Coach to Canada’s champions

Passing Date: 
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pepi Salvenmoser, who coached a generation of Canadian women to Olympic and World Championship medals, died September 21 in his native town, Kitzbuhel, Austria. He was 90 years old.

An all-around athlete, Salvenmoser competed locally in hockey, swimming and diving in the post-war years. But he was an international presence in alpine racing. In his home town alone Salvenmoser took nine top-ten finishes in individual Hahnenkamm races between 1946 and 1951, including second in downhill and combined in 1950. In 1952, he finished second in three back-to-back races in Arosa.

Appointed as a temporary support coach for the Canadian Ladies Alpine team in 1954 for the FIS World Championships in Äre, Sweden, he rose to become women’s national team coach in 1959.  

In 1954, Anne Heggtveit won the Holmenkollen GS in Norway; she and Lucile Wheeler went on to three top-ten finishes at Äre.

In 1956, Lucile Wheeler won Canada’s first medal in skiing, a bronze in downhill at the Vll Olympic Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, becoming the first North American, man or woman, to medal in downhill. Three Canadians finished in the top ten in that race. Wheeler also took sixth in the Olympic GS and second in the Hahnenkamm downhill. The following year she won that race.

In 1958 Wheeler won gold medals in downhill and GS, and silver in combined. Heggtveit placed in the top ten in downhill, slalom and combined.


In 1959, Heggtveit won the Weises Band at St. Moritz and was the first North American to win the Arlberg Kandahar title, earning the Diamond K.

In 1960, at the Squaw Valley Olympics, Heggtveit took gold in slalom, plus the FIS gold medals in slalom and combined. 

Meanwhile, Salvenmoser was grooming two future stars: Nancy Greene and Betsy Clifford. He retired as coach after the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, but Greene and Clifford would go on to success at the 1968 Olympics, 1970 World Championships and on the early World Cup circuit. To this day, Salvenmoser is the most successful coach in Canadian ski team history. He was inducted into the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame in 1990.

Returning to Kitzbuhel, Salvenmoser was active in the Kitzbuhel Ski Club, and coached occasionally. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Christl, children Elizabeth,  Peter, Michael and Seppi, and five grandchildren.

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