My friendship with Stein Eriksen goes back to the mid-1950s when he first appeared on the American ski scene as the ski school director at Boyne Mountain, Michigan. The owner and developer of Boyne Mountain, Everett Kircher was quite proud of the fact that he was paying Stein more money than any other ski school director in America.
At that point, Boyne Mountain was arguably the smallest mountain in the world with a chairlift. Kircher had bought that chairlift from Sun Valley where, in 1936, it was the first one ever. Everett paid $4,800 for the chairlift and put it up on a mountain that he bought for a dollar because it was too steep to grow potatoes on.
Stein Eriksen that year, with his revolutionary technique of skiing, was in my ski movie filmed at Boyne Mountain and it was shown in Detroit’s luxurious Ford Theater. Everyone who saw the movie wanted to ski like Stein when he skied with his knees and ankles locked together.
Stein and I became friendly partners as he moved from ski school to ski school across America and my audiences really appreciated his performances in front of my cameras.
When Edgar Stern bought all the property that eventually became Deer Valley it was only logical that Edgar would hire Stein and build one of America’s best and most luxurious ski lodges and call it The Stein Eriksen Lodge.
Stein and his lovely wife, Françoise, have an equally famous ski shop in Deer Valley and have been living in Park City for the past 25 years. Stein skied to fame in the World Championships and the Olympics in the 1950s and parlayed those gold medals to a lifelong career of running ski schools. This was the era when the difference between first and second place in an Olympic race was the difference in becoming the ski school director at a big name resort like Jackson Hole, Wyoming or instead, Nubs Knob, Michigan.
The executive position of being a ski school director has changed radically since those days and an Olympic gold medal becomes worth a minimum of $1 million in endorsement fees instead of a job running a ski school. Today, a ski school director has to be public relations savvy, but also a good administrator.
When I was a ski instructor in Sun Valley in 1948/49, an all-day private lesson cost an awesome $7.50 an hour. Today, an all-day private lesson at Vail is $825.
And over Christmas vacation all 1,200 instructors are not nearly enough. Many of them are giving private lessons that allow their customers to go to the head of a lift line.
Stein’s father Marius manufactured skis in Norway and when Stein came to America in the 1950s, he brought along what he thought was a revolutionary pair of skis. They were long, wide and had a half-dozen very small grooves instead of one normal large groove.
With all due respect to the many excellent ski school directors and ski instructors in America today, Stein brought a certain grace, elegance and showmanship to turning a pair of skis on the side of a Hill.
On top of all that you could probably credit Stein for the invention of freestyle skiing because he brought the full layout forward somersault to the ski hill.
Unfortunately, a few years ago, a young boy came hurtling out of the trees at right angles to where Stein was making a turn and hospitalized Stein with a broken sternum and a bunch of broken ribs.
Stein did not ski the rest of that winter.
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