“Buddy’s Way” defined legendary Steamboat skier
Steamboat Springs — Sunday will mark the 51st anniversary of Buddy Werner’s death in a 1964 avalanche in Switzerland, but Thursday, when his friends, family members and teammates spoke about the legendary Steamboat Springs ski racer, they didn’t focus on that black day of death, but the 28 years of life that preceded it.
Ski History Week, leading up to Saturday’s U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Steamboat Grand, plowed through its second day on Thursday, and it included skiing, stories and movies. And, it included Buddy Werner — those who knew him talking about the man at a lecture at the library named after him, Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs.
“He had a philosophy, and he didn’t really preach it,” said Loris Werner, Buddy’s brother who led the day’s lecture. “It was ‘Buddy’s Way.’”
Thursday’s lecture was the first of two lectures this week. The second is Friday at noon at the Bear River Bar and Grill in Gondola Square at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. That lecture is entitled “It Takes a Village to Raise an Olympian” and will feature locals like three-time Olympic silver medalist Johnny Spillane, as well as mother of two Olympians Penny Fletcher.
The event will cost $40 and feature food and drinks.
Friday’s lecture is to focus on how Steamboat produced dozens of Olympians. Thursday was focused on just one.
Loris Werner told stories of the best of days skiing and living with Buddy — many of them spent skiing Mount Werner, then just named Storm Mountain.
They’d often go in the spring, Loris said, when the snow was softening up and melting away, making access to the top of the mountain easier.
“We hiked to the top of Storm Peak, skied down to where the top of Four Points is now, and it was so good we hiked back up,” Loris said.
Buddy was an open person who loved to share advice and help other skiers, even those he was racing against.
That’s what struck 1960 and 1964 Winter Olympian Chuck Ferries, who raced with Buddy for many years representing the United States. Ferries also raced against Buddy many times, as well, when Buddy was skiing for the University of Colorado and Ferries for the University of Denver.
Buddy and Ferries and the rest of the U.S. skiers had spent a day racing in Europe and were just about to set off for a 10-day break around Christmas. That was music to the ears of Ferries, who hadn’t skied well in slalom since bruising a shoulder in a hard fall several weeks earlier.
Buddy wouldn’t let him off that easily.
“Buddy comes to me and he said, ‘Get your stuff back on. I’m going to take you back up the mountain, and I’m going to set a course and show you what you’re doing wrong,’” said Ferries, speaking Thursday in Steamboat. “We went back up, he showed me this and that, and then we jumped in the car and went for our 10 days.”
When they came back, Ferries was in top form and became the first American to ever win the famous slalom race in Kitzbühel, Austria.
“It was Buddy Werner,” Ferries said. “I never would have finished a course.”
Still, Loris said Buddy kept much of what defined him to himself.
“He was in the best shape of anyone,” Loris said. “He had the fastest skis of anyone, and if he skied the fastest line, ‘Buddy’s line,’ he would win.”
Buddy was a champion for plenty of days, but even Loris admitted it could have been a few more days if Buddy had ever slowed down on the race course, evaluated the risks and considered his odds.
Buddy was one of the first great American skiers, going head-to-head with the Europeans the way no Yankee ever had. He became a hero not just in Steamboat Springs, but wherever he raced thanks to his all-or-nothing style.
That cost him at times and he never won an Olympic or World Championship medal.
It was hardly a flaw. It was just the way he was.
“If he’d stepped back, taken some time, maybe the results could have been different,” Loris said. “But, that wasn’t ‘Buddy’s Way.’”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
The Steamboat Springs No. 1 doubles pair of Liesel Wilkinson and Amanda Dietrich did not expect to do so well at the Colorado High School Activities Association 3A state tennis tournament.