One thing you might not guess about Franz Fuchsberger is that he didn't grow up as a ski racer. Fuxi, as he is known, has been a fixture on the American ski racing scene ever since he pulled into Government Camp, Oregon, with a trailer full of brightly colored ski suits in 2001. But his affinity for the sport came as a fan first, and an amateur competitor later on.
Fuxi (pronounced FOOK-see) was trained as a ski instructor at a prestigious government-run mountain sports school in St. Christoph in his homeland Austria. His certification from Bundessportheim, what is essentially the Oxford of ski instruction, opened the door for him to come to the U.S., and to travel the globe teaching skiing.
A year at Boyne Mountain, Michigan, led him to Big Sky, then to Vail, and for almost two decades Fuxi was living the life as a traveling ski professional. Looking for a more secure future, however, Fuxi eventually came upon a retail opportunity.
After a trip back to Austria to visit family in 2001, Fuxi imported a handful of Schneider race suits back to the U.S. This eventually morphed into a retail shop in Edwards, Colorado, and a new passion.
Ever since, Fuxi has charged forward with the Fuxi Flash, a collection of neon, self-branded race products marketed toward grassroots ski racing in the U.S. He has also taken to competition himself, winning multiple Masters national championships and six Powder 8 World Championships titles.
But his true calling is on the Palmer Snowfield, where his shop, his trailer, and his heavy Austrian accent are a magnet for aspiring racers looking for affordable products with a touch of that Fuxi Flash.
TAYLOR: What is the Fuxi Flash?
FUCHSBERGER: For me personally, I like colors. Give me flash, give me pink, give me neon, give me crazy colors. People got to know me, so since, it's the Fuxi Flash. So the Fuxi Flash is basically, give me colors, give flash, give me excitement. Let's have some fun now. Let's bring some colors to the mountain. Let's spruce it up instead of black, black, black. The Fuxi Flash is kind of, “Give it to me.”
How did you get your start in retail?
I was venturing all over the world as a ski instructor--Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, you name it. It was a fun place, but eventually, the job was too fun, where sometimes you can get carried away. You know how that goes, where you go, “What am I going to do down the road?”
In 2001, I imported a race suit from Austria. It was just one product. I was still working as a ski instructor, and I would go back to Austria once a year to visit family. Right next to Atomic, in this little famous town of Altenmarkt, there was a company called Schneider. They actually supplied the Austrian ski team with all their race suits and stuff like that.
I knew the family, and I said, "I don't ever see your product in the States. Nobody represents your product. I would be interested in maybe to bring some over to the club.” So, basically, by bringing 10 or 15 suits to the United States the first year, it kind of turned into a small business.
Over the years, products were added--bang, bang, bang. So now we call it the Fuxi One-Stop Shop. Any racer that needs anything colorful and exciting, basically I can equip them top to bottom. My number one item is what I started with in 2001, importing race suits from Austria, except now the suits are made in the U.S. The race suit is really the thing everybody needs.
I was in Government Camp in 2001. I was a street vendor. I came out here with a trailer. I was only here for a few weeks, then I realized this is the place I need to be. Summer, it's retail here.
During the winter season, I have a retail location in Copper Mountain, but I'm more of an on-location guy. So basically, I bring the show to the road. So let's say you have an event in Park City, a junior championship or something, I will pack up the trailer.
Would you say your market is mostly young racers, and maybe masters racers?
Exactly. Masters and young guys.
Obviously we've gotten better at the national team level, but how have you seen ski racing in the U.S. evolve at that grassroots level since 2001?
It's phenomenal. Ski racing is here to stay. The next Olympian, obviously, is right here on the mountain. The only shame is just... It's a financial situation because ski racing is rather on the more expensive side. And that's another thing why I came into this situation. I wanted to make ski racing more accessible.
I never raced growing up. I grew up on a farm and became a ski instructor. But I always enjoyed watching racing, and then I became a racer myself, like a hobby racer--NASTAR racing, masters, beer league races, ski school races, and through that kind of racing, I became pretty good. So that's how I got in--through the excitement of the sport.
Let's go back in time a little bit to your start in ski instruction. How difficult is it to get your certification in St. Christoph?
That's really the ultimate. You feel like it's a college degree. You just graduated. In Austria, ski instructing is a profession. Here it's a fun thing. It's not just being taught outside how to become a better ski instructor on the hill, but also inside. It's like a classroom, about everything--business, safety, even language: English and French.
It opened doors to come to the States; it opened doors for me to go to Australia, to Argentina. I feel like I was kind of the Anthony Bourdain of my profession--travelling all over, meeting people, having fun, sharing stories.
What was the allure of Powder 8 competitions?
That was really my claim to fame. When I came over here, I was in Big Sky, Montana, for three years. A guy who I met in St. Christoph read in the local paper: Powder 8 Championships in Bridger Bowl.
We had a pretty good grasp of being disciplined, and skiing obviously, so we went there, and we won that local competition. That's how that whole thing started. I was really passionate. That was my sport. God looked down at me and said, "Fuxi, I have a sport for you."
Out of a hobby, it turned into something, which brought us to Russia, to New Zealand, to Canada, and Mike Weigle. For us it was a hobby, then we realized, “Shit we're pretty good.” So basically, we went all over. I call myself the best powder skier in the world because I've won the title six times, so until you win it seven times, I'm the best.
I saw one of your partners was Eric Archer, and he's also a really good racer. Do you see any correlation between racing and Powder 8s?
Absolutely. It definitely helped that, in the end when it got really serious, you could not win the final if you don't have all the ingredients--being dynamic, moving down the hill, being super aggressive.
In order to be good, you have to train. We were sometimes too professional for our competitors. They probably didn't like us sometimes. "Oh these guys are too serious. They are not in the bar drinking with us." We knew to wait until the competition is over, then we'll be the ones drinking, and we'll be the ones with the girls, or whatever. It's always more fun when you win.
Where do you see the future of the Fuxi Flash, and where do you see the future of American ski racing?
The Fuxi Flash depends on American ski racing, really. The future looks good. I see a lot of excitement at Mount Hood. It's packed up there! A lot of kids, all levels. I don't think it's going away.