Loris Werner posed with his late mother, Hazie, and late sister, Skeeter Werner Walker, in a photograph made in front of the Bud Werner Memorial Library in 1987.

File photo

Loris Werner posed with his late mother, Hazie, and late sister, Skeeter Werner Walker, in a photograph made in front of the Bud Werner Memorial Library in 1987.

Tom Ross: Skimeister, innovator, manager and Hall of Famer

At age 66, Loris 'Bugs' Werner is right where he belongs

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Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

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— Loris "Bugs" Werner is in the Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame - where he belongs.

Werner, 66, was inducted in front of a large gathering of friends and ski industry greats at the Denver Marriott on Oct. 27. Going into the Hall of Fame with him were former U.S. Ski Team head trainer and conditioning coach John Atkins; the late Elli Iselin of Aspen, a ski fashion innovator and one-time Austrian ski team member; and Pat O'Donnell, who was CEO of Patagonia before resuming his ski industry career as president of Whistler Mountain and later of Aspen Skiing Co. from 1994 to 1996.

Werner said it was special to go into the Hall of Fame with longtime personal friend Renie Gorsuch, who skied in the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley and became a ski-retailing pioneer with the chain of Gorsuch LTD stores throughout Colorado.

Werner achieved things that few in the ski industry have - making his mark in competition, ski instruction and mountain management.

He grew up in a family of ski champions training at Howelsen Hill in downtown Steamboat Springs. Under the tutelage of the great Gordy Wren, he became that rarest of ski athletes, qualifying for the Winter Olympics in ski jumping and Alpine racing.

"Loris's induction brought attention again to the Werner family, but his accomplishments on his own were what put him in the Hall of Fame," Steamboat Director of Skiing Billy Kidd said. "With his being at the top of the results sheet in both downhill racing and Nordic skiing, he followed in the tracks of Marvin Crawford and his older brother Buddy. His achievements were so difficult - something only a few skiers have accomplished. And Loris did it so well."

Olympic spirit

In 1958, Werner won championships in downhill and ski jumping at Junior Nationals. That success translated to Western State College in Gunnison, where his versatility won him NCAA Skimeister Awards in 1966 and 1967.

Werner was named a ski jumping alternate for the U.S. team at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

At Grenoble, France, in 1968, he was a member of the Alpine Olympic Team.

"Qualifying for the Olympics was a memory that stands out from all of the others," Werner said.

Nancy Gray, who called Werner coach, boss and colleague, said she thinks his greatest contributions to skiing were in the arena of ski instruction.

"He was definitely a pioneer in making ski instruction more in alignment with ski racing," Gray said. "He taught skiers to use the lower body that was connected to the ski instead of all that twisting and turning of the upper body. I learned the most from his drills."

Werner was ski school director at the Steamboat Ski Area from 1969 to 1981 and mountain manager from 1981 to 1984, when he became vice president of operations.

During his long tenure in Steamboat's administration on the mountain, Werner helped preside over the arrival of snowmaking, installation of the Sundown and Storm Peak triple chairlifts, and the replacement of the old Stagecoach Gondola with the new eight-passenger gondola in 1986.

"It was an exciting time, and it was fun to see the mountain grow," Werner recalled. "It was all worth it."

Who's who

Werner's friend Barb Shipley said the induction dinner was supported well by the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. and there were four or five tables of people from Steamboat Springs in attendance, including Olympians Nelson Carmichael and Moose Barrows. Frank Murphy, who was Werner's ski lift chief during the mid '80s, flew in from California for the event. Ski area pioneer John Fetcher was also among those in attendance.

"It was a Who's Who of Colorado skiing," Shipley said.

Werner, who today quietly raises horses and hay in South Routt County, cut a dashing figure on the mountain in 1975. At a time when all the Steamboat ski instructors wore bright blue Bonne Bell ski suits and navy blue cowboy hats, Werner was recognizable on the slopes in his singular canary yellow ski suit and a soft gray cowboy hat.

The crowd at the Hall of Fame ceremonies last week was reminded of what an amazing skier Werner was when a vintage Steamboat promotional film was screened. It featured footage of him screaming through the moguls on Whiteout with a long rooster tail of powder streaming behind him.

Werner reacted to the footage this week in his usual self-effacing way: "I cheated. The bumps were soft that day."

Bugs Werner, who still refuses to divulge just how he got that nickname, will always be inseparable from the history of skiing in Steamboat Springs and in Colorado.

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