Gretchen Fraser

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Gretchen Fraser
Personal information
Birth nameGretchen Kunigk
Born(1919-02-11)February 11, 1919
Tacoma, Washington
DiedFebruary 17, 1994(1994-02-17) (aged 75)
Sun Valley, Idaho[1]
Height5 ft 4 in (163 cm)
Weight117 lb (53 kg)
SportAlpine skiing
Retired1948 (age 29)[2]

Gretchen Kunigk Fraser (February 11, 1919 – February 17, 1994) was an alpine ski racer. She was the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in skiing. She was also the skiing stand-in for ice skater Sonja Henie in the movies Thin Ice (1937) and Sun Valley Serenade (1941).[3]


Gretchen Kunigk was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1919. She was the daughter of German and Norwegian immigrants, Willibald and Clara Kunigk. Her Norwegian-born mother was a skier and Gretchen first skied at age 13, at Paradise Valley on the south slopes of Mount Rainier in December 1932. Under the tutelage of Otto Lang she became a proficient ski racer and later competed on the ski team at the University of Puget Sound.[4]


In 1938, she traveled to Sun Valley to compete in the second Harriman Cup, a new international event featuring the best racers in the world. She met 1936 Olympian and Northwest ski champion Donald Fraser (1913-1994) of the University of Washington on the train trip to central Idaho. They were married in November, 1939 . Sun Valley became their home.[5]

Both Frasers were members of the 1940 Olympic team, games that were cancelled due to World War II.[6] She spent the war years skiing in Otto Lang's military training films and helping to rehabilitate wounded and disabled veterans through skiing, setting the stage for a lifelong commitment to working with disabled skiers.[7]

After the war, Fraser moved to Vancouver, Washington.[7] Fraser got her chance to compete in Alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics. A week before her 29th birthday, she won the gold medal in the women's slalom and a silver medal in the women's combined event at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.[8][9]

Following the Olympics, Fraser became a mother and an ambassador for Sun Valley and skiing in general.[10] Later in life she was a mentor to aspiring female ski racers at Sun Valley, including Susie Corrock, Christin Cooper, Picabo Street, and disabled skier Muffy Davis.

Gretchen Fraser died at age 75 in February 1994. Her husband of 54 years, Don Fraser, had died a month earlier.

Gretchen Fraser Neighborhood park in Vancouver, Washington is named after Fraser.[11]



  1. ^ "Gretchen Fraser, 1948 Olympic Champ, dies". Seattle Times. Associated Press. February 17, 1994.
  2. ^ "Gretchen Fraser to quit contests". Ellensburg Daily Record. Associated Press. February 24, 1948. p. 2.
  3. ^ "Gretchen Fraser Goes Gold". Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  4. ^ Greg Morrill (January 16, 2014). "Gretchen's Gold". RetroSki. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  5. ^ "Donald Fraser". U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  6. ^ "Gretchen Fraser added". Spokesman-Review. January 29, 1967. p. 5.
  7. ^ a b Jollota, Pat (2011). Legendary Locals of Vancouver. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-4671-0001-4.
  8. ^ Fraser at the International Ski Federation
  9. ^ "Was Sun Valley's Fraser the best female alpine skier ever?". Times-News, Twin Falls, ID. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  10. ^ "Slid to fame on skis, now she aids others". Milwaukee Journal. November 14, 1949. p. 4-sec 2.
  11. ^ "Gretchen Fraser Neighborhood Park". City of Vancouver, Parks and Recreation.
  12. ^ "Gretchen Kunigk Fraser". Alf Engen Museum Foundation. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  13. ^ "Gretchen Kunigk Fraser". State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  14. ^ "Gretchen's Restaurant". Sun Valley. Retrieved April 20, 2016.

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