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Stein Eriksen was about the closest thing to a Norse god that America had ever seen when he immigrated to the United States after winning gold and silver at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo.
In the late 1960s, he brought that fame to Park City and added stature to the fledgling ski town.
He did the same for Deer Valley in 1981, where one of the most prestigious lodges in ski country bears his name.
After his death Sunday at age 88, Eriksen is being remembered as a friendly man with a lot of charisma and panache, and a great ambassador for Utah skiing.
What he did for Park City, Deer Valley and Utah skiing is hard to measure, but those in the ski world and tourist trade say it is significant.
Business mogul Edgar Stern purchased the Treasure Mountain Resort in 1968 and renamed it The Park City Ski Area.
He hired Eriksen as director of skiing, and that move made headlines.
Former Park Record Editor David Hampshire, who has written a history of Summit County, said the Olympian added elegance to the former mining boomtown that was looking to reinvent itself.
"He just added a touch of class to the place," Hampshire said. "When he got here, Park City was just a wannabe. Back then, we looked at Aspen and thought we weren't in that class."
Beautiful skier • Eriksen made a lot of friends at various ski venues around the country. After winning three gold medals at the 1954 World Championships in Are, Sweden, Eriksen began racing in a professional circuit in the U.S. In the ski world, he was a superstar, a handsome one, at that.
Alta ski legend Junior Bounous, now 90, first got to know Eriksen on that racing circuit.
He was a great competitor, Bounous recalled. Bounous could never beat the Norwegian, and he said Eriksen was more than just a great racer he developed a beautiful style of free skiing.
"He was very elegant and graceful an excellent skier," Bounous said. "Many people tried to copy his style but nobody skied as beautifully as Stein."
Bounous was a ski instructor for Alf Engen also a Norwegian at Alta from 1948 to 1958. In 1971, Bounous went to Snowbird to become director of skiing. Bounous retired last year.
"He definitely did, like Alf Engen, make a huge impact on the ski industry," Bounous said of Eriksen.
Engen's son, Alan Engen, is a ski historian and the founder of the Alf Engen Ski Museum at Olympic Park in Summit County. Eriksen was "absolutely great," he said.
"I have had the pleasure of being around the ski greats and pioneers," he said. "But two stand out: Alf and Stein."
The two were great friends. Alf Engen died in 1997, also at age 88.
They were both tremendous athletes, Alan Engen said. "They also were wonderful spirits and great ambassadors," he said. "The human aspect set them apart."
When Alan Engen decided to create a Utah ski museum, he went to Stein for advice. Eriksen provided some good ideas, he recalled, and was a strong supporter of the enterprise.
Despite his fame, Eriksen was friendly and outgoing, said NCAA ski champion Jim Gaddis, who recalled the day he met the Norwegian icon on the slopes decades ago.
"I was setting a [race] course, and I changed the course he was skiing," Gaddis said. "Everyone said, 'You better not do that. You know who that is?' But when he came down, he was a perfect gentleman and said, 'That's better. Thank you.' "
Gaddis went on to became close friends with Eriksen and traveled to Norway with him on several occasions.
"He was a superstar, but he was very accessible," Gaddis said. "A complete stranger could come up and he'd spend 10 minutes with them."
Deer Valley • Stern sold The Park City Ski Area in 1975 to Nick Badami and set out to create Deer Valley. He brought Eriksen with him to help design the resort. When Deer Valley opened in 1981, the Stein Eriksen Lodge opened along with it.
"You don't think of Deer Valley without thinking about Stein Eriksen," Gaddis said. "He was a huge fan of Utah, and he loved Park City and Deer Valley."
Just after his 80th birthday, Eriksen was seriously injured in a ski accident. He was hospitalized for several weeks, and his recovery was slow.
Bounous said he saw the accident from a chairlift in Deer Valley. The collision with a 9-year-old boy was not that hard, he recalled, noting the boy was not injured. But Eriksen tumbled down the hill in a series of somersaults.
"He was never the same after the accident," Bounous said.
In 2013, Eriksen again was hospitalized, for more than a week, with what the hospital described as "neurological symptoms."
This summer, Eriksen looked quite ill, Bounous said. "We saw him and his family. His health was deteriorating."
Eriksen leaves behind a rich legacy for skiing and for Park City and Deer Valley, Gaddis said. "He had a real passion for kids and wanted to help them have access to all winter sports."
Eriksen also leaves the Stein Eriksen Youth Sports Alliance Opportunity Endowment. It was created in 2002 to provide opportunities for every child to experience winter sports, to aid young committed athletes to continue to reach goals and to provide support for people who are in their late teens and early 20s who are members of national teams but lack financial support.
"Everybody who knew Stein loved him," Alan Engen said.