15. BILL KOCH: THE SKIER WHO CHANGED THE SPORT
Southern Vermont has been a hotbed for Nordic ski racers ever since John Caldwell began coaching at the Putney School. One of his students was a kid from Brattleboro named Bill Koch. Koch was fast, becoming the first American to medal in the Junior World Championships and later, the first U.S. Nordic skier to earn an Olympic medal –silver in Innsbruck in 1978, and the overall World Cup title (1981-82).
But Koch is perhaps best known for popularizing skate skiing. As early as 1971 Koch was skate skiing, along with several other Caldwell proteges, in competitions. The winter of 1981, he worked hard to perfect the technique, which led to his domination on the World Cup. After 1982, skate skiing was given its own division by FIS, the sports governing body.
Koch’s passion for skiing and his ability to negotiate just about any terrain on skinny skis–be it in the backyard woods or buffed Nordic trails —led to the Bill Koch Youth Ski League being named for him. As Koch said in a 1976 promotional film for Rossignol, “The world would be a better place if more people cross-country skied.”
Today, Bill and his wife Kate live in Peru, skiing the woods behind their home and at Wild Wings. Last January in Lausanne, Switzerland their son William won bronze at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, another next-generation Nordic skier making southern Vermont proud.