Tschudi inducted into hall of fame

Otto Tschudi. Photo: Yvonne Tschudi

Otto Tschudi. Photo: Yvonne Tschudi

Norwegian ski legend Otto Tschudi inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Nov. 7

Special Release

University of Denver

Three-year-old Otto Tschudi (BSBA ’75) had been skiing well over a year when the 1952 Winter Olympics arrived outside his door in Norefjell, Norway. His parents owned a hotel on the edge of the slope where Stein Eriksen — young Otto’s idol — won his first giant slalom gold medal.

“Right after he won, he sat in my dad’s office, bounced me on his knee and said you’re going to be a skier,” Tschudi remembers. “That was the start of the whole thing.”

Growing up on a mountain, with town and school in the valley below, didn’t hurt either. He skied everywhere. By 7, he was ski racing. When he was 14, the Norwegian National Ski Team made an exception to their age requirement so he could join; the next youngest competitor was 20. At 19, he competed in his first Olympics in 1968.

But it was a World Cup race the following year in Kitzbuhl, Austria, that would change his life.

Following his best time ever, a man approached him in the finish area and asked in German if he’d ever thought about going to college. The man was Willy Schaeffler — the legendary University of Denver ski coach who would lead the Pioneers to 13 NCAA ski championships.  Tschudi hadn’t thought about going to school, but after 15 minutes, he called his parents to tell them he was moving to the states with a full scholarship — and he could continue to compete on the World Cup.

“Skiing had always been a way of getting ahead in life,” he says. “This sounded like a heck of a deal.”

As it turned out, the University of Denver and the Colorado ski industry were in for a heck of a deal, too. Forty years later, Tschudi has been inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Vail, Colo., on Nov. 7. He’s being recognized both as an athlete and a sport builder — a snow sports visionary who has made significant contributions to the sport in Colorado.

A Colorado Skiing Legend

Tschudi took a boat to the United States and then took a 48-hour bus ride to Colorado. Over the next few years, he won five NCAA championships for DU in downhill, giant slalom and slalom; continued to ski for Norway on the World Cup circuit, and competed in the 1972 Olympics, all while attending classes toward his degree in hotel and restaurant management.

Soon after the Olympics, Tschudi decided to turn pro and started skiing for Bob Beattie’s World Pro Skiing Tour.

“I, together with a couple of guys, talked Rossignol into forming a professional ski team,” he says. “Rossignol was the biggest ski company in the world. We were a multinational team, and we killed them.”

Coming Back to DU

One day in 1982, Tschudi woke up wanting a change.

“I wanted to learn something else,” he says. He called close friend Will Weinstein — a Wall Street legend — and asked him what he should do. Will and Thom Weisel, founding partner of Montgomery Securities, said Otto should work for their California firm, so he did. Starting in 1982, he became a partner first in Montgomery Securities, and now Thomas Weisel Partners LLC.

Tschudi was in charge of the firm’s international business, splitting time between London and California, when Denver banker and philanthropist Phil Hogue contacted him in 1992, asking him to help DU re-establish its ski team, which had been abandoned back in 1983 as part of a downsizing of the athletic program.

Tschudi was elected to the DU Board of Trustees that year, a post he still holds, and was instrumental in finding donors to fund the ski program and successfully recruiting top-notch coaches. DU has won five NCAA championships in the past nine years.

A global citizen, Tschudi also has real estate interests in his home in Norway — where his heart is — and still supports his local team. He started the Norwegian Ski Scholarship, which he later renamed the Peder Pytte Ski Scholarship, to aid financially needy athletes’ education.

And he’s a dedicated husband and proud father; his daughter Solveig also is a DU alumna. Tschudi had a lot of friends and family at his induction on Nov. 7, including his 90-year-old mother and his sister, who came from Norway.

<strong>This article was originally published in the Nov. 20 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe and for more information, call us toll-free at (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.</strong>

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