Gretchen Fraser was born in Tacoma, Washington. She fell in love with Idaho—and fell in love—in 1938 when she came to Sun Valley to compete in the Harriman Cup ski race. She met her future husband, Donald Fraser on the train traveling to Idaho. Donald had been a member of the 1936 US Olympic ski team. The two were married in 1939 and took up residence in Sun Valley. Both became members of the 1940 US Olympic ski team.
The 1940 games were canceled because of the war. It was 1948 before Gretchen got her chance to compete in the Olympics at age 29. She made the most of it, winning gold in the women’s slalom and silver in the combined event. She was the first American to win a gold medal in Olympic skiing.
Fraser continued to ski and promote the sport after her triumph. She made a couple of appearances in the movies as a stand-in skier for Sonja Henie in “Thin Ice” and that quintessential Sun Valley movie, “Sun Valley Serenade.” Fraser influenced future Olympians, mentoring Idaho medal winners Christin Cooper and Picabo Street, as well as Idahoan Muffy Davis, who won three gold medals in the Paralympics in 2012.