Gretchen Fraser

Gretchen Kunigk Fraser (February 11, 1919 – February 17, 1994) was an alpine ski racer. She was the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in skiing. She was also the skiing stand-in for ice skater Sonja Henie in the movies Thin Ice (1937) and Sun Valley Serenade (1941).[3]

Gretchen Fraser
Personal information
Birth nameGretchen Kunigk
BornFebruary 11, 1919
Tacoma, Washington
DiedFebruary 17, 1994 (aged 75)
Sun Valley, Idaho[1]
Height5 ft 4 in (163 cm)
Weight117 lb (53 kg)
SportAlpine skiing
Retired1948 (age 29)[2]


Gretchen Kunigk was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1919. She was the daughter of German and Norwegian immigrants, Willibald and Clara Kunigk. Her Norwegian-born mother was a skier and Gretchen first skied at age 13, at Paradise Valley on the south slopes of Mount Rainier in December 1932. Under the tutelage of Otto Lang she became a proficient ski racer and later competed on the ski team at the University of Puget Sound.[4]


In 1938, she traveled to Sun Valley to compete in the second Harriman Cup, a new international event featuring the best racers in the world. She met 1936 Olympian and Northwest ski champion Donald Fraser (1913-1994) of the University of Washington on the train trip to central Idaho. They were married in November, 1939 . Sun Valley became their home.[5]

Both Frasers were members of the 1940 Olympic team, games that were cancelled due to World War II.[6] She spent the war years skiing in Otto Lang's military training films and helping to rehabilitate wounded and disabled veterans through skiing, setting the stage for a lifelong commitment to working with disabled skiers.[7]

After the war, Fraser moved to Vancouver, Washington.[7] Fraser got her chance to compete in Alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics. A week before her 29th birthday, she won the gold medal in the women's slalom and a silver medal in the women's combined event at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.[8][9]

Following the Olympics, Fraser became a mother and an ambassador for Sun Valley and skiing in general.[10] Later in life she was a mentor to aspiring female ski racers at Sun Valley, including Susie Corrock, Christin Cooper, Picabo Street, and disabled skier Muffy Davis.

Gretchen Fraser died at age 75 in February 1994. Her husband of 54 years, Don Fraser, had died a month earlier.

Gretchen Fraser Neighborhood park in Vancouver, Washington is named after Fraser.[11]



  1. ^ "Gretchen Fraser, 1948 Olympic Champ, dies". Seattle Times. Associated Press. February 17, 1994.
  2. ^ "Gretchen Fraser to quit contests". Ellensburg Daily Record. Associated Press. February 24, 1948. p. 2.
  3. ^ "Gretchen Fraser Goes Gold". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  4. ^ Greg Morrill (January 16, 2014). "Gretchen's Gold". RetroSki. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  5. ^ "Donald Fraser". U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  6. ^ "Gretchen Fraser added". Spokesman-Review. January 29, 1967. p. 5.
  7. ^ a b Jollota, Pat (2011). Legendary Locals of Vancouver. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-4671-0001-4.
  8. ^ Fraser at the International Ski Federation
  9. ^ "Was Sun Valley's Fraser the best female alpine skier ever?". Times-News, Twin Falls, ID. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  10. ^ "Slid to fame on skis, now she aids others". Milwaukee Journal. November 14, 1949. p. 4-sec 2.
  11. ^ "Gretchen Fraser Neighborhood Park". City of Vancouver, Parks and Recreation.
  12. ^ "Gretchen Kunigk Fraser". Alf Engen Museum Foundation. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  13. ^ "Gretchen Kunigk Fraser". State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  14. ^ "Gretchen's Restaurant". Sun Valley. Retrieved April 20, 2016.

Other sources

  • Allen, E. John B. (2011) Historical Dictionary of Skiing (Historical Dictionaries of Sports) ISBN 978-0810868021
  • Commire, Anne; Klezmer, Deborah (2002). Women in World History. Yorkin Publications. ISBN 978-0787637361.
  • Pfeifer, Luanne (1996) Gretchen's Gold: The Story of Gretchen Fraser; America's First Gold Medallist in Olympic Skiing. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing, ISBN 9781575100197
  • Pfeifer, Luanne (1994) "The One and Only Gretchen" Skiing Heritage Journal Vol. 6, No. 2

External links

Alpine skiing at the 1948 Winter Olympics

At the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the six alpine skiing events were held on Piz Nair from Monday, 2 February to Thursday, 5 February 1948.After these games, the giant slalom was added and the combined event was dropped as an Olympic medal event for four decades, until 1988. From 1956 through 1980, the combined continued as an FIS medal event for the concurrent World Championships, using the results from three events, conducted as a "paper race."

Henri Oreiller of France earned a medal in all three events, with two golds and a bronze. Trude Beiser of Austria and Gretchen Fraser of the United States both won two medals, a gold and a silver each.

