Stein Eriksen turns 80
"I have no speech prepared for tonight, because a few days ago I was swimming in the Virgin Islands and came home and put on my ski boots and took five runs today and now, all of a sudden, I’m in a tuxedo," Stein Eriksen confessed to the crowd gathered in honor of his 80th birthday Saturday night. "I know. It’s a little hard to follow."
Indeed, as Deer Valley Resort President Bob Wheaton and Stein Eriksen Lodge owners and officers took the podium at the gala, they agreed: The thing about keeping up with Stein is, well, you don’t.
"Eighteen years ago my ski instructor, Steve McFarland, asked me, ‘What is it you would like to accomplish as a skier?’" remembered Dennis Suskind, Stein Eriksen Lodge’s board of directors’ president. "And there was Stein – poetry in motion, sandy hair, in a white Bogner outfit with a red cross. ‘I’d like to ski like that guy,’ I said. And Steve said to me, ‘That will never happen.’"
In 1952 Eriksen won gold in Giant Slalom and silver in Slalom at the Winter Olympics held in Oslo, Norway – his home town. Eriksen became the first skier outside the Alps to win an Olympic men’s alpine gold metal. At the 1954 World Championships, he won three more medals, then retired.
Later he would move to the United States to serve as director of skiing at Sugarbush in Vermont, at Aspen Snowmass in Colorado and in the later half of the 1960s at Park City Resort in Utah. In November the New England Ski Museum awarded Eriksen its Spirit of Skiing Award, a prize that recognizes a person whose life exemplifies Dartmouth ski coach Otto Schniebs’ adage, "Skiing is not a sport; It is a way of life."
Eriksen’s creative foresight on skis that led him to pioneer the sport of aerials and freestyle skiing extends off-piste to his namesake mid-mountain condominium hotel at the heart of Deer Valley Resort. In addition to his birthday, the 350 guests also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the luxury resort destination, which, six years ago, became the first in Utah to receive the AAA five-diamond rating.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Eriksen staked out the land for the lodge. Resort owner and fellow visionary, Edgar Stern, said he would grant Eriksen the plot if he could attract guests within its first year.
"Edgar bought the land in 1969 with a desire to make this ski area the best and asked me to help him do that," Eriksen said. "It was my dream, too."
During the lodge’s first Christmas in 1983, original owners Robert and Barbara Savin managed the first four units.
"We bought here when there was a hole in the ground," Barbara Savin recalled. "I’ll never forget it We checked in the first guests."
She said Eriksen kept his promise to Stern. Within a year, she said the lodge was featured in Town & Country, according to Savin. Straight out of the gate, she remembered the Olympic champion had again struck gold. "People knew about the lodge even if they didn’t know who Stein was," she said.
To date there are more than 170 rooms and 63 owners that deliberate over "how soft the towels are and how fast the wrapping peels off a bar of soap," according to Suskind.
At the party, the Royal Norwegian General Consulate General Are-Jostein Norheim bestowed Norway’s King Harrod’s congratulations and fellow instructors from across the country sang Norweigen songs they learned from working with Eriksen. A new life-sized bronze statue in Eriksen’s image was unveiled outside the lodge.
Longtime friend Sydney Reed, who said her husband, Harry, has played tennis with Eriksen for 35 years, said Eriksen’s lifestyle and presence in Park City has been important to the community.
Before Deer Valley opened, Reed remembered Eriksen, making an effort to greet each child on the slopes of Park City Resort. "He can make you feel like a million bucks just by saying hello," she said. "He really represents this community’s love for skiing and the mountains. He does it every day – as do many of us."
From the start, Eriksen said it was his love for the life his parents led: his mother was president of the local women’s ski club and his father was a gymnast who competed in the 1912 Olympics. When he took the podium Saturday night, he said one of his greatest contributions in his 80 years has been to infect others with his appreciation for sports and for skiing.
"When I came here in 1954 there were half a million people in America skiing," he said. "After playing in the snow for 50 years, now there are 14 or 15 million skiing in the United States If I’ve helped anyone to want to ski on the mountain, I’m delighted."
Stein Eriksen Lodge by the numbers
Dennis Suskind, president of the board of directors of Stein Eriksen Lodge shared some stats to commemorate the 25th anniversary celebration of the lodge on Saturday, Dec. 15:
The number of fire places in the lodge.
The number of owners of Stein Eriksen Lodge. The owners hail from 18 different states and four different countries.
The number of guests that have skied out of control into the lodge’s locker room.
The number of pounds the lodge’s Sunday brunch has added to guests’ waste lines over the years according to the American Heart Association.
The number of Steinbergers served at the lodge since it opened.
The number of bottles of wine served at the lodge since it opened.
The average sales price in dollars of a condominium at the lodge when it opened in 1983. In the mid-80s the average price dropped to $450,000. Units are now worth an average of $3-3.5 million.
Deer Valley Resort and Stein Eriksen Lodge firsts
According to Dennis Suskind, president of the board of directors of Stein Eriksen Lodge, the lodge and Deer Valley Resort can claim a few firsts:
*Deer Valley was the first resort to offer tissues in lift lines and valet parking to skiers.
*Deer Valley was the first resort to offer ski valet, allowing guests to check skis during meals or overnight on the mountain.
*Stein Eriksen Lodge was the first hotel in Utah to be awarded the AAA five-diamond rating.
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Park City intends to soon seat an internal task force that will study issues within the municipal government itself related to the LGBTQ community.