'Skeeter' Werner Walker dies

Steamboat sees an 'end of an era'

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— Steamboat lost a skiing legend Friday when Gladys "Skeeter" Werner Walker died at the Doak Walker Care Center after a long illness. She was 67.

Skeeter was the oldest of three siblings who were born in Steamboat Springs and grew up to become Olympians. Like brothers Buddy and Loris, Skeeter trained on Howelsen Hill and took her talent to the Alps.

Their stature in American and international skiing grew to such an extent that the name of the mountain that is home to the Steamboat Ski Area was changed from Storm Mountain to Mount Werner.

Longtime family friend and former spokesman for the Steamboat Ski Area, Rod Hanna, called Werner Walker's death a milestone in Steamboat history.

"It's almost like the end of an era isn't it?" Hanna asked. "Loris is the lone survivor of the Werner clan. Really, because of the romance, almost, of Doak and Skeeter as a couple, it seems like a passage of time."

Skeeter began skiing at the age of 1 and was competing in earnest by the time she was five. She was coached by the great four-way skier Gordy Wren, among others. She became the youngest member of the U.S. alpine world championship team at the age of 21 in 1954, and placed 10th in downhill at Are, Sweden. Skeeter's flashing smile became familiar to millions in 1955 when her picture was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

She came back in 1956 at the Olympics in Cortina, Italy, again placing 10th in the downhill.

Retiring from her international skiing career in 1958, Skeeter moved to New York where first, she modeled, then designed fashions.

Skeeter returned to Steamboat in 1962 to organize the first ski school at Storm Mountain, and opened two ski shops with Buddy and his wife, Vanda.

Skeeter eloped with the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner from Southern Methodist University and Detroit Lions great, Doak Walker, in 1969. The couple always kept their home next to Soda Creek in Steamboat's Old Town. Doak died Sept. 27, 1998, eight months after he was paralyzed in a ski injury on the Rainbow trail at Mount Werner. Buddy died in a Swiss avalanche in 1964. Although the world knew Skeeter as a ski racer, Steamboat knew her, and her family members for their rare ability to include everyone in the legend. Hanna believes the Werner family set the tone for Steamboat's unabashedly friendly outlook towards newcomers.

"They wanted you to be a part of what they were doing," Hanna said. "All of the members of the family had that demeanor."

The Werner family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Hazie Werner/Ewell D. Walker Memorial Fund at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.

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