Mt. Hood Meadows logo

Downhill Champion Bill Johnson Dies at 55

Categories: Media Center Guest Connection

American Gold Medalist Bill Johnson trained at Mt. Hood Meadows as a member of the Sandy High School Ski TeamBill Johnson - the first American to win Olympic Gold in alpine skiing, passed away Thursday. Perhaps passing away is too gentle, considering the huge competitive drive that compelled Johnson to Olympic Gold, to a comeback effort as a 40 year old that ended in a tragic accident and traumatic brain damage, and to surviving those injuries, living as independently as possible for the past 15 years. Johnson fought, scrapped and battled his entire life. He earned his “bad boy” image and he dealt with the repercussions those actions created. That defiant attitude took Johnson to the epitome of the skiing world in 1984 - first calling his shot and then winning the Olympic downhill in Sarajevo. 

E:60 "DOWNHILL: THE LIFE OF BILL JOHNSON" from Megan Anderson on Vimeo.

Johnson’s post Olympic slide has been well documented in national media coverage. At 40 years old Johnson mounted a comeback attempt to make the U.S. ski team to compete in the 2002 Olympics. In March of 2001 he appeared in the Mt. Hood Meadows media challenge - effortlessly blowing away the recreational competitors on a modified Giant Slalom course on Stadium. He spoke to the crowd and talked about his comeback attempt, exuding confidence and nonchalantly ignoring the reality of competing for ski team slots against skiers half his age. Ten days later in a training run on Big Mountain, Montana, he suffered the horrendous fall that would injure his brain. And while the injury nearly killed him putting an end to an Olympic comeback, the competitive inner spirit drove Johnson to return to the slopes. Two years later Johnson, assisted by a trainer, ran the gates at our Media Challenge and again, smoked the competitors. He spoke again of competing for Olympic glory.

Johnson trained and competed at Mt. Hood Meadows when he was on the Sandy high school ski team. His mom D.B. Johnson ran a ski / race promotional business - and provided Meadows with our race bibs, gates and signage. 

We extend our sincere condolences to D.B., the Johnson family and the many close friends who loved and supported Bill both before and after his injury. 

POWDER Magazine - Ski to Die the Bill Johnson Story

John Canzano OregonLive Story