As the annual FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup events were held at Deer Valley Resort early this month. February 4 was chosen as the date for the celebration of life for the late Stein Eriksen. Both the setting and the snowy, ethereal weather provided the ideal atmosphere for reminiscing the legendary champion at the base of two freestyle venues that his persona and peerless ski talent helped create. Stein, who passed away on December 27, 2015, just after celebrating his 88th birthday, left an indelible mark on skiers all over the world.
The event, emceed by Tom Kelly, vice president of communications for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, brought Stein Eriksen’s family and friends together, including Françoise, his wife of 35 years, his children, as well as many ski personalities, including Park City’s own Ted Ligety and Steamboat neighbor Billy Kid, and many more that met him along the way.
A legend in the ski community, Stein was also everyone’s friend. His passion for the sport was not just only contagious, it was profoundly inspiring. Bob Wheaton, president and general manager of Deer Valley Resort said that he was inspired by Stein as he was growing up. He added that later on that, “he was honored to work along with Stein at the resort, and that for him, Stein would always be synonymous with grace and elegance on skis.”
I couldn’t agree with Bob more; on snow, the former World and Olympic Champion was literally “floating” on snow like a feather. This effortless technique is the gracefulness that Bob Wheaton was alluding to, and is what made Stein unequaled. I’ll never forget Stein Eriksen’s impeccable style and refined demeanor; not just at official functions, but deep and consistently into his day-to-day life.
In the presentation Tom Kelly reminded us that Stein wasn’t just the Olympic winner of gold and silver at the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympics or the triple gold winner the World Championships in Sweden in 1954, he was also the father of modern freestyle skiing with his famous front flip and other aerial maneuvers. Aerial athletes are perfecting tricks in today’s competition because of Stein. In recent years Stein continued collecting recognition; he was inducted in the Ski Hall of Fame in 1982, knighted by the King of Norway in 1997 and was inducted into the Professional Ski Instructors Hall of Fame in 2013, among other honors.
This remarkable legacy will continue through the Stein Eriksen Youth Sport Alliance Opportunity Endowment , that provides scholarships for thousands of young and aspiring athletes to participate in various winter sports programs. In his tribute, Tom Kelly also pledged that “every time I ski down Steins Way ski run at Deer Valley, I will do one of the famous Stein turns in his honor.”
His daughter, Julianna Eriksen, and friend, Rosemary Bogner, shared memories of Deer Valley’s beloved Director of Skiing. Stephen Kircher, son of Everett Kircher, the founder of Boyne Mountain in Michigan, took the stand to tell the audience how Stein started his successful North American career with moving anecdotes of the great champion.
Then, apparently coming out of nowhere and soaring high up from the freestyle jumps above, Dylan Ferguson, an aerialist athlete on the U.S. Ski Team, performed Stein’s famous front flip with 210 cm skis, sporting the traditional ski sweater and stretch pants from the 1950s. For that entire moment, the magic was back and the crowd cheered!
Photos from the Stein Eriksen Celebration of Life at Deer Valley Resort on Thursday, February 4, 2016.