As skiers, we’re drawn to legendary ski runs. Like the imposing rock face of Alf’s High Rustler that stands sentinel over Little Cottonwood Canyon’s Alta Ski Area. A quarter century since his passing, the legend of Alta icon Alf Engen lives on. Last Chair host Tom Kelly explores the life of the Norwegian immigrant who helped plan the original Alta and served as its director of skiing through tales from his son, Alan Engen. It’s a remarkable look into the early days of skiing and how the culture of Alta began.
The legend of Alf Engen goes back to the 1920s when Alf brought his brothers to America from Norway. In the midwest and later out in the mountains, they found a home in America as skiers. Alf became a great ski jumping champion and world record holder at Ecker Hill, near Park City Mountain. He spent time at Sun Valley but ultimately settled in Utah. In the 1930s, he was hired by the U.S. Forest Service to scout potential ski areas as the sport was booming. That led him to the mining town of Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Alf Engen (left) and Alan Engen pose in their Alta instructor uniforms in this 1989 photo when Alf was around 80.
Years later, Alf Engen would become intimately connected with Alta as its director of skiing. He became a figurehead for the sport and a friendly face who floated through powder on the flanks of High Rustler. He introduced thousands to the sport through his engagement with the Alta and Deseret News ski schools. He would later turn the reins over to son Alan, who succeeded him in the role.
Father and son both became iconic figures in Utah ski history, both inducted into the Intermountain and U.S. Halls of Fame. Alan became an instrumental figure in archiving the history of skiing in Utah with his books, 1998 For the Love of Skiing, and 2002 First Tracks.
"As I was growing up, I saw my father and uncles as living day representatives of winter legends of Norse mythology. I imagined all of the Engen brothers with their great physical strength, competitive drive and love of winter as evolving into skiing icons. And in truth, they actually have." - Alan Engen
This episode of Last Chair offers fascinating insights into the legend of Alf Engen and the lore of skiing in Utah. Here are a few snippets of the interview with Alan Engen. Listen in to Last Chair to learn more.
Alan, as the son of Alf Engen I suspect you began skiing at an early age in Utah?
I'll tell you a little story that comes from my mother, not me. But my mother was always fond of telling how I came into this world. The doctor who delivered me put tongue depressors on the bottom of my feet and then proudly handed me over to my father. So, that being the case, I've added a little extra to the story by saying I came pretty close to being born on skis.
Growing up in Utah in the ‘40s and ‘50s, how did you see skiing grow?
I knew that skiing was growing. I was going up to Alta just about every chance that I had to ski and I could watch the traffic and I could see more and more cars coming up to Alta all the time. So I knew the sport was on the map, but I didn't know exactly how it was going to grow. And I think my father played a big role in helping to develop that growth through the Deseret News Ski School. Because it was a free ski school, it was community outreach. And that brought in virtually thousands of people that got their first start of skiing through the Deseret Ski School.
Your father was a competitive athlete and later an instructor. How did that influence you?
I taught, but I taught as an amateur, not as a professional. And I grew up in competition. Dad told me at a very early age, he said, ‘Alan, you don't have to follow me in competition if you don't want to. But, I'll give you one piece of advice. If you want to be an instructor, be an instructor. If you want to be a champion skier and in athletic competition, do that. But don't try to do them both at the same time because the temperament isn't the same.
Then a University of Utah art student, Alan Engen was commissioned in 1962 by Alta manager Chic Morton to paint a modern trail map to be used to highlight Alta’s upcoming silver anniversary season in 1963-64.
How did your father Alf Engen get connected with what was to become Alta?
Dad was hired by the Forest Service in the mid-1930s to go up and start taking a look at potential ski areas. One of the first that he talked about was Alta because it had been around for a lot of years as a mining town. They knew it had plenty of good snow, but they wanted to see whether it would actually be good for a ski area. And dad skied up over Catherine's pass from Brighton into Alta. And stayed with a couple of miners by the name of the Jacobsen brothers. That was the only way dad could get into Alta at that time. He did it in the middle of the winter, so he had to hike in. That was a powerful skier. He had strong legs so he could go through that deep snow all the way over Catherine's Pass. He dropped into the Albion Basin. It was a great place for a ski area, but the miners had denuded all of the tree coverage that held back the avalanches and dad. He went back to the Forest Service and said, ‘You know, yes, let's go ahead and develop the area. But for gosh sakes, we've got to put new trees in there, so it'll hold back the avalanches.
