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When passion for the mountains becomes a business plus: interview with Marco Zamberlan

Marco Zamberlan, CEO of Zamberlan, talks about how to combine job and alpine expeditions and what are the positive features of testing Zamberlan's mountaineering boots.

18/09/2018

Marco Zamberlan, CEO of Zamberlan tells us his secrets.

The artisan approach is fundamental to the Zamberlan family. Marco and his sister Maria represent the third generation. The Zamberlan family - back in 1929, decided to dedicate their life to boots and mountains inspired by the Small Dolomites which rise up from the ground right in front of their home - and with vigour and love they create and produce products sold in more than forty-five countries. Mountains mean passion to the Zamberlans, especially to Marco who embodies the essence of their clients and tries out their mountaineering boots himself during his alpine expeditions. ​
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​​​​​​​Marco, how important is it to you to combine passion and competence in the workplace?

Without a shadow of a doubt it’s important to feel passionate about work. The shoe industry, despite all the new technologies that can be used, is still a very ‘hands on’ sector: products are carefully looked after in all aspects and if a product turns out to be good or bad, that very much depends on people. Every shoe requires some manual dexterity so the artisan plays a very important role and everybody contributes to the creational process and finished product. It isn’t a coincidence that our company payoff is “Handmade Philosophy” because each shoe is born in our hands. We design them, study them, try them and only when satisfied do we put them into production. Everybody here has a role to play.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
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Passion is Zamberlan’s starting point. Would you mind telling us how the company came about?

The founder in 1929 was my Grandfather Giuseppe. He was a cobbler but he wanted to grow and better himself so he decided to progress from repairing shoes to making them and that’s where his passion for his products grew and developed. He started by creating wooden forms and then began researching materials and innovative manufacturing techniques. It all began with his passion for the mountains which was passed on from generation to generation, firstly to his son Emilio and then on to my sister and myself. Even if they didn’t go rock climbing or on alpine excursions, those were different times. I have many fond memories of going on long walks in the mountains or skiing with my grandfather and my dad, Emilio.​​​​​​​






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You frequently go on mountain expeditions though, don’t you?

Yes, though unfortunately a lack of time and a few slight injuries mean that recently I haven’t been able to go as often as I’d like. My love for the mountains hasn’t lessened though. It never will.​​​​​​​

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​​​​​​​Given the type of boots that you make at Zamberlan, how important do you think passion and knowledge about the mountains are for your work?

A lot. When you come up with an idea for a new product it’s a huge advantage to understand the requirements of the end-user and one which we don’t underestimate. The requirements can obviously change depending on the intended use: a trekking boot has to fulfil very different needs to a mountain boot used in high altitudes. By trying out the products ourselves we get to know all the pros and cons and work on them day by day to improve them. One particular characteristic that we test on all our shoes and boots is wear and tear. When we test designs that get more and more technical, mountaineering boots for expeditions for example, we concentrate on lots of different elements like thermal insulation, precision, rigid insoles and the perfect, comfortable fit etc.
 

How does a business man like yourself combine the two?

It’s thanks to the great staff we have here at Zamberlan. In the development team for example (R&D) we have some really capable, young people who love the mountains and wear our boots. They know them inside and out in every detail and I know that I can trust them and that they help to keep the company running.​​​​​​






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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​In 2019 Zamberlan will be celebrating its 90th anniversary. Do you have any new mountain expeditions planned?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​It has become a tradition that every five years we contribute to a mountaineering expedition. These are big adventures that we personally participate in with business partners and friends. Last time we went to Ama Dablam (6814 m) and reached the summit with our Russian partners. The purpose is to form a group with our foreign collaborators so that we can test and evaluate our products together seeing as they will also be selling them to their clients. To celebrate our 90th anniversary we’d like to head towards South America, Patagonia to be precise. It’s not a country known for very high summits - the highest are around 3500 m – but the location is very beautiful, not quite as severe in terms of altitude but possibly technically more challenging than an 8000 m mountain.​​​​​​​
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​​​​​​​What kind of equipment does one need to undertake a mountaineering expedition?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question because there are so many things. At 5000 – 6000 m the weather is extremely variable. It can go from temperatures of 20°C to extremely rigid temperatures below zero if there is bad weather. In my opinion the important thing is to have good thermal, comfortable gear that doesn’t impede easy movement and is above all else water repellent. When it rains or snows it’s fundamentally important to keep dry. Feet must be kept dry at all times. Frostbite happens when feet get wet and then freeze in the cold. I would say that these are the indispensable factors to consider when choosing equipment. Attitude, adaptability and a good dose of adventurous spirit are also necessary, the same spirit that allows us at Zamberlan to create unique mountaineering boots for our clients so that they too can enjoy emotional and unforgettable adventures.