Behind The Scenes At The World's Best Ski Hotel
In the article he takes an intimate look at Deer Valley's Stein Eriksen Lodge, which was recently named the best ski hotel in the world. Below are excerpts.
Last month, Russ Olsen and his wife, Debi, found themselves in Kitzbuhel, Austria, at the World Ski Awards, aka The Ski Oscars, so Russ could receive, on behalf of Stein Eriksen Lodge, the hotel he manages in Park City, the trophy for best ski hotel in the United States.
That wasn’t totally unexpected. The winners from each country had been tipped off in advance. It was why Russ and Debi were there.
The totally unexpected part came next, when they announced the world’s best ski hotel.
Ela Clark, the British actress who was hosting the show, did the honors, ripping open the envelope and reading … “Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, Utah.”
Some 1 million votes were cast to determine the world’s best ski hotel, they told Russ. The ballots were sent worldwide to people involved in the ski, travel and tourism industry, including international travelers, booking agents, hoteliers, suppliers and other ski world connoisseurs. SEL’s win was no fluke. A lot of people had to vote for it to make it No. 1.
Russ knows the history well. He came to Stein Eriksen Lodge in 1986, just two years after it opened next door to the ski runs at Deer Valley resort, which had also just barely opened, boasting the great Norwegian ski champion Stein Eriksen as its director of skiing.
Stein wasn’t the hotel’s owner, but he helped with the design, he brought in his Olympic medals to display in the lobby, he sold the lodge the rights to his name, and as hotel ambassador he was given free run of the place in perpetuity. At 87, he still visits his lodge on a regular basis.
“I was shocked when they called our name,” he (Russ) says, “still am. Who expects that?”
Well, other than Stein Eriksen himself.
“He is our biggest fan,” says Russ. “I remember a day in March a few years ago. It was a beautiful sunny day and Stein came into the hotel after an afternoon of skiing. We were sitting in lounge chairs on the deck, staring at the sun as it was starting to set on the mountain. He said to me, ‘Russ, if we died and went to heaven, it would be a demotion.’ ”
And that was before getting to place the best hotel in the ski world trophy next to Stein’s 1952 Olympic gold medal.