Alan Engen, the son of Alf Engen, shows good form in this 1989 vintage shot of him participating in the legendary Alta Gelande Championships. The event was brought back that year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alta, after an absence dating back to 1974.
How did Alta’s signature run, High Rustler, come to be attached to your father?
In the early days of Alta, in the 1940s, the run itself, the mountainside, was actually used and skiers would come up and they would hike up. They even put a little tow in there. But it eventually developed into a place that was very prominent at Alta. People would see it firsthand when they would come in. And in the 1980s, as a tribute to my father, because it was such a prominent run, they renamed it Alf's High Rustler.
Did you take a lot of pride in following in his footsteps?
Well, I don't think anybody really follows in my dad's footsteps. He said some pretty deep tracks for me to follow, but I always had him as my idol. I truly felt that of all of the athletes I had the privilege of knowing in my lifetime, I thought my father was the one that I'd like to most closely emulate.
Alf Engen Ski Museum
Today’s Alf Engen Ski Museum, located at the Utah Olympic Park just off I-80 in Park City, is considered one of the finest ski museums in the world. In addition to showcasing Alf’s hundreds of trophies, it features an in-depth history of the sport, especially in the Intermountain West. The museum is free and features a host of interactive exhibits that are especially fun for kids.
A highlight of the Alf Engen Ski Museum is the trophy case featuring hundreds of Alf Engen’s trophies, cups and medals.
“When we were talking to dad a little bit about having a ski museum, he says. ‘you gotta make it interesting for the kids,’” said Alan Engen. “He said, ‘build it around the kids so the kids have an interest and they can see what is happening with the ski sport and they will want to become a part of it.’”
Tom Kelly: |00:00:04| Alan Engen, thanks for joining us on Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast, I hope you had a wonderful holiday.
Alan Engen: |00:00:10| We had an absolutely wonderful holiday with our family and for an old guy, every holiday at this age is a great holiday.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:19| They really are. I had a good one, too. We got out and skied quite a bit. And, you know, one of the great things too for those who are listening to the podcast in mid-January and thinking about booking a Utah vacation, it just hasn't stopped snowing for the last two or three weeks, has it?
Alan Engen: |00:00:37| No, and it looks like we're going to have more coming. So that's good and we need it. We need the water.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:42| So yeah, it's really quite amazing. This last storm actually had quite a bit of water in it. But we had some great powder days, and I have to say skiing is really fantastic in Utah right now.
Alan Engen: |00:00:55| Well, in my opinion, it's the best anywhere. So I'm, of course, I'm a little bit biased on that subject.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:01| Well, I think yeah, and I think all of us are and Alan, I appreciate you joining us. You are a noted historian, and I've always respected that because you're helping to carry on the story for the next generation. You had the opportunity to grow up in an amazing family. Your father was the legendary Alf Engen, and we're going to talk more about Alf later in the podcast. Alf, of course, the director of skiing for many years at Alta, an iconic figure there and also a great athlete. But I want to go back to your childhood. You grew up on the east side of Salt Lake City. Your father was this, noted Norwegian skier who had immigrated to America. And I would imagine that you got into the sport at an early age.
Alan Engen: |00:01:48| Well, yes, probably. I'll tell you a little story that comes from my mother, not me. But my mother was always fond of telling how I came into this world. I was born at the Holy Cross Hospital here in Salt Lake in 1940, and when I came into this world, the doctor who delivered me, his name was Dr. Warrit, put tongue depressors on the bottom of my feet and then proudly handed me over to my father. So, that being the case, I've added a little extra to the story by saying I came pretty close to being born on skis.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:29| I love that story. We've all heard that term, but now we've actually heard it. What was life like growing up with Alf?
Alan Engen: |00:02:39| Well, you know, for me, I have really had the opportunity of growing up in a sports family. I not only had a champion father, but I had champion uncles as well. And so skiing, and probably soccer, would be probably the two major sports that I was most familiar with because that's what they were involved in. And my early skiing experience didn't start here in Salt Lake. It started in Sun Valley, Idaho. Dad, right after his competitive years of ski jumping here, he started working for the Forest Service and, in turn, worked with Averell Harriman. And Averell wanted dad to come up and help build a new jumping hill there, which was the Rood Mountain jumping hill. So in the early years, why I lived with my parents in the Sun Valley Lodge. And dad would take me on occasion out to Rood Mountain, and he would build me a little takeoff right at the bottom of Rood Mountain. And I would watch the big boys jump and then I'd go up and do a little jumping at the bottom of the hill. So that's where I got my start. It was in ski jumping, not alpine skiing. The other thing that I should probably mention is I had the opportunity of meeting a lot of dignitaries in Sun Valley in those years, and one of the dignitaries was Gary Cooper, who had a room right next to my parents in the Sun Valley Lodge.
