Ski Icon Stein Eriksen Dies at 88
Photos courtesy Deer Valley Resort
Olympic ski legend and Deer Valley’s iconic ambassador Stein Eriksen has died. The Norwegian champion known for his impressive coif, impeccable ski technique and eponymous lodge passed away quietly at his Park City home on Sunday, December 27, 2015, surrounded by family. He was 88 years old.
Stein was one of the most recognized names in the ski world for more than 60 years. The first alpine skier to win triple gold at a world championship, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and ambassador and father of freestyle skiing, Stein Eriksen parlayed all that he knew and loved about the sport into an incredible career that spanned almost six decades and changed the face of alpine skiing worldwide.
He was one of the few athletes able to successfully turn his passion for skiing into a lifetime career. He served as Director of Skiing for more than 35 years at Deer Valley Resort and lent his name to the internationally-renowned luxury hotel, the Stein Eriksen Lodge.
“Stein Eriksen was the vision behind the development of the Lodge that carries his name. His celebrity charisma created a special ambiance whether within the Lodge, our restaurant or out on the mountain, that was warm and inviting,” noted Dennis Suskind, President of Stein Eriksen Lodge. “He was a real friend and will be missed.”
Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley president and general manager said, “He was a true inspiration and we are honored to have had him as a part of the Deer Valley family since the resort’s inception…His presence on the mountain will be profoundly missed.”
Born December 11, 1927, a handsome Stein shot to fame at the 1952 Oslo Olympic Winter Games, where he took the gold and silver medals in the giant slalom and slalom events, respectively. Two years later he went on to win three gold medals at the World Championships in Åre, Sweden in 1954, making him the first alpine skier to win the world championship ‘triple gold.’ Almost immediately after the Olympics, Eriksen moved to the US to teach Americans to ski “like Stein”; first at Sun Valley, Idaho, then Michigan’s Boyne Mountain, Heavenly Valley, Calif., and Sugarbush, VT. A reporter for the Saturday Evening Post in 1967 described Sugarbush’s ski school director: “He is easily the most flamboyant figure in U.S. skiing. . . . He has blond hair and blue eyes, and his dazzle could not be greater if the colors were reversed”. Every Sunday afternoon Stein swan dived 30 or 40 feet over the Sugarbush exhibition slope at speed (on his usual 220-centimeter skis), into a forward flip, an aerial maneuver credited as the forerunner of the inverted freestyle aerials. Stein taught at Aspen and Snowmass, Colo., before Utah’s brand-new Deer Valley Ski Area welcomed the dashing pioneer in 1981.
Eriksen was awarded the Knight First Class honor in 1997 by His Majesty the King of Norway as a reward for outstanding service in the interest of Norway and the Royal Order of Merit for his contribution to the world of sports and his commitment to the people of his homeland. In recognition of his pioneering spirit and contribution to the early development of the ski industry, Stein received the Pioneer Award from the Intermountain Ski Areas Association (ISAA) in 1998. Eriksen served as an Olympic Ambassador at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, at time that coincided with the 50th anniversary of his Olympic medals. Eriksen was inducted into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Hall of Fame in 2013. In April of 2015, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Utah Sports Commission. Eriksen was also awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Ski Tourism by World Ski Awards in 2015.
Stein was a frequent celebrity on Deer Valley’s slopes, posing for photos, kissing the ladies and available for hire as a guide. In 2007, Eriksen, then 80, suffered a significant health blow when he collided with a 9-year-old boy on Deer Valley’s Lost Boulder run. He was sent to the hospital for surgery on a broken wrist and collarbone but reports said he had trouble waking from the anesthesia. Up until then, Stein had never worn a helmet. Five years later, he spent a week in the hospital for “neurological symptoms.”
While he continued to greet guests in the lodges of Deer Valley over the last few years, his presence on the slopes waned. Now, it is gone altogether but it will never be forgotten. Stein Eriksen is survived by his wife of 35 years, Francoise, son Bjorn, three daughters, Julianna, Ava and Anja and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by son Stein Jr.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Stein Eriksen Youth Sports Opportunity Endowment. A private memorial will be held for family followed by a celebration of Stein’s life, details are TBD.