A day of skiing Keystone with living legend Trygve Berge
January 4, 2017
I've known Trygve Berge for 40 years, and my first day of real skiing with him was just last season — what an enlightening experience.
To give you some background, he was born 84 years ago in Voss, Norway, and started skiing at the age of 4. His first interest was ski jumping, but he quickly adopted ski racing when he won a junior slalom race in his first attempt at age 14. He went on to win many alpine races in Norway and Europe. He was the Norwegian downhill champion in 1956 and competed in the Winter Olympics in Cortina, Italy, that same year.
Trygve continued to race on the European circuit after the Cortina Games and came to the U.S. in 1957 with teammate Stein Eriksen — the Olympic gold medalist in giant slalom at the 1952 games in Oslo who passed away on Jan. 2, 2016 at his longtime home of Deer Valley — to teach skiing at Heavenly Valley Resort in California. Trygve also taught skiing in Aspen and at Boyne Mountain, Michigan.
In 1960, Trygve moved to Breckenridge and co-founded the Breckenridge Ski Area with Sigurd Rockne. When PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) was formed in 1961, Trygve was among the first 15 instructors certified to teach skiing in the United States, using what was called the "American Skiing Technique."
His greatest concept was a monorail connecting Breckenridge to Frisco, with ski lifts accessing all the peaks of the Tenmile Range — an idea reminiscent of the interconnected ski areas in the Alps. Nothing came of this, but his other great idea was Ullr Fest, a celebration honoring the Norse god of snow. This week-long festival has been a Breckenridge success for over 50 years and returns this year from Jan. 11-14.
Peggy Fleming on skis
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As I said, I've known Trygve for 40 years, even rented a house from him south of Blue River in 1984. Yet, up until this time last season, the only times I've skied with him have been shuttling him back and forth during celebrity ski events.
My day with him in late January of last year was very different. We met at my house and drove to the gondola at Keystone Resort. I taught at Keystone for many years and gave him a quick intro. He recalled the area and said that he liked the rolling aspect of many of the runs, which are not just straight shots to the bottom.
After that, I started to follow him. First I skied in his tracks. I am a visual learner and could see where his subtle weight transitions occurred. I noticed that his line and his turn shape did not vary with the changes in terrain. He went from flat to steep, soft snow to ice, adapting to the changes while continuing to flow and remaining dynamic. He told me that the picture in his mind is Peggy Fleming while skating: elegant, clean, with continuous dynamic movements.
We stopped several times to talk with instructors teaching their students on the hill. I realized that Trygve is not only a great skier, but also a consummate teacher. He constantly observed other skiers while we were skiing and riding the lifts. He analyzed their movements and detailed progressions he would employ for their improvement. Occasionally, he would remark on good skiing, but more often would observe that skiers were not dynamic, not athletic in their movements.
Then I skied in sync with him, appreciating what he was doing even more. He was accurate and balanced, his upper body moving downhill in the classic European style. He was skiing modern equipment (all-mountain skis), although without the demonstrative upper and lower-body angulation seen in modern race technique. He put me in mind of Jean-Claude Killy, skiing with economy of motion and seemingly effortless balance mixed with precision. All ski instructors would benefit from the privilege of a day skiing with Trygve.
I asked Trygve who he admired as skiers. He said Ingemar Stenmark, Aksel Lund Svindal and Pirmin Zurbriggen (also my wife's favorite mental image).
What a day. It may have taken me 40 years to ski with Trygve, but I was lucky enough to do it all over again four days later. Thanks again, Trygve, for a great day with a true legend.
Dale Fields is a fourth generation Coloradan and full-time resident of Summit County since 1982. He lives with one wife, two dogs and three cats.
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