Alan Engen: |00:04:20| Gary kind of took a liking to me as a little guy. And so he'd take me around all kinds of places and I would walk around there and I thought I was sure a big shot. Gary Cooper looked like a God to me. He was tall and handsome, and I thought, Boy, what a guy he is. But back to the question on my father as I look at my dad and I even wrote a little article on it, and I think I gave you a copy of it that I wrote many years later. But to me, my dad represented the best of everything. He was not only an outstanding athlete and could do just about anything. I mean, he was good at any, though he was strong, he was physical - he was the epitome of excellence, in my opinion. But he was also a good man. He was also a very good man and I give an example of that when I just turned 16.
Alan Engen: |00:05:20| I got my driver's license and I've gone up to Alta in my parent's car to jump in a ski meet-up there, Alta's Landes Hill, and on the way down from the event. It happened to be in the early part of the season and there was ice down there at the bottom of the canyon. And lo and behold, I lost control of the car and I went off the road and ended up in the creek. I wasn't hurt, but the car was totally demolished. Well, they called up to my dad and my mother was really upset about it. And dad came down and he took a look at the car and he took a look at me and knew that I was OK. And he went over and whispered to the officers who were there, just said, take the car home, don't take it away, just take it and drive it and put it right in our driveway. So for the next half a year, as I finished out my school year at Olympus High School, every morning I'd get up and that's what I would see out in the driveway. Dad never said a word to me about wrecking his car, but he wanted to send a message to exactly what I did and that I would remember it and I did.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:26| That is really a great story. I want to go back to your Sun Valley days. About how old were you when you were up at Sun Valley?
Alan Engen: |00:06:35| We started there, probably in the mid 40s, so I'd have been about five years old, something like that. And when we came back to Utah, it was after dad completed his assignment as coach of the 1948 Olympic team. So I was about eight years old when we came back here to live in Salt Lake.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:53| You know, it's interesting going back into that history. There were very few ski areas back in that time period. There were a few here in Utah and, of course, Sun Valley. But the sport was really starting to grow after the end of World War Two. And, you know, I imagine that you at that time were six, seven, eight years old. I mean, did you have a sense growing up in the Engen household that skiing was a pretty big deal and was becoming more popular?
Alan Engen: |00:07:19| Well, I knew that skiing was growing. The reason I knew that is because I was going up to Alta just about every chance that I had to ski and I could watch the traffic and I could see more and more cars coming up to Alta all the time. So I knew the sport was on the map, but I didn't know exactly how it was going to grow. And I think my father played a big role in helping to develop that growth through the Deseret News Ski School. Because it was a free ski school, it was community outreach. And that brought in virtually thousands of people that got their first start of skiing through the Deseret Ski School.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:03| And you ultimately became an instructor and helped with that growth. You started instructing when you were just a teen, right?
Alan Engen: |00:08:10| Oh yes, I started … dad was instructing me when I was still just a very, very young boy because he put me in the classes with the young kids, and then I'd go out and help the young kids learn the basics of skiing. But I taught in the Deseret News Ski School for a long time. Eventually, I was when dad had retired. I took it over for a few years. And so the Deseret News Ski School is not running right now, but it was probably one of the longest running community outreach community ski schools in America. It was over 50 years before it finally terminated.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:49| And did it operate at multiple ski areas?
Alan Engen: |00:08:52| Yes, it did. When dad had it, we had the ski school running at a different location every week and would run probably as far north as Pocatello and as far south as the southern part of Utah. But all of the ski areas in between that area were there every single week putting on the ski school.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:17| So let's talk about your career now. You started instructing as a teen and how did your career in skiing progress from that point?
Alan Engen: |00:09:27| Well, I yes, I taught, but I taught as an amateur, not as a professional. And I grew up in competition. Dad told me at a very early age, he said, Alan, he said, you don't have to follow me in competition if you don't want to. But, he says, I'l give you one piece of advice. He said, If you want to be an instructor, be an instructor. If you want to be a champion skier and in athletic competition, do that, but don't try to do them both at the same time because the temperament isn't the same. In competition, you have to be fierce, you have to be focused, you have to have a drive and you have to be just almost on the mean side. To be an instructor, you're just the opposite. You have to be kind and look at the benefit of what you are giving to the people that you are teaching. So he says, my advice to you is picking what you want to do and then go do it. So with that in mind. I said, well, for a while, I want to do the competition side.
