Franz was born in St. Anton am Arlberg, Tyrol, Austria. Franz had a happy
childhood growing up with two brothers and four sisters under the loving
care of his mother Kreszenz and father Josef, a house painter. His hometown
of St. Anton is known as "the cradle of alpine skiing". Growing up in the
mountains, Franz along with his older brother, Pepi, became top racers and
coaches. Franz apprenticed as a ski instructor under the legendary Hannes
Franz had a burning desire to become a top racer. His dream, however, was
interrupted when Germany annexed Austria prior to the start of World War II.
When war broke out, Franz was sent to the Russian Front from 1941 to 1945
where he suffered several near fatal battle wounds and experienced the
horrors of the war on one of the fiercest battlegrounds. At the end of the
war, Franz was in hospital in Lubeck, Germany, a Russian prisoner of war.
Franz escaped his captivity, making a thousand kilometre journey to his home
in St. Anton. Upon returning home, Franz weighed 100 pounds and was barely
recognizable to his family members.
Franz continued to pursue his love of ski racing and was chosen for
Austria's 1948 Olympic Team. The games were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Franz won a silver medal in downhill skiing becoming the first Austrian to
win an Alpine medal at the Olympic Games. His award from his country for
this accomplishment was 5 kilos of rice and 5 kilos of sugar, scarce
commodities in post-war Austria.
Franz was not content to stay in Austria as he yearned to travel to America.
In 1950, he travelled with the Austrian ski team to the world championships
in Aspen, Colorado. Franz decided to stay in North America, and received
assistance from another Austrian racer, Hannes Schroll, who had already
immigrated to the U.S. Franz began his North American ski instructing career
at Sugar Bowl in California. Upon expiration of his US visa, Franz travelled
to Canada, with the help of a family friend, George Encil, who had recently
purchased the Mount Norquay ski area near Banff, Alberta. Franz ran the ski
school and in the summers worked as a driver for sightseeing tours between
Banff and Jasper. Franz coached the 1952 Canadian Olympic Women's Team as
well as the 1956 Canadian Olympic Men's Team. In the years that followed,
Franz directed a number of ski schools, including: Mt. Gabriel, near
Montreal; Grouse Mountain, near Vancouver; and in the U.S. at Boyne
Mountain, and Caberfae, both in Michigan. In the early sixties, Franz became
the ski school director at Mt. Baker, Washington where he also started one
of America's first summer racing camps. Franz also ran a ski and sports
store in Bellingham. In 1973, Franz chaired the first Ski to Sea race. The
early race consisted of 3 legs: skiing, biking and a canoe or kayak finish.
In the mid 70's, Franz settled in Seattle. He worked as a painting
contractor during the summers. During winters, he travelled to countless
national and international masters competitions.
Franz retired to Bellingham in 1990 and finished writing his
autobiographies: Franzl and Franzl II. Franz received a Skade award for his
contribution to the historical record of skiing from the International Ski
History Association. Franz has also been awarded an honorary membership by
the Washington State Chapter of the Austrian-American Council for pioneering
skiing in the Northwest. He has also received honorary awards from his
hometown's Arlberg Ski Club.
Franz spent his later years at Alderwood Park, a nursing home in Bellingham.
He had some very special friends to keep him company including Dorothea
Hamilton, John Nichols, and Jayne Carlson. He was fortunate to have many
regular visitors from members of the Austrian Club of Seattle, as well as
close friends: Walter Schluter, Helmer Sieber, Rene' Dove', Jean and Chet
Mathison to name a few.
Franz was predeceased by daughter Monika of Austria. Franz is survived by
his youngest sister Hilde of Seefeld, Austria, his children: Charles (Juli),
Rosemary and Sarah (Andre), grandchildren: Sabine, Lindsey, Mackenzie,
Jason, Dominic, Frances, Tracy, Bradley, Alex and Gina, 6
great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews in Austria. Franz had a
special bond with his granddaughter, Gina, whom he played cribbage and bingo
with every .
Franz and his family wish to thank Dr. Richard Binder and the staff at
Alderwood Park for their loving care in his final years.
Memorials may be made to Franz's favorite charity the Lighthouse Mission.
Funeral services will take place at Westford Funeral Home in Bellingham at
. A memorial celebration will take
place at at Westford's Broadway Hall.
Austria's Olympic medalist and Canadian team coach
Thursday, January 23, 2014