Walter Foeger, ski teacher and theoretician, died at age 90 on February 10, 2007 in Vienna, Austria. Born in Innsbruck in 1917, his family moved to Kitzbühel. where his mother found work as secretary of the tennis club at the foot of the Hahnenkamm. Young Foeger became indefatigable ballboy in summer and rinkrat in winter, when he wasn’t schussing the backyard Alp.
An early cross-trainer, Foeger won the Tyrolean Youth Ski Championship at 13, the East Tyrol Adult Tennis Championship at 14, played center for the Kitzbühel Men’s Ice Hockey Team at 16, and won the Junior Division of the Hahnenkamm downhill and combined at 18.
Austria’s boycott of the 1936 Winter Olympics and the start of the war in 1939 dealt a blow to Foeger’s dreams. He was drafted from the Austrian mountain militia to teach Germany’s ski troops and was wounded in Russia. Sent to Spain to recuperate, he fell in love with the alpine countryside and decided to remain. After the war, he was named head coach of Spain’s national ski and hockey teams and led the ski team to the 1952 Oslo Olympic Winter Games.
In 1956 the directors of Jay Peak, Vermont, lured Foeger to the U.S. At Jay Peak he found one open slope and one partly assembled Pomalift. By 1968 he’d bootstrapped the ski area into major prominence, with 45 trails and eight lifts.
Foeger also developed a ski school with a difference—teaching skiers to ski parallel without first having to master the snowplow and stem. His “Natur Teknik” ski school at Jay Peak was followed by a dozen more in the East. In 1960 he formed the American Ski Teachers Association of Natur Teknik (ASTAN), publishing “Learn to Ski in a Week” in 1958, “Skiing for Beginners” in 1962, and “Through Heaven and Hell on Skis” in 1970.
In 1973 he returned to Austria to become director of the Austrian Tennis Association, where he remained until retiring in 1982. Foeger was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 2005.
Originally published in 2007 in Skiing Heritage Magazine.