Norwegian ski legend dead at 88

Stein Eriksen left a mark on Alpine skiing worldwide as an Olympian, instructor, and “Father of Freestyle”

Photo: Oslo Museum / Wikimedia Commons Stein Eriksen skiing in his “Cortina” pattern Norwegian sweater.

Photo: Oslo Museum / Wikimedia Commons
Stein Eriksen skiing in his “Cortina” pattern Norwegian sweater.

Salt Lake Tribune

One of the most recognized names in the ski world, legendary Alpine skier Stein Eriksen, passed away peacefully at his home in Park City, Utah, on December 27, 2015, at the age of 88.

Although Stein first gained fame in the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympic Games, winning gold and silver medals in the giant slalom and slalom events respectively, he is best known for being the first Alpine skier to win “triple gold” medals at the World Championships that took place in Åre, Sweden, in 1954. Shortly thereafter, Stein’s inimitable style and captivating personality garnered him the attention of the news media and friendship of the Hollywood elite.

Born December 11, 1927, in Oslo, Norway, Stein lived in the United States for the last six decades, parlaying his passion for the sport of skiing into an incredible lifetime career that changed the Alpine skiing experience worldwide. As Director of Skiing at Deer Valley Resort, Stein was an integral part of the resort’s success since its inception. He worked closely with founders Edgar and Polly Stern on fulfilling their vision of providing a resort experience unlike any other in the industry. Before arriving at Deer Valley, he was involved in the development of Park City Ski Area, now Park City Mountain. Prior to Park City, Stein spent four years as Director of Skiing and Ski School Director at Snowmass, Colorado; Ski School Director at Sugarbush, Vermont; Ski School Director and owner of his own sport shop in Aspen, Colorado; Ski School Director for Heavenly Valley, California; and Ski School Director for Boyne Mountain, Michigan.

Stein’s desire to develop an internationally-renowned luxury hotel was fulfilled in 1982 with the opening of the now world-famous Stein Eriksen Lodge, located mid-mountain at Deer Valley Resort. His influence in the ski industry and at both Deer Valley and the lodge that bears his name was infinite, and his legacy will always be a fundamental aspect of their success.

Stein Eriksen is synonymous with skiing style and elegance. His status was enhanced by his spectacular forward somersault, an aerial maneuver credited as the forerunner of the inverted aerials performed by freestyle skiers today, which earned him the moniker “Father of Freestyle Skiing.”

Until recently, Stein could be found skiing (sans hat with his famous head of hair) and greeting guests on the mountain daily as well as lunching at the Glitretind Restaurant in the lodge at his regular table. Guests were able to spot Stein on the mountain by checking the mannequin at the Bjorn Stova shop, run by his wife Francoise, which wore his “Bogner Suit of the Day.” He was frequently sought out by the thousands of skiers to whom he taught the sport and was always happy to stop for a visit and a photo. He took great pride and joy in his past students and guests and loved making them feel special. Stein will be remembered by many, especially those who spent New Year’s Eve at the lodge, for his Norwegian toasts accompanied by a shot of akevitt as well as for his charisma, kindness, and approachable nature.

His awards remain too many to mention. Ultimately, Stein was a man who loved his family and cherished the times when they could be together. Always ready for good times, he possessed an amazing sense of humor. In addition to his home in Park City, Stein also loved their family’s home in Montana where he and Francoise summered annually, hosting family and friends from around the world to food, wine, fishing, and tennis. His competitive nature was never at rest, as attested to by his summer tennis tournaments and a good game of cornhole.

Stein is survived by the love of his life, his wife of 35 years, Francoise, son Bjorn, and three daughters, Julianna, Ava, and Anja, two stepsons, Churchill and Taylor, five grandchildren and one goddaughter. He was preceded in death by his son, Stein Jr.

This article was originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune.

It also appeared in the Jan. 8, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.