Saying goodbye


Flip open the brand new fall program guide of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and you'll be instantly reminded of the late Skeeter Werner Walker she's right there on page one where she belongs.

Skeeter died July 20 at the age of 67. She was one of the three Werner siblings, along with Loris and the late Buddy Werner, who trained on Steamboat's Howelsen Hill and rose to Olympic prominence. Skeeter also coached at the Winter Sports Club when her international ski racing career was over.

Again this year, the Winter Sports Club is offering the "Skeeter Werner Team" for children ages 5 and 6. From Dec. 1 to March 9, they'll be taught basic skiing skills on the gentle trails of Mt. Werner. Gradually they'll shift to some of the steeps on Howelsen Hill, where Skeeter herself learned to ski.

If the youngsters stick with the Winter Sports Club for long, they'll be exposed to something more than ski technique they'll be exposed to adult leadership that teaches the meaning of humility. When you talk about Skeeter

Werner and the rest of her family, skiing prowess is a given, but humility was what it was all about.

Skeeter's brother Loris said this week that their parents, Hazie and Pops, didn't push them to ski or to win. If they missed a practice, the kids needed to supply a good reason, but they weren't chewed out either. The times when Pops Werner was more apt to get in his kids' faces and put them in their places were the times they failed to comport themselves modestly after a win on the ski hill.

Gary Crawford said it well after Skeeter's memorial service on July 26.

Skeeter's generation of skiers, including his own father Marvin Crawford, showed a new generation, that it was possible to grow up in a small town in the Colorado Rockies and reach international stature as a skier.

What Crawford didn't touch on was how many international caliber skiers from Steamboat demonstrate uncommon humility. And a significant number of them have returned to Howelsen Hill to work with youngsters in programs like the Skeeter Werner Team.

From freestylers Nelson Carmichael and Maria Quintana, to nordic skiers Crawford, Todd Lodwick and Todd Wilson, and alpine racers Lonny Vanatta, Craig Thrasher and Heidi Bowes, great skiing combined with humility have been the touchstones. And there are many more who fit that description and deserve to be mentioned.

Skeeter and her brothers were tutored by the great four-way skier Gordy Wren in the 1950s. Almost 40 years later the tradition is still being handed down.

If you want to feel close to Skeeter this winter, all you have to do is walk over to Howelsen Hill on a Saturday morning and observe the throng of children carving, jumping and skating over the snow. They may be oblivious to the values they are absorbing, but it will be real.

And take your skis with you to Howelsen. It will do you good.


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