Bill Koch (skier)

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Bill Koch
Bill Koch Innsbruck 1976 PA-0797 U 8816 II 008 (cropped).jpg
Country United States
Full nameWilliam Conrad Koch
Born (1955-06-07) June 7, 1955 (age 65)
Brattleboro, Vermont, U.S.
World Cup career
Seasons19821984, 1992
Individual wins5
Indiv. podiums8
Team podiums0
Indiv. starts18
Team starts1
Overall titles1 – (1982)

William Conrad Koch (born June 7, 1955) is an American skier who competed at international level.[1] A native of Brattleboro, Vermont, he is a graduate of the nearby Putney School in Putney. In 1974, he became the first American to win a medal in international competition, placing third in the European junior championships.[2]


Koch was born in Brattleboro, Vermont to Fred and Nancy Koch. His father lived on investments from a major corporation. His parents divorced and in 1965, when his mother became remarried to the then president of Marlboro College, Koch lived with the new family. At the age of 12, Koch met noted cross-country skier, Bob Gray, who taught him how to train effectively. When the family's move to England, Bill attended Aiglon College, a boarding school in Switzerland for a year. The next year, the family returned to Vermont, and it became expeditious for Koch to attend the Putney School, where he could pursue his interest in cross-country skiing.[3]

Koch married and became the father of two daughters. Over time he took his family to New Zealand and Australia, in search of "new frontiers". After his athletic career, he consulted in the construction of cross-country ski courses in Frisco, Colorado, Cable, Wisconsin, and Labrador City, Newfoundland.[3] He later lived in Hawaii for a period, where he found a way to skate-ski on wet sand. By 2006, he had returned to Putney briefly.[4]

Athletic career[edit]

Koch won the silver medal in the 30 km event at the 1976 Winter Olympics, becoming the first American to win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing, and the only one until 2018. Koch also finished sixth in the 15 km event at those same Winter Games.[5] In 1981 Koch set the world record time of just under two hours for 50k on a pond in Marlboro, Vermont.[3]

Stress caused by media pressure, along with asthma, plagued Koch after his early successes. Considered the top American sportsman at the 1980 Winter Olympics, he performed poorly and finished far out of contention in all of his races.[6]

Koch was a self-assured athlete, when it came to his training regime, which sometimes put him at odds with his coach, Marty Hall.[3]

Afterward, he popularized a new skiing technique that resembled ice skating on skis, now known as the skate-skiing cross-country skiing technique. Races that allow skate-skiing are called free technique races because they allow skiers to use either skate-skiing technique or classic technique.[7]

In 1982 he was crowned the cross-country skiing overall World Cup champion. Koch earned a bronze medal in the 30 km event at the 1982 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, becoming the first non-European ever to medal in cross-country skiing at the World Championships. (Canada's Sara Renner would become the second when she earned a bronze medal in the individual sprint at the 2005 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf.) Koch also finished third overall in the 1983 World Cup.[8] The freestyle skiing technique has been used in Biathlon competitions since 1985, has been mandatory in Nordic Combined since 1985, and has been part of all cross-country skiing competitions since 1982.[9]

Koch carried the American flag at the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville.[5]

The Bill Koch Ski League, the youth ski league of NENSA (the New England Nordic Ski Association), is named after Koch.[6]

In 2012, Koch was honored as part of the inaugural class of the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.[5]

World Cup results[edit]

All results are sourced from the International Ski Federation (FIS).[10]

Season titles[edit]

  • 1 title – (1 overall)
1982 Overall

World Cup standings[edit]

 Season   Age  Overall
1982 27 1
1983 28 3
1984 29 54
1992 37 NC


Individual podiums[edit]

  • 5 victories
  • 8 podiums
No. Season Date Location Race Level Place
1 1981–82 16 January 1982 Switzerland Le Brassus, Switzerland 15 km Individual World Cup 1st
2 21 January 1982 Italy Brusson, Italy 30 km Individual World Cup 1st
3 20 February 1982 Norway Oslo, Norway 30 km Individual World Championships[1] 3rd
4 12 March 1982 Sweden Falun, Sweden 30 km Individual World Cup 1st
5 27 March 1982 Italy Kastelruth, Italy 15 km Individual World Cup 1st
6 1982–83 14 January 1983 West Germany Reit im Winkl, West Germany 15 km Individual World Cup 2nd
7 12 February 1983 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Sarajevo, Yugoslavia 30 km Individual World Cup 1st
8 19 March 1983 United States Anchorage, United States 15 km Individual World Cup 3rd

Note: 1 Until the 1999 World Championships, World Championship races were included in the World Cup scoring system.


  1. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Bill Koch". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Allen, E. John B. (2011). Historical Dictionary of Skiing. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-8108-7977-5. OCLC 855502192.
  3. ^ a b c d Verschoth, Anita (January 11, 1982). "On Track, Leading The Pack". Sports Illustrated Vault | Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  4. ^ Paur, Jason (2006). My favorite place : great athletes in the great outdoors. Rich, Corey. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 105. ISBN 0-8118-4323-8. OCLC 59279880.
  5. ^ a b c Staff (2012). "Bill Koch". Vermont Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  6. ^ a b Robbins, Paul (2019). "The Bill Koch Story & the New England Bill Koch Youth Ski League". New England Nordic Ski Association. Retrieved 2020-05-11.
  7. ^ Fry, John (2017). Story of Modern Skiing. University Press of New England. pp. 199–200. ISBN 1-5126-0156-X. OCLC 975025785.
  8. ^ Editors (February 1984). Coming in Strong. Ski Magazine. pp. 50–6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Bengtsson, Bengt Erik. "Cross-Country Skating: How It Started". International Ski History Association. Skiing History Magazine. Retrieved 2018-02-25. America’s Bill Koch first observed the skate step at a Swedish marathon, then applied it to win the 1982 World Cup of Cross Country skiing.
  10. ^ "Athlete : KOCH Bill". FIS-Ski. International Ski Federation. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  11. ^ "Bill Koch Reflects on U.S. Gold: 'This could just be the start of an era'". Retrieved 2020-05-10.

External links[edit]

Olympic Games
Preceded by
Evelyn Ashford
Flagbearer for  United States
Albertville 1992
Succeeded by
Francie Larrieu Smith