Steamboat ski great Paul Wegeman dies at 88 in Colorado Springs
June 2, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Alvin Paul Wegeman — who came to Steamboat Springs as a teenage ski jumping phenom in 1944 and rose to compete in the Nordic combined event in the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway — died May 30 at the Pikes Peak Hospice in Colorado Springs, his wife of 60 years, Nancy reported. He was 88.
"Paul was born in Denver, but Los Angeles became his adopted residence for 25 years, followed by a move to Colorado Springs in 1982," the Wegeman family wrote in an announcement of his death. "Even though he and his family lived only five years in Steamboat Springs during his high school and college, he always considered Steamboat home."
Hosted by the Tread of Pioneers Museum, Wegeman spoke at United Methodist Church in Steamboat in August 2013 and described his formative years here with some of the best-known skiers in the history of Ski Town USA.
In the winter of 1946, when he and his brother, Keith Wegeman, Crosby Perry-Smith, Marvin Crawford and future great Buddy Werner (only 9 years old at the time) went to Salt Lake City to take part in an early four-way skiing competition on Ecker Hill. He told his Steamboat audience that, in his mind, that was a pivotal moment that led to the broadening of competitive skiing here.
The Steamboat skiers weren't surprised at dominating the ski jumping competition in Utah, but when Perry-Smith and Keith and Paul Wegeman swept the podium in that order (and Crawford added a sixth place) their perception of competitive skiing was altered forever.
"We brought home a lot of hardware," he recalled.
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Born in Denver, Wegeman spent his early youth learning to ski on Genesee Mountain while his father, Al, coached a Boy Scout troop. After the family moved to Steamboat, Al Wegeman taught skiing to public school students here.
Wegeman began his collegiate skiing career at Western State College, but after a hiatus from his studies, he joined Willy Schaeffler's powerhouse Denver University team. There, he established himself as one of the top four-way skiers in the nation, competing in ski jumping, cross-country downhill and slalom and winning tournaments. He became the first Westerner to win the Skimeister Award during the 1951 Dartmouth Winter Carnival outside Hanover, New Hampshire.
Wegeman and his late brother, Keith, both qualified for the 1952 Winter Olympics — Keith in special jumping, where he placed 12th, and Paul in Nordic combined. Paul stood in 18th place after the ski jumping, but injuries from a fall prevented him from competing in the cross-country phase of the competition.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Program Director Todd Wilson, a Nordic combined Olympian himself, said he came to know Wegeman through skiing and social events he has attended through the years.
"Paul just stuck out," Wilson said. "He was always so up and smiling, so gracious and appreciative of what we were doing here. He was always so happy we were keeping the boat afloat with the club and the kids."
Wegeman had a career that included real estate and investment and motivational speaking. He was a national Presidential Award honoree for a lifetime of volunteerism and was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame, along with those of Western State and Denver University.