Alf Engen's Ski Dream

Skiers racing down the runs at one of Utah's many resorts or enjoying a tram or chairlift ride to the top of the Wasatch Mountains might want to consider how much they take for granted. In 1930, when Norwegian Alf Engen came to Utah to compete for the world ski-jumping title, skiers hiked to the top.

The eight-time ski-jumping champion liked Utah's mountains so much that he made his home here. He went on to scope out possible runs at what became the Alta Ski Resort. The Collins lift, the nation's second (the first was in Sun Valley, Idaho), was constructed at Alta in 1939, and lift tickets cost 25¢ a ride or $1.50 a day. Alf also had a hand in designing Brighton and Snowbasin. His legacy lives on at Snowbasin, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics alpine downhill events.

Although Alf left competition at age 55, sharing his love for winter sports was a lifelong passion. He trained soldiers for service in the Alps during World War II, coached the U.S. Olympic ski team in 1948, and spent five decades as an instructor at Alta's ski school. His enthusiasm for life and skiing infected everyone. One look at the smiling senior citizen inspired many skiers to keep in shape. By the time Alf died in 2001 at age 90, skiing had become a major industry in Utah, with 14 resorts. Alta remains the most historic and the closest to his vision. Because of this vision, there's a ski museum named in his honor at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City.

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