Alan Engen: |00:10:33| I wanted to go and I wanted to be in competition, which I did all through my junior year. Ended up going to the University of Utah on a scholarship with a good friend of mine, Jim Gaddis, who's in the Hall of Fame here as well. And we kind of co-captained the University of Utah ski team for a number of years. Following that, I was able to join the US ski team and skied competitively in Europe for a couple of years. And so that kind of is the way I took. When I came back from skiing competitively, I went back into teaching, I took the certifications. Actually, I went through certification twice for full certification, but then got more heavily involved. And in my later years, of course, I had the opportunity of being with my father while he was still at Alta. And that was a real treat for me because I was able to be with him a lot at that time. And when he retired, why then I kind of stepped into his shoes.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:36| So let's go back to the early days of competition and this would have, I imagine, have been into the 50s. Now, when you're in high school, you went to Olympus High School on the east side of Salt Lake City. Jim Gaddis went to Salt Lake City East High. You really ... there was really a competitive high school program back there.
Alan Engen: |00:11:58| It was. It was called the Knudson Cup. If anybody remembers that, that was the big state championship of high schools and skiing. And yes, there was a whole bunch of schools that fielded teams, but to win the Knutson Cup, that got bragging rights for a whole year after that. And the competition was good. You know it as I think back, I remember other skiers like Marvin Melville, who went to East and he won the Knudson Cup. Jim Gaddis won the Knudson Cup. I won the Knudson Cup. So, I mean, there were a whole number of people that played an influence in that time frame. And yes, to answer your question, junior racing and junior competing in all events. I mean, I'm not talking just alpine, I'm talking Nordic as well. Was big in those years and that was sort of the things that we competed in on a weekly basis.
Tom Kelly: |00:12:55| So high school racing really has gone by the wayside since then, but collegiate racing is still strong. It is. The Utes are continuing to be strong. National Championship team, I think 14 national titles so far. Are you still a Ute fan at heart? Are you rooting for the ski team?
Alan Engen: |00:13:14| You better believe it. I am. That'll be forever. I'm very proud of what the current Utah ski team is doing, because back in the days when Jim and I were skiing, why it was pretty primitive. Not that we were the first to compete on the collegiate side, but we were in the early years. And the kind of conditions and equipment that we had to compete on doesn't even compare to what they have today.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:43| Yeah, it really is amazing to see that evolution. I, of course, was not here to witness that, but just having looked at the history and you know, you can and knowing some of you knowing you and knowing Jim Gaddis and some of the others, there was a real passion for competitive skiing back then.
Alan Engen: |00:13:59| No question about it. And you know, I think that passion was one of the reasons why Jim and I were able to move ourselves up through the ranks because, you know, as the eastern skiers that really carried the dominance in the years that we were there and Jim and I were pretty much by ourselves, but we both had a very, very strong, intense competitive spirit. And I think the two of us working together, I think in some ways we pushed each other up the ladder, and I think that's why we were both successful.
Tom Kelly: |00:14:35| Alan, you went on to a different career. You left skiing for a little bit, you moved to Kansas City, you worked for Hallmark. Tell us about that period and then we'll bring it back to Alta when you returned.
Alan Engen: |00:14:47| Well, there's kind of an intermediate step in there that when Barbara and I graduated from the University of Utah, I had gone through ROTC and so I took my oath of office the same day as graduation up at the university, and that would have been in 1963, and we left the next day on active duty, so that's what got me into the service and that was how actually I was able to compete competitively in Europe during those years is because I was put on orders from the Department of Army to represent the United States in international competition. But following my years in the service, I did go to hallmark cards. I was hired at Hallmark cards and I was a manager there for about 10 years in the graphic arts area. And I, of course, had wonderful years there, but not too much skiing. I'd come back occasionally to bring my family back and I usually jump in the Alta gelande or something like that, but not much in the way of skiing. But when we did move back and this was in 1978, I got back into skiing in a big way. By the time I was here, I was probably in my early 40s and I work for Hercules Incorporated. I was in computer technology. I started as a staff assistant and went out to become a manager there at Hercules as well.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:16| Did you feel a lure, though, to get back into skiing that sport that you'd grown up with?
