Stein Eriksen dies at 88; Norwegian Olympic champion ushered in modern skiing
Norwegian skiing great Stein Eriksen had the perfect hair, the perfect form and typically the perfect line down the course.
So stylish and graceful on the slopes, the Olympic champion helped usher in modern skiing. He died Sunday at his home in Park City, Utah. He was 88.
His death was confirmed by Deer Valley Resort, where Eriksen served as director of skiing for more than 35 years.
Eriksen was born Dec. 11, 1927, in Oslo. He rose to prominence at the 1952 Winter Olympics in his hometown when he captured gold in the giant slalom and silver in the slalom. Two years later, he won three gold medals at the world championships in Are, Sweden.
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In an earlier version of this article, a photo caption said Deer Valley Resort is in Colorado. It is in Park City, Utah.
The charismatic Eriksen became the face of the sport and portrayed it in a new, exciting way. He could perform all sorts of stunts on skis, including somersaults — an early prelude to the tricks in freestyle skiing.
“He’s a legend,” Norwegian World Cup racer Kjetil Jansrud said.
Eriksen lived in the U.S. for the last six decades, holding one position after another at various ski resorts. He was director of skiing and a ski school instructor at Snowmass, Colo. He taught skiing at Sugarbush, Vt. He even owned his own shop in Aspen, Colo., in addition to being the ski school director.
There were also stops in Heavenly Valley, Calif., and Boyne Mountain, Mich., before settling in Deer Valley.
“His influence in the ski industry and at this resort was infinite, and his legacy will always be a fundamental aspect of Deer Valley,” said Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley’s president and general manager. “He was a true inspiration.”
He became an honored member of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1982, one of the many awards and accolades he received throughout his lifetime. According to a Deer Valley release, Eriksen even earned the Knight First Class honor in 1997 from the king of Norway for outstanding service to his country.
“It’s sad that he’s gone, but he had a lot of cool experiences in his lifetime, and I’m guessing he was blessed and happy with what he accomplished,” said Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who won Olympic gold, silver and bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
As an up-and-coming racer, Jansrud was once invited to Eriksen’s house — along with the rest of the Norwegian team — and was regaled with story after story.
“He did a back flip every day at noon in Park City until he was like 80 years old,” Jansrud said. “He was doing what he loved.”
About that hair, it was always styled just right. Or as Jansrud said, “flawless.”
When helmets became more and more prevalent, the staff at Deer Valley presented Eriksen with one that featured his hair painted on it.
“He’s a world-class human being, which in turn made him a world-class skier,” Lessing Stern, owner of Deer Valley Resort, said in a phone interview. “His passion for skiing touched hundreds of thousands of people. He was universally loved.”
His skiing was something to behold. He made turns look so easy and so elegant.
“I guess that’s why he went to the U.S. and got on the pro [tour]. He was way too smooth for World Cup,” Jansrud said.
After hearing of Stein’s death, four-time World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn posted on her Twitter account: “Stein was a legend in skiing. So sad. RIP.”
Tiger Shaw, president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assn., said in a statement that Eriksen’s “legacy will live on in the ski racers of today and in the sport he loved so much.”
As a show of respect, the torch outside the Deer Valley lodge bearing Eriksen’s name was extinguished.
Eriksen is survived by his wife, Francoise; son, Bjorn; three daughters, Julianna, Ava and Anja; and five grandchildren. He was preceded in death by son Stein Jr.
Graham writes for Associated Press; AP sports writer Andrew Dampf in Italy contributed to this report.
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