skip to content

Gretchen Fraser - Alpine Skiing

America's Gretchen Fraser had been born into a wealthy family and started skiing when she was 13 years old. Her mother was Norwegian and Fraser always felt an affinity with the country, not least when it came to her passion for winter sport.


She showed youthful promise, enough for her family to enlist the services of coach Otto Lang. Childhood promise translated into adult excellence and she was competing internationally before her 20th birthday. She also met the skier Don Fraser, who would shortly become her husband, and spent some time in the movies, acting as a skiing double for the famous actress Sonja Henie.

Fraser was selected for the 1940 Olympic team, but those Games were cancelled due to the Second World War. Instead, Fraser spent the war years helping to rehabilitate injured soldiers by helping them to learn how to ski, the start of a lifetime passion for working with disabled skiers.
She did find time to compete, though. Fraser won the 1941 national Alpine combined title and then, a year later, was the national slalom champion.

The 1944 Games were also cancelled, so it was not until 1948 that Fraser got her chance to represent her country in Olympic competition. By then she was 29 years old, probably aware that this was to be her only chance to win a gold medal. It was an opportunity she never looked like squandering.

She started with the downhill, not her specialist category, and finished in 13th position. That didn't yield a medal, but perhaps it calmed some nerves for her next event. That was the combined, and now Fraser was on more familiar and comfortable ground. She was only 11th quickest after the downhill runs, but was second quickest in the slalom section to finish second overall. After so many years of waiting, she now had an Olympic medal.

The next day was the slalom. Fraser skied first in both runs, and was never headed in the competition, despite her second run being delayed for 17 minutes by a technical problem.

After the Olympic Games, she became a well-known ambassador for the Sun Valley ski area. She was also a mentor to many American skiers, including Picabo Street and Christin Cooper.

She died in 1994 at the age of 75, just a month after husband Don. They had been married for 54 years.

back to top Fr