Alan Engen: |00:16:22| Well, I have to tell a story that my wife tells, she says. One day we were having some big thunder clouds or something that were drawing over our house in Kansas City. And I looked up and I said, You know, Barbara, those look awfully like mountains. And Barbara said, Well, that's when I knew that we had to move back. So, we did.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:43| I know exactly what you mean. I'm a flatlander myself. I grew up in Wisconsin. Ironically, we have a son who works for Hallmark cards. He's been there for, I think, 25 years now. And I know that when I'm in Kansas City, there are no moms. I usually got to look at the cloud pretty flat.
Alan Engen: |00:17:00| But Barbara says when she said she heard me say that the clouds look that way, she says we probably ought to find a way to get back to Utah. I.
Tom Kelly: |00:17:07| Well, and you did, and you actually went on to become the director of skiing at Alta.
Alan Engen: |00:17:13| Yeah, I started in 1992. I took over as the ski school director and I directed the ski school from 1992 to about 1998. Dad had passed away by that time, and then they said, Well, Alan, it's time for you to move into your dad's director of skiing shoes. So they moved me in. And to my knowledge, there have only been two directors of skiing at Alta. And dad was the first and I was the second.
Tom Kelly: |00:17:42| Yeah. Did you take a lot of pride in following in his footsteps?
Alan Engen: |00:17:47| Well, I don't think anybody really follows in my dad's footsteps. He said some pretty deep tracks for me to follow, but I always had him as my idol. I would say I really, truly felt of all of the athletes that I had the privilege of knowing in my lifetime. I thought probably my father was the one that I'd like to most closely emulate.
Tom Kelly: |00:18:10| Yeah, he was an amazing man, and we're going to talk more about him after the break. I want to talk a little bit about your passion for history and during this time, you also started to write your first book For the Love of Skiing, and that came out in 1998 and First Tracks coming out in 2002. What instilled that sense of history and preserving the past in you, Ellen?
Alan Engen: |00:18:36| Well, it's kind of roundabout, probably at all started with me becoming involved in the early stages of the Utah Ski Archives Program with Dr. Greg Thompson, Susie Raemer. I was an instructor with her husband, John, up in the ski Alta ski school, and she also worked at the University of Utah. And so she had been a promoter of saying, You know, we better start gathering a little bit of history around here. So she talked to Greg Thompson, and one thing led to another. In one day, Susie and Greg came up and brought dad and myself into dad's office in the ski school. And Susie presented an idea of starting the Utah Ski Archives program with dad's scrapbooks. The scrapbooks that my grandmother, Martha Engen had put together for my father, and there were seven or eight or nine of them. I mean, they were big scrapbooks and dad said, sure. And so I said, Hey, that's kind of a cool idea. I'd like to be a part of that. So I kind of signed on as an early charter member of the Utah Ski Archives. And it was during the early development of the ski archives that I started saying, you know, maybe it would be a good idea if we had a showplace for some of the stuff that we're talking about here. We talk a lot about it. We have a place to show it in the scrapbooks, but we had to have a place that people can come and actually see what was going on.
Alan Engen: |00:20:13| So I started talking around a little bit and building the idea of that, and it took hold when I started to develop the idea and get people involved in the idea of a ski museum, it became very obvious that we didn't have a whole lot written about ski history in this area. We had a little bit. We had Alexis Kellner that had a book out. We had Charles Keller, who had written a book about the mining era at Alta. But we didn't have a whole lot, and I got to thinking with my father's encouragement because he wanted me to write a book and I'd never given much thought to it. But I said, OK, let's do this. So I spent a lot of time in putting together this first book for the love of skiing. And the way I approached it is that I didn't want to just talk about dad and my uncles and all the things they did. I wanted to tie it into the big picture of how this all came about from the early development of skiing all the way through bringing it in here to Utah. So that was kind of the emphasis that I was drawing from. And when I finished my book, I had a manuscript and I didn't know what I was going to do with that manuscript.
