Tales from the Tread: Remembering Buddy Werner

Candice Bannister and Katie Adams/For the Steamboat Today
Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs will be honoring Olympian Wallace "Bud" Werner with a exhibit that features items from the museum and Bud Werner Memorial Library.

April 12 marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of local Olympian Wallace “Bud” Werner.

To honor the legendary skier, Tread of Pioneers Museum Curator Katie Adams has created an exhibit that features items from the museum collection and items on loan from the Bud Werner Memorial Library, including a watercolor portrait of Werner by Hans Engel; a full-page 1967 Denver Post article about Werner; a scrapbook featuring local and national newspaper clippings reflecting Werner’s life and career; and a pair of Werner’s skis.

The exhibit also includes a board where visitors can post their memories or recollections of skiing in the 1960s.

The museum also will partner with the library to present a free screening of “I Never Look Back: The Buddy Werner Story,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

The film was produced in 1997 by John Dee and Joe Dee and is a fitting tribute to the legendary skier whose skiing talents and sportsmanship were an inspiration for so many.

Werner was born in 1936 to parents Ed “Pop” and Hazel “Hazie” Werner in Steamboat Springs. The Werner family roots trace back to early Routt County pioneers.

Bud and his siblings Gladys “Skeeter” and Loris all were talented athletes — each one was a member of the Olympic U.S. Ski Team during their skiing careers.

From a young age, Werner was a driven and tough competitor. In 1952, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated for his performance at the Junior National Alpine Championships, where he took first place in the downhill, second in slalom and first in Nordic combined.

Two years later, Werner was named to the U.S. Federal Internationale de Ski team and began traveling internationally.

Werner became the first American ski racer to break European domination of of skiing that was thought to be impenetrable. Not only did Werner beat the Europeans, he did so with poise, professionalism and a friendly manner, which resulted in worldwide fame and admiration.

Werner’s charming looks, natural talent and heart-warming personality made him an instant star in America and around the world. He drew new attention to American skiing and put the small ranching community of Steamboat Springs on the map.

Werner was the first American to win major international skiing awards, including the prestigious Holmenkollen in Norway, which he won three times.

In 1958, he also was the first American to win the Swiss Lauberhorn Combined in Wengen, Switzerland, known as the most dangerous and elite downhill race.

By wining these two major events, Werner became the most accomplished American ski racer in history. Werner also represented the United States in three Olympic Games: 1956, 1960 and 1964.

Before Werner retired from skiing in 1964, he led American skiing to international recognition and laid the foundation for a successful U.S. team and training program.

On April 12, 1964, Werner and other international skiers were filming a ski movie in Switzerland when an avalanche was triggered. Werner and fellow skier Barbara Henneberger out-skied the first avalanche but were unable to avoid a second slide.

The shock of Werner’s death was felt across the world, especially in his hometown of Steamboat Springs. After Werner’s death, Steamboat Ski Area renamed the mountain Mount Werner in 1965, the Bud Werner Memorial Library was built in 1967, and the University of Colorado (Werner’s alma mater) created the Buddy Werner Memorial Scholarship Award in 1973.

For more information about Werner, visit the Tread of Pioneers Museum and the extensive permanent display on Werner outside Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Candice Bannister is the executive director and Katie Adams is a curator at Tread of Pioneers Museum.

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