Ski industry loses pivotal figure
October 14, 2008
Edgar Stern, who played a pivotal role in the development of both Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort, died Sunday in Seattle, Wash. He was 86.
Stern was in many ways the antithesis of the upscale resorts he fostered. He was a private, quiet, unassuming man who seemed to care little about the latest fashion trends at least as they related to his own wardrobe.
Stern first saw Park City in 1968, five years after United Park City Mines had opened a ski resort on its old mining property west of town. Although the town was still trying to lift itself out of its post-mining doldrums, Stern saw the area’s potential. After a few days of exploring, he decided to buy the 7,000 acres that included the struggling ski resort (now Park City Mountain Resort) and the undeveloped mountains that would become Deer Valley Resort. The sale, to Stern’s Royal Street Corporation of New Orleans, closed in February 1971. Royal Street moved its resort holdings into a new company, the Greater Park City Company.
In the early 1970s, Greater Park City developed its holdings both on and off the mountain building the PayDay, Crescent and Lost Prospector chairlifts and developing several condominium complexes as well as the Holiday Ranch subdivision.
However, an economic slump in the mid-1970s prompted Greater Park City to sell many of its holdings, including the resort. Nick Badami of Alpine Meadows of Tahoe Inc. bought the ski area from Stern in 1975.
In December 1976, Stern unveiled plans to build an elegant new resort on former mining company land south and east of town. Deer Valley Resort opened in 1981.
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Although Deer Valley quickly gained a reputation for style and elegance, Stern was always understated and simply dressed.
"It didn’t take a person long to feel that Edgar was a true friend," said Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley president and general manager. "He was a very gracious person — not a lot of pomp and circumstance, just a regular kind of guy."
Wheaton said Stern always believed in choosing people in whom he had confidence, providing guidance, then stepping back and letting them follow through.
His son, Lessing Stern, took over as chairman of the board of Deer Valley’s parent company, Royal Street Corporation, in 2007.
Born in 1922, Edgar Stern grew up in New Orleans. He graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1943, attended the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School, and spent a year and a half overseas with the Army. He married Pauline Stewart in 1947.
In 1948, he joined his father, Edgar Stern Sr., in founding WDSU-TV, the first television station in New Orleans. In the following years he became active in a number of civic organizations including the United Fund of New Orleans.
He and his father developed the luxurious Royal Orleans Hotel, the first new hotel in New Orleans in about 50 years. Later, he would turn the old Stanford Court Apartments in San Francisco into the elegant Stanford Court Hotel.
In 1968, Edgar and Polly Stern moved to Aspen, Colo., where they became involved with the Aspen Music Festival. His experiences as a developer of luxury accommodations and as ski-town businessman would be reflected in Park City in his cultivation of what became known as the Deer Valley Difference.
Stern’s death follows by four months the death of Nick Badami, another key figure in the development of skiing in Park City.
While Stern owned the Park City Ski Area, as it was then known, he persuaded the U.S. Ski Team to establish a training center in the old Silver King Mine boarding house and bunkhouses on the slopes of the resort. The team’s headquarters have been in Park City ever since.
"Decades later, he continued to support our athletes with the production of the very best FIS Freestyle World Cup events anywhere with our annual competition in Deer Valley," said Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association.
"With the passing of Edgar Stern and, earlier this year, Nick Badami, our Park City community and our U.S. Ski Team athletes have lost two visionaries who will leave their mark on our sport for many years to come."
Edgar Stern is survived by his wife of 61 years Pauline (Polly), his daughter Sandra McIver, sons Eric, Monte and Lessing, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Some information for this story was taken from "Deer Valley, The Quest for Excellence," by Kristen Gould Case.