Alan Engen: |00:21:30| And it was kind of funny because about three or four days after my dad passed away, I got a telephone call right out of the blue, and it was from Gibbs Smith. Gibbs was on the phone and he says, I understand that you have a manuscript that you put together on ski history. And I'd be very much interested in publishing that if it works out. So I took my manuscript up to Logan, where he had Gibbs Smith's publishing, and he took a look at my thick manuscript and it was about two inches thick at the time. And he says, I'm not even going to read this right now, but he says, I'm giving you an assignment. You take it back to your house and you cut it in half and then you come back and you talk to me again because he says it's far too much to put in one book. And he says there's probably a lot of extra stuff in there that we really don't need to talk about anyway. So I did that and probably one of the hardest things that I ever had to do was to go back into my own writing and have to scrap a lot of stuff that I had written because I fell in love with all my writing. So I thought it was all good.
Tom Kelly: |00:22:37| So. And you know, this is not the digital age yet, so this is all probably typewritten.
Alan Engen: |00:22:45| Oh yeah. Manuscript pages. Yeah, absolutely. I had a really fine instructor that worked for me and the ski school at the time by the name of Dr. Syd Jensen and Syd was a writer. And so I would have him come in in the morning and he'd sit down with me and he'd go through and he'd do a lot of the preliminary editing on the book. And so that's how we got around that aspect of it.
Tom Kelly: |00:23:08| Editing is a thankless task, and especially if you're a writer to edit your own work and essentially eliminate history, but you have.
Alan Engen: |00:23:17| And the interesting part of it is after we did the first book, Gibbs Smith says, you know, we ought to have some sort of a book to highlight the upcoming 2002 Olympics. And so I talked to Greg about it and Greg Thompson, and we agreed to work together on a follow-up book. And a lot of the material that I didn't cover in the book For the Love of Skiing went into that second book, First Tracks A Century of Skiing, but that came out right at the time. The Olympics in 2002.
Tom Kelly: |00:23:59| Yeah, it's amazing to look back at these, you know, that's the one thing about editing is you can take it out, but then you've got material for the next
Alan Engen: |00:24:07| Book, for the next book. And that's exactly the way that worked in this case.
Tom Kelly: |00:24:11| Well, they're amazing books, and they really document, for sure, the history of skiing in Utah, but more broadly document a period where skiing was going through this real metamorphosis. And these athletes from Europe, particularly your father and other athletes from Norway and Austria and other places were coming over and really forging a completely new culture and sport. It is. And I often look at this with sport. It's not just about the activity itself, it's about the lifestyle and culture that pervades it. And skiing just manifests that so well.
Alan Engen: |00:24:49| Well, I've mentioned it, I think to you a couple of times and to others that I've kind of felt like my role in the ski world has been as a bridge. As a bridge from the old to the new, because I've been involved in it, I've been involved in the early stages with some of the early pioneers. I grew up with them, I knew them and I've taken it all the way in too well. I'd say into the 2000 era, and I've known a lot of champions there, so I have covered a good number of years in the process.
Tom Kelly: |00:25:26| Know it's important to have that bridge and you know, you've talked about a number of others, Dr Greg Thompson being foremost among them. Susie Raemer, who was instrumental in the early days of the Utah Ski Archives, and it's really important that we carry that forward. I mean, one of the reasons I wanted to do this podcast was to ensure that we also helped to carry that engine name forward, and we're going to talk more about the engine family and Alf, in particular, when we come back from the break. Before we go to the break, though, just one other area I wanted to touch on. You were honored by induction into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame around 2004. I remember being with you and actually you were at a pretty star-studded class up there and Ishpeming. But what did that mean to you to be recognized much as your father had been years before in the National Hall of Fame?
Alan Engen: |00:26:19| Well, you know, you asked me a question on that some time ago and I thought a little bit about it and I thought, you know, the thing that sticks out to me is I've had the opportunity to be involved in a lot of very nice events. But it struck me that that particular evening and time that I spent in Ishpeming, with the National Ski Hall of Fame, has to rate right up there at the top. And it wasn't so much the fact that I was with, like you say, star-studded athletes. You know, Picabo Street was with me at the time that we went in. Donna Weinbrecht, you know, I was with a lot of the big stars, but it was the people that surrounded the Ishpeming Marquette area that really got my attention the way they did it in such a professional way. They even got the kids, these young kids, to actually create songs for the ones that were being honored there that they sang that night for the induction ceremony. And then, of course, one of the very highlights for me was the fact that the famous Tom Kelly was actually the one that put the ribbon around my neck. So I had it all together, and I fondly remember that time period.
Tom Kelly: |00:27:41| Well, thank you. I remember that night so well, and you know it is. It is about that culture and about that lifestyle, and they do it so well up there. It's just the roots of the sport. And you know, I hope as we move forward in skiing, I've skied for 50 years now. You've skied for more than that, but I hope that the next half century of skiing, we don't lose that feeling, that culture, that connection to other people who have this interest in this amazing sport.
