Skiing legend Pepi Gramshammer dies at 87

Pepi Gramshammer, the former professional ski racer from Austria adored the town of Vail until his death on Aug. 17. He was 87.

Pepi grew up in Kufstein near Innsbruck, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976. He was named to the Austrian national team in 1955 on a squad that included ski stars such as Toni Sailer — who swept the men’s alpine gold medals at the 1956 Olympics — and Anderl Molterer.

After being left off the Austrian team for the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley, a shaken Gramshammer turned to the U.S., going to work as a ski instructor at Sun Valley and racing on a domestic tour. In 1962, he was lured to Vail for a visit and It was love at first sight. 

Gramshammer used race winnings and sponsorship money to start the Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer in Vail in 1964, which became a top employer in the area and remains an iconic Vail business to this day. 

The native of Austria was a Vail pioneer, opening one of the town’s first hotels in 1964 when there were only a handful of buildings in the fledgling resort. Whenever Vail hosted Alpine World Ski Championships, Pepi’s became “Austria House” for Austrian ski racing fans, including Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Throughout his life and career, Pepi Gramshammer has truly been the heartbeat of Vail, embodying the American “can do” spirit, along with the fun that is skiing. His love for his adopted home and for all things skiing will remain as his lasting legacy and gift to Vail. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Pepi’s name to the Colorado Snowsports Museum, Vail Health Hospital or the Vail Valley Foundation, targeted for World Cup ski racing.