrandsdalen once in a helicopter with poles in his luggage. His happy disposition rubbed off on everyone who came in contact with him. Liljedahl was ahead of his time as a businessman. When Astra took over, he was close to 60 years old and was trying to slow down his hectic lifestyle.
In 1976, a sales and marketing partnership was entered into with the textile producer Odlo, who had been the first company to offer ice skating outfits and cross-country outfits made of nylon. Swix Sport International consisted of Swix, Odlo and Liljedahl. The three were leaders in the world in each of their fields. The partnership with Odlo lasted for a few years until the family Lofterød pulled the brand name out of the collaborative effort.
The ski industry experienced rapid changes during these years. At the World Championships in Falun in 1974, skis made of synthetic materials had a breakthrough, in the sport of cross country. Swix was doing well with their synthetic waxes, but new approaches to waxing skis required less grip-wax. The need for grip-wax dropped because it only needed to be applied down the middle of the synthetic skis in the kick zone. On wooden skis, you really needed a full tube of wax for a long cross-country trip.
For skis made of synthetic materials you needed glide wax, so sales of this product rose. Starting in 1978, Astra’s management decided that they wanted to focus on pharmaceuticals. Swix was for sale and several serious buyers expressed interest. Johnson Wax in the USA was very close to running off with the prize, but both that company and others only wanted to purchase the ski wax part, not poles and textiles. Luckily, Astra wanted to avoid a partition. A Norwegian buyer enters the scene: In an interview in 1978, the investor Johan Henrik Andresen indicated that "active leisure” was his area of focus. Astra’s boss in Norway, Christian Fredrik Kaltenborn, read about this and called Andresen. Could Andresen be interested in purchasing Swix? Well, yes, that was not unthinkable. This was the way it all started, then followed up in meetings, and was finalised with a signed purchase agreement in November 1978.
The Andresen family was and is one of Norway’s most solid industrial families: owners of J.L. Tiedemanns Tobaksfabrik and famous for its long-term ownership strategy. One of Andresen’s ancestors, Nicolai Andresen, had even been a ski pioneer a century earlier. Swix could not have found a better suited owner.
Starting in 1982, the brand name Swix appeared on all the poles from Liljedahl’s factory – in order to take advantage of the strength and simplicity of a common brand name for wax, poles and textiles. At this time, the textiles most in demand were hats and gloves. Liljedahl’s strong market position was strengthened and new technology was acquired in order to improve the ski poles for elite skiers.
The World Championships in skiing were held in Oslo in 1982. On the last stage of the race during the relay race, the Soviet skier Alexander Zavjalov crashed into Oddvar Brå’s ski pole in a dual that ended with a shared victory. One of ski history’s most famous pole fractures took place with a Swix pole. Swix was now one of the world’s two leading ski pole brands.
Swix’ lease for the Astra factory in Skårer expired in 1986. The facilities were too small, and an expansion was impossible. In 1986, wax production was moved to the ski pole factory in Lillehammer. When the management also moved to this site, all of Swix was for the first time brought together in one and the same building. Swix at this time was also working on a new, revolutionary glide powder.
Johan H. Andresen Jr. - todays owner:
“At 60 years of age, one has gained considerable insight compared to when one was very young. With this wisdom one is able to change the future – well-aware of one’s weaknesses and armed with the best lessons from the past.
And Swix is no exception”.
Johan H. Andresen (1930-2011):
"We have plenty we can be proud of at Swix: A large number of Olympic and World Championship medals, a Blue Swix awareness among happy, healthy, outdoorsy people, Ulvang socks on countless children’s feet and the Swix logo on the cross-country trails as long as the eye can see. But Swix must now build on these accomplishments. We must grow faster, with more value-creation and at a higher rate than up until now – this will be in the interest of both our wholesale customers and retail customers. At Swix we are in the process of setting extremely high goals for ourselves, which is necessary if we are to achieve the expectations of the many who love the Swix brand. Among this group is all of us at Ferd”.