Alan Engen: |00:28:07| You know, the one thing that I have noticed as I've watched the sport developed is in the early years, there weren't that many of us that were skiing. And so virtually when we go skiing, we knew virtually everybody on the hill. And today you go up and you're lucky if you find one or two that you can even recognize. So the sport has really grown, but I can't say that it has grown in the way that you can remember fondly because you don't know everybody. You're just one of many in this time period. But I will say this that with the new equipment and the new techniques of skiing and the new lifts and everything that's gone in, that is what's brought forward the advancements in the sport. And I like you, I hope it continues for many years to come.
Tom Kelly: |00:29:01| You know, the knowing other people is a really big thing, and it's one of the things that I feel when I'm at Alta. I feel like I'm a part of a family there and the staff and my fellow skiers out there. We all feel like we're a part of the same thing. My best ski day last year was actually up at Beaver Mountain and I went up by Logan. I went up on a Tuesday to do a podcast interview and I went out to ski with Travis, the owner. And there's not a lot of people on the mountain at Beaver Mountain on a Tuesday. And he knew everyone, you know, it was just a friendly thing. I tell people we skied for two and a half three hours, but only did five runs because we were just talking and having fun. And isn't that what skiing is about?
Alan Engen: |00:29:45| That's what it's all about. And you bet, and I hope that tradition and I hope that feeling will continue in the future because it is very, very important that we maintain
Tom Kelly: |00:29:55| That we're going to take a short break. We are with Alan Engen. We are talking about the great Engen family and when we come back, we're going to talk about the legendary Alf Engen. We're going to talk a little bit about Alta and explore a little bit more. The Alf Engen Ski Museum up in Park City. This is Tom Kelly with Last Chair the Ski Utah podcast. We'll be right back.
Tom Kelly: |00:30:18| We are back now with Alan Engen on Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast, and Alan, thanks for exploring so much territory in the first half of our podcast. I want to move now and talk a little bit more about your father, Alf Engen and also his brother Corey and Sverre. And I want to start out with a quote that I think it's from you, from one of your books, but it's something that really, to me was really quite poignant and looking at the Engen story. "As I was growing up, I saw my father and uncles as living day representatives of winter legends of Norse mythology. I imagined all of the Engen brothers with their great physical strength, competitive drive and love of winter as evolving into skiing icons. And in truth, they actually have."
Alan Engen: |00:31:16| Yes, that's true. And I and I felt that way all along is that, you know, I never really felt that perhaps the impact that my dad really had on the sport until I started competing myself. And I can remember my first competitive event was on Landes Hill up in Alta, and I was just a young kid and I jumped on one of the lower takeoffs down there. And I remember my first jump. It was just a qualifying jump. But I did miserably. I took a terrible spill and at the end of that, I remember going over and sitting down under a tree and just crying my heart out. And my dad came over and he said, Alan, what in the heck are you crying about? Get up there and do another jump. You can do better. And I said, Yeah, dad, but the other kids don't have to win. I do. And so that was where it really hit me that the impact that my dad had on me was real. And I felt it. I felt it at that time. Well, dad said, Forget about it. Just go up and have a good time. Just go jump and do the best you can. And that's good enough for me. So I went and luckily enough, I did win the tournament that day. I did win, but I didn't get off to a very good start to begin with.
Tom Kelly: |00:33:00| Well, that's what sport is about. It has its ups and downs, and I think your father, Alf Engen, was an amazing coach just to orient us. Where exactly is Landes Hill with reference points that we would know today
Alan Engen: |00:33:13| If if you were to go up to the new Snow Pine Lodge, which has been rebuilt and is a beautiful facility, beautiful lodge right now, and you would look just across the hillside from that, you would see the remains of the old Landes Hill. It's not there anymore. They've taken down the judge's hill, but the hill is still there. But if you'll notice that they've got a transfer tow that runs along the flat of the hill, so you couldn't do anything with the run out anyway. But that's where the old Landes Hill.
Tom Kelly: |00:33:46| Was there was an actual ski jumping scaffold there?
Alan Engen: |00:33:49| Oh, absolutely it is a matter of fact. When Ecker Hill kind of died away, Landes Hill became the new Ecker Hill. It wasn't near the size of Ecker Hill, but it was the one that was used the most for jumping during the 50s and the 60s and into the 1970 era.
