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Walter Bietila

Hall of Fame Class of 1965

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Walter Bietila began competitive jumping at age ten. He was possibly the best ski jumper of the famous Bietila family of Ishpeming, Michigan. A member of three Olympic teams, he served his beloved sport at the national level in many capacities.

Walter Bietila was born in Ishpeming, Michigan on February 12, 1916. He graduated from Ishpeming High School, attended the University of Michigan for his first two years of college and then moved on to the University of Wisconsin where he captained the ski team. He continued to serve skiing: first as a competitor, then as a race official and a well-respected jumping judge.

A member of the famous Bietila family of Ishpeming, Walter was perhaps the premier jumper of the family. He represented his country in Garmisch, Germany as a member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic Ski Team. Following the Winter Olympics he competed at two major events in Europe: the large jump at Obersdorf where he placed a respectable third and the Holmenhollen in Norway (every jumper’s dream) where he placed 36th in a field of top European jumpers. He was also a member of the 1940 U.S. Olympic Ski Team which did not participate as the games were cancelled by the outbreak of war.

Bietila enlisted in the Naval Air Force during World War II. He continued to jump when he was able. He came close to winning U.S. national titles in 1941, 1946 and 1948. In 1941 he was awarded the Paul Bietila Award named after his brother, Paul, and given to the winner of the Normal Hill Championship at the U.S. Ski Jumping Championship. In 1948 Bietila again made the U.S. Olympic Team and was team captain at the games in St Moritz, Switzerland.

In 1948 he became treasurer of the Central United States Ski Association – a post held until 1951. In 1952 he was appointed a ski official in the Central Officers Association.

In 1956 Bietila served as a member of the United States Olympic Committee. In 1960 he was chairman of the Jumping Committee for the selection of the Olympic Ski Jumping Team and coach and manager of the team. He was chief of take-off at the Squaw Valley Olympics as well as a member of the International Competitions Committee. In 1962 he was coach of the F.I.S. Jumping Team at the World Championships at Zakopane, Poland.

In 1964 he was appointed an F.I.S. judge and was one of the two American judges at the F.I.S. Championships in Norway in 1966.

Walter Bietila served the Central United States Ski Association as a director for fifteen years, vice-president for four years and was a National Convention Delegate on several occasions.

He settled in the Upper Peninsula community of Iron Mountain, Michigan where he was an insurance salesman and member of the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Kiwanis Club.

Walter Bietila was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1965.

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