Dick Buek

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Dick (Mad Dog) Buek (November 5, 1929 – November 3, 1957), born Richard Buek, was an American downhill ski racer and later a daredevil stunt pilot. A fiancé of champion snow skier Jill Kinmont, whose tragic life story was made into the inspirational hit Hollywood motion picture The Other Side of the Mountain (1975), Dick died in a plane crash at the age of 27.[1]


Dick Buek was born in Soda Springs, Tahoe, California. As a youth, Buek was coached by ski champion Hannes Schroll and trained at the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort.[2]

Known as "The Madman of Donner Summit," Dick Buek exhibited a "go for broke" attitude that brought him success and pain in many downhill competitions. A serious racer by the age of 18, he was the National Downhill Champion in 1952 and a member of the 1952 Olympic Team. He won a second national downhill title in 1954. His record included two runner-up efforts, a third and a fourth at the national championships.[2]

In 1948, he did a straight schuss at the Inferno Race on Mount Lassen.[2]

In 1949, he won the Silver Dollar Derby and the Far West Ski Association's downhill title. In 1952, Buek won the United States National Downhill and competed in the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, finishing 12th.[2]

Buek seemed to be fearless and paid a heavy price for it. He suffered two broken backs, one from a motorcycle accident.

Dick Buek competed in the 1952 Winter Olympics Downhill in Helsinki, Finland. Despite falling twice on the course and careening off course (into the trees and back out), he managed a 12th-place finish. Unbelievable, by today's standards.

In 1953, Buek crashed his motorcycle. The accident crushed his leg, pelvis, and shoulder. When the National Championship at Aspen occurred the following year, he could still only bend his right knee 60 degrees. Pins in his left shoulder hampered his stance. Though he won the race, he was passed over to compete at that season's FIS World Championships.

In 1974, Dick Buek was inducted into the National Ski Hall Of Fame. The Honored Members of the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame represent the highest level of national achievement in America, featuring prominent athletes and snow sport builders whose accomplishments showcase American skiing and snowboarding.[1] [2]


Dick died at the age of 27 while flying over Donner Lake. According to close friend Mary Ann Haswell, who survived an earlier crash into Donner lake with Buek, "Dick used to say he'd never make it to 28 years old." Reportedly, Buek and Haswell were towing water skiers at the time of the first crash. At the time of the second crash, Haswell remembered, "Dick died a few days short of his birthday." [1]

Ironically, Buek wasn't at the stick of the airplane in which he was killed. It was a friend's plane and Buek was giving the friend a piloting lesson. The wings iced up and the plane dived straight into the icy waters.

"Dick was a dynamic person and ahead of his time in pushing the limits of extremism," recalled Haswell. "It was great being around him, if only for such a short period of time."

Dick is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.[3]

He was characterized by Oakley Hall in Hall's 1963 novel, The Downhill Racers.

He was portrayed by Beau Bridges in the 1975 movie, The Other Side of the Mountain.


  1. ^ a b "The Madman of Donner Summit" (PDF). Donner Summit Historical Society. May 2010 issue 21 page 3. Retrieved June 18, 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e "Richard Buek". National Ski Hall of Fame. 1974. Archived from the original on February 25, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2010. 
  3. ^ findagrave.

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