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Wallace "Buddy" Werner

Inducted 1967


Wallace “Buddy” Werner of Steamboat Springs always skied like a man who had much to accomplish and not much time to complete the task. He attacked the course with a slashing, go-for-broke style that made him one of the most exciting skiers to ever represent the U.S. in international competition.

When he died on April 12, 1964, under a Swiss avalanche, Werner already was a living legend.

He inspired a whole generation of American skiers. For a decade, Werner and U.S. skiing were synonymous. He was the first American ski racer of world class, although he never won an Olympic medal, and was one of the best known and most popular American skiers of all time.

Werner started skiing at the age of two in Steamboat Springs and with the coaching help of Gordy Wren and other top Colorado skiers of the late 1940’s, he was earmarked for greatness by the time he was twelve. In 1952, at the age of 15, he won the combined title in the National Junior Ski Championships, and two years later, he was named to the U.S. team for the World (FIS) Championships.

In February of 1954, Werner became the first American ever to win a downhill event in the world famous Holmenkollen Ski Festival in Norway. From that day until his untimely death, he won just about every skiing championship up for grabs.

Named to the 1956 and 1964 Olympic teams, Werner made his mark in the 1956 Olympics although failing to win any medals. Although he was the “Old Man” of the team in 1964, he was the glue that held the U.S. forces together long enough for Billy Kidd and Jim Heuga to score an Olympic breakthrough. Fittingly enough, it was Werner who came up with the wins that enabled Coach Bob Beattie to win a heated seeding battle that involved not only the Olympic starting order, but the prestige of U.S. skiing as well.

1960 would have been Werner’s year. He was at the peak of his ski form and primed for the Olympics, but the same fate that had dodged him throughout his career, intervened when he broke a leg while training in Aspen.

His final race was almost a summation of his career. It came in the National Alpine Championships at Winter Park in March of 1964, and it saw Werner come off a near disastrous first slalom run to blitz the all-star field in the second heat. It was a tremendous last race.

Werner was honored in 1967 by being inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.


When he died on April 12, 1964, under a Swiss avalanche, Werner already was a living legend.