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Werner, Wallace


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Date of Birth: 1936

City/State of Birth: Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Current Residence: deceased

Olympics and Events Attended:
1956 Olympics, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy - Alpine/Slalom/Downhill/Giant Slalom
1960 Olympics, Squaw Valley, California, USA ~ Alpine
1964 Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria - Alpine/Slalom/Downhill/Giant Slalom

Brief Biography:
Werner began skiing as a ski jumper on Howelsen Hill, wining his first Regional Championship in jumping at the age of ten. Later he decided to concentrate on alpine events and as a competitive skier he completed a skiing record which was unequaled by any other American for many years. He was a three-time member of the U.S. Olympic Team and twice a member of the U.S. Federation Internationale De Ski Team. He began skiing internationally as a FIS team member in 1954 and in 1956 as an Olympian at the games in Italy. Werner became the first American male to win a major European downhill, winning at the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehl, Austria, showing that Americans could beat the mighty Europeans at their own game of skiing. He went on to become a three-time Holmenkollen Champion in Norway in 1954, 1956 and 1962. Werner had a breakneck style, which caused spectacular spills, but also enabled him to win almost every championship he entered. Werner introduced two major changes to ski equipment: contoured racing pants to cut down on wind resistance and flexible ski poles that did not catch on slalom gates.

Although a team member at the 1960 Olympics, a broken leg kept Werner from competing at the games. Werner's parents, Hazier and Ed "Pop" Werner traveled to Innsbruck, Austria to watch him compete in the 1964 games. Werner had a rough time at the 1964 Olympics when he lost the course and valuable time in the downhill; misjudged the gate and was disqualified in the giant slalom; had two near falls in the slalom and again lost valuable time. Always the sportsman, Werner rejoiced when his teammates, Billy Kidd and Jimmy Huega, took a silver medal and a bronze medal. After the Olympics the whole family went to Winter Park, where Werner competed in his last race before retiring to finish school.

Werner enrolled at the University of Colorado, majoring in business marketing, in 1960 at the age of 28. In June of 1961, Werner married Vanda Norgren. They had met skiing at Sun Valley in 1953. On April 12th, 1964, while filming a ski-clothing ad in the Swiss Alps, Werner was caught in an avalanche and killed.

He will always be remembered for his good manners, good sportsmanship, big smile, gentle humor and his willingness to help other teammates. The town of Steamboat took his death hard. Shortly after his death the town library was named for him and Storm Mountain was renamed Mt. Werner. He was posthumously inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1964 and the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1977.





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