The first Olympics after World War II did not invite Germany or Japan.

Alpine skiing at the 1948 Winter Olympics – Women's combined

The women's alpine skiing combined event was part of the alpine skiing at the 1948 Winter Olympics programme. It was the second appearance of the event. The competition consisted of a downhill race held on Monday, February 2, 1948, and two slalom heats held on Wednesday, February 4, 1948. Twenty-eight alpine skiers from ten nations competed.

Alpine skiing at the 1948 Winter Olympics – Women's downhill

The women's alpine skiing downhill event was part of the alpine skiing at the 1948 Winter Olympics programme. It was the first appearance of the event. The competition was held on Monday, February 2, 1948. Thirty-seven alpine skiers from eleven nations competed.

Alpine skiing at the 1948 Winter Olympics – Women's slalom

The women's alpine skiing slalom event was part of the alpine skiing at the 1948 Winter Olympics programme. It was the first appearance of the event. The competition was held on Thursday, February 5, 1948. Twenty-eight alpine skiers from ten nations competed.

Andrea Mead Lawrence

Andrea Mead Lawrence (April 19, 1932 – March 30, 2009) was an American alpine ski racer. She competed in three Winter Olympics (and two world championships) and was the first American alpine skier to win two Olympic gold medals.

Benjamin Victor (sculptor)

Benjamin Matthew Victor (born January 16, 1979 in Taft, CA) is an American sculptor and Artist-in-Residence and Professor of the Practice at Boise State University. He is also the only living artist to have two works in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. He was only 26 years old when his first statue, Sarah Winnemucca, a Paiute activist in Nevada, was dedicated in the Hall in 2005, making him the youngest artist to ever be represented in the Hall. Less than 10 years later, his sculpture of Norman Borlaug, "the father of the Green Revolution," was dedicated in the Hall in 2014, making him the only living artist to have two works in the Hall. In 2010, Benjamin Victor completed the Taft Monument to Oilworkers, which is currently the largest bronze sculpture in California.

Christin Cooper

Christin Elizabeth Cooper (born October 10, 1959) is a former World Cup alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist from the United States.


Gretchen (German pronunciation: [ˈɡʀeːtçən]; English pronunciation: , literal translation: Little Greta/Grete) is a female given name of German origin that is mainly prevalent in the United States.

Its popularity increased due to a major character in Goethe's Faust (1808) having this name. In German, the Gretchenfrage (question by Gretchen), derived from Faust, is an idiom for a direct question that aims at the core of a problem and that should reveal the intentions and mindset of the questionee. The question is usually inconvenient to the questionee since he or she shall confess to something crucial he or she was intentionally or unintentionally vague about before.

In German-speaking countries, Gretchen is not a common given name. As a rather colloquial diminutive form of Grete, which itself is a short form Margarete, it fell out of use when the popularity of the latter two names declined in the 20th century, such that they are now very rarely given to newborns.

Ketchum, Idaho

Ketchum is a city in Blaine County, Idaho, United States, in the central part of the state. The population was 2,689 at the 2010 census, down from 3,003 in 2000. Located in the Wood River Valley, Ketchum is adjacent to Sun Valley and the communities share many resources; both sit in the same valley beneath Bald Mountain, with its world-famous skiing. The city also draws tourists from around the world to enjoy its fishing, hiking, trail riding, tennis, shopping, art galleries, and more. The airport for Ketchum, Friedman Memorial Airport, is approximately 15 miles (24 km) south in Hailey.

List of 1948 Winter Olympics medal winners

The 1948 Winter Olympics, officially known by the International Olympic Committee as the V Olympic Winter Games, were a multi-sport event held in St. Moritz, Switzerland, from January 30 through February 8, 1948. A total of 669 athletes representing 28 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated at the Games in twenty two events across eight disciplines.The Olympic programme was adjusted from that of the 1936 Winter Olympics with the addition of skeleton for men. The sport had first appeared at the 1928 Winter Olympics, which had also taken place in St. Moritz, but would not make another appearance until 2002 in Salt Lake City. Two demonstration sports were held in St. Moritz, winter pentathlon and military patrol. This was the fourth time military patrol had been held as a demonstration event, the closely related sport of biathlon was added to the programme beginning with the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics. Both men and women competed in the 1948 Games, with women taking part in alpine skiing and figure skating.

