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Stein Eriksen, Olympic medalist in alpine skiing and ‘father of freestyle,’ dies at 88

Norwegian skier Stein Eriksen, performing one of his signature layout flips.

Norwegian skier Stein Eriksen, performing one of his signature layout flips.

(Stein Eriksen Collection)

Stein Eriksen, the father of freestyle skiing and Olympic medalist for alpine skiing, may be best known to travelers for the lodge that bears his name at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.

The famed Norwegian skier died Sunday at his home in Park City. He was 88. The cause of death was complications due to age, a resort spokeswoman says.

Eriksen was a giant in the alpine ski world starting in the 1950s. He took gold and silver medals in giant slalom and slalom events respectively in the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. Two years later he won three gold medals -- the first “triple gold” winner -- at the World Championships in Are, Sweden.

Stein Eriksen hits the slopes, in a 2007 photo at Deer Valley Resort.

Stein Eriksen hits the slopes, in a 2007 photo at Deer Valley Resort.

(Deer Valley Resort)
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He served as director of skiing at Deer Valley for more than three decades. His form and style defined Eriksen as a stand-out skier. “Stein Eriksen didn’t invent graceful skiing, but he sure perfected it,” ABC4 Utah reporter Craig Wirth wrote in a November story about spending a day on the slopes with him.

The Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley is a resort with five stars from Forbes and five diamonds from AAA. It’s a ski-in, ski-out hotel that’s open year-round.

Eriksen was born Dec. 11, 1927, and spent his last six decades in the United States. He was involved in early development of Park City as a ski resort, now known as Park City Mountain. He also served as director of skiing and instructor at many ski resorts, including Heavenly near Lake Tahoe from 1956 to ’58.

He was knighted by the King of Norway in 1997 and served as an ambassador for the Winter Olympics in 2002 when the games were held in Park City.

And as for his freestyle credentials, Eriksen is described this way in Alan Engen’s book “For the Love of Skiing”:

“He astounded the world with his unique reverse-shoulder technique and also by performing the first forward somersault with a full layout on skis. Although skiers had performed somersaults in earlier years, no one had combined it with a ‘swan dive’ prior to Eriksen’s acrobatic feat.”

He was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1982.

Eriksen is survived by his wife of 35 years, a son and three daughters as well as five grandchildren.

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