A total of 123 athletes won medals at the 1948 Games. Norway, Sweden and Switzerland tied for the most number of medals, with ten each. The United States placed fourth in the medal count, with nine, and Austria placed fifth, with eight. Of the 28 competing NOCs, 13 won at least one medal, with 10 of these winning at least one gold. Notable absences from these Games were defeated Axis Powers members Germany and Japan, who were not invited to St. Moritz or the London Summer Olympics later in the year in light of the recently concluded World War II. The Soviet Union, who did not form an NOC until 1951, declined to take part.Sweden repeated its success in cross-country skiing, winning all three medals in the Men's 18 km event and all three gold medals available in the sport. Canadian teenager Barbara-Ann Scott became the first from her nation to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating, and Dick Button from the United States did the same. Alpine skier Henri Oreiller from France won the most medals with a total of three, with two gold medals from the downhill and combined events, and a bronze in the slalom event.

List of Olympic medalists in alpine skiing

Alpine skiing is an Olympic sport, contested at the Winter Olympic Games. The first Winter Olympics, held in 1924, included nordic skiing, but the first alpine skiing events were not held until 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. A combined event was held for both men and women in 1936. The International Ski Federation (FIS) decided that ski instructors could not compete in 1936 because they were professionals, and the Olympics were meant for amateur athletes. Because of this, Austrian and Swiss skiers boycotted the events, although some Austrians decided to compete for Germany.

Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park is a ski resort in the western United States, located inside Mount Spokane State Park in Spokane County, Washington, about 23 miles (37 km) northeast of Spokane via State Route 206. The base elevation is at 3,818 feet (1,164 m) with the peak at 5,889 feet (1,795 m), yielding a vertical drop of 2,071 feet (631 m). Its slopes are primarily east-facing, and are served by six chairlifts.

Oregon Sports Hall of Fame

The Oregon Sports Hall of Fame honors Oregon athletes, teams, coaches, and others who have made a significant contribution to sports in Oregon. The first class was inducted in 1980, with new inductees added in the fall. Operated by the Oregon Sports Trust, the museum is currently closed in preparation for moving to another facility.

Picabo Street

Picabo Street (; born April 3, 1971) is an American former World Cup alpine ski racer and Olympic gold medalist. She won the super G at the 1998 Winter Olympics and the downhill at the 1996 World Championships, along with three other Olympic and World Championship medals. Street also won World Cup downhill season titles in 1995 and 1996, the first American woman to do so, along with nine World Cup downhill race wins. Street was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 2004.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley is a resort city in Blaine County, Idaho, United States. The resort is adjacent to the city of Ketchum and within the greater Wood River valley. The population was 1,406 at the 2010 census, down from 1,427 in 2000. The elevation of Sun Valley (at the Lodge) is 5,920 feet (1,805 m) above sea level. Scheduled passenger airline service is available via the Friedman Memorial Airport located in nearby Hailey, approximately 15 miles (25 km) south. Visitors to Sun Valley are relatively close to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, accessed over Galena Summit on State Highway 75, the Sawtooth Scenic Byway.

Among skiers, the term "Sun Valley" refers to the alpine ski area, which consists of Bald Mountain, the main ski mountain adjacent to Ketchum, and Dollar Mountain, adjacent to Sun Valley, for novice and lower intermediate skiers. Bald Mountain, or "Baldy," has a summit of 9,150 feet (2,790 m) and a vertical drop of 3,400 feet (1,035 m).

With its abundance of constant-pitch terrain, at varying degrees of difficulty, coupled with its substantial vertical drop and absence of wind, Baldy has often been referred to as one of the better ski mountains in the world. The treeless "Dollar" at 6,638 feet (2,023 m) has a moderate vertical drop of 628 feet (191 m).

The term "Sun Valley" is used more generally to speak of the region surrounding the city, including the neighboring city of Ketchum and the Wood River Valley area winding south to Hailey and Bellevue. The region has been a seasonal home to the rich and famous since first being brought to public attention by Ernest Hemingway in the late 1930s.

Sun Valley Serenade

Sun Valley Serenade is a 1941 musical film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone and starring Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, and Lynn Bari. It features the Glenn Miller Orchestra as well as dancing by the Nicholas Brothers and Dorothy Dandridge, performing "Chattanooga Choo Choo", which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996, and was awarded the first Gold Record for sales of 1.2 million.

Tamara McKinney

Tamara McKinney (born October 16, 1962) is a former World Cup alpine ski racer from the United States. She won four World Cup season titles, most notably the 1983 overall, the only American woman to hold that title for a quarter century, until Lindsey Vonn in 2008. McKinney's other three season titles were in giant slalom (1981, 1983) and slalom (1984). She was a world champion in the combined event in 1989, her final year of competition. Her half-brother Steve McKinney was a record holding speed skier.

United States Ski Team

The U.S. Ski Team, operated under the auspices of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), develops and supports men's and women's athletes in the sports of alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, cross-country, ski jumping, and Nordic combined. Since 1974 the team and association have been headquartered in Park City, Utah.These athletes represent the best athletes in the country for their respective sports and compete as a team at the national, world and Olympic level.

United States at the 1948 Winter Olympics

The United States competed at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

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