Tom Kelly: |00:34:07| And when they started to do gelande at Alta, where were those held? Were those in a similar location?
Alan Engen: |00:34:13| No, not really. The first gelande was held at the bottom of what is now known as Alf's High Rustler. They had an old mind dump that was down there, and this would have been probably in the 1962 era and that's where the first tournament was actually held. We built it so that it would go up and it would shoot you very, very, very high in the air. And if you weren't careful, you could out jump the hill and you land on the flat, which I did. So that was for the first one. And then they moved the gelande tournament over to a mine dump coming out of one of the main runs at Alta. And so that's where it was held. It was over by the Collins lift.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:00| Let's go back to Alf and actually before he ended up at Alta, before Alta even existed. How did the Engen brothers find their way from Norway to America?
Alan Engen: |00:35:11| Well, you know, that's kind of an interesting story. My father is the oldest of the three brothers, and my grandfather died in Norway of the Spanish flu in 1918, and he was 31 years old at the time. He was a great athlete too, and had taken my father and my uncles and taught them the formation of how to ski in Norway. And so after my grandfather died, my father had to step into the role of being the head of the family over there with my grandmother in order to keep the unit together. So he did that and he worked in Norway during the summer months and would ski in the winter. And Dad was already a powerful ski jumper when he came to America. He was well known and he was also a soccer player. And as a matter of fact, some people often have made the mention that he was a better soccer player than he was a skier. But he was a great soccer player, and he wanted to come to the United States to make some money so that he could go back to Norway and have some money to help the family.
Alan Engen: |00:36:37| Well, he came to came to America in 1929, not knowing a word of English, and he was about 20 years old at that time, and he worked his way from New York up into the Chicago area, and he got some work with some Europeans there that were building, you know, they were doing rock work and they were doing much labor. But among them were a bunch of soccer players that knew a little bit about skiing, and they invited my dad to go and take a look at a jumping hill that was just outside of the Chicago area. So Dad went with them and he said, My golly, they are jumping there. And he saw an old man at the bottom of the hill, and he was holding a pair of old jumping skis, and he dad went over to him and he said, sir, would you mind if I could borrow your skis and go up and take a jump? Well, dad was standing in the street shoes. He didn't have any ski equipment. He had just regular shoes. He just looked like an absolute novice. The guy says you're not fit to jump.
Alan Engen: |00:37:47| And dad said, Well, let me try. So dad tied on with some leather thongs. He put them around his feet and he went and decided he was going to go up and try a jump. Well, as he was walking up the hill there were no lifts at that place, so he had to crawl up. And as he was going up, all the jumpers that were there were laughing at him. They were saying, Who is this young guy? He doesn't even look like an owl or Nordic jumper. So dad went up and he tied the thongs around his feet and he took his first jump and he went all the way to the bottom of the hill and everybody was quiet. They just looked at him. Who is this guy that has come out of nowhere and is jumping like that? And my dad went over to the old man and he says, Would you mind if I tried another jump with your jumping skis? And the old man looked at him and he says, Young man, I don't know who you are or where you came from, but you can jump on my skis all afternoon and dad did.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:50| It's a great story. I had not heard that. Do you know, was that the Norge Ski Club?
Alan Engen: |00:38:56| I think it was at that time it was the Norge Ski Club that he was actually with. And actually, he made a mark that day. I'm in the news that here was this young guy that was just absolutely outstanding jumping. Nobody knew who he was. And so the early professional ski jumpers contacted dad and asked him if he would like to join them on the newly established professional ski jumping circuit. So that's how Dad got started. He. And it was a dream for dad because dad thought that he didn't even think there was snow in the United States, let alone be able to ski. But here he had the opportunity to start with a professional group and actually make some money out of it and travel around the country. And that's how it got started.
Tom Kelly: |00:39:47| Well, that period of the 1930s was really a heyday of ski jumping in America. Then there was this professional tour. There were jumps all over the East and in the Midwest, and there was in fact, actually a ski jumping competition held in Soldier Field, the big football stadium in Chicago.
Alan Engen: |00:40:05| It was actually my uncle Sverre and my dad jumped at Soldier's Field. That was the only time that my uncle. Members that he actually beat my father in competition was at Soldier's Field.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:20| Big upset.
Alan Engen: |00:40:22| Yeah, big, big upset.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:24| So after the and we should actually talk about the ski jumping right here in Utah at Ecker Hill, where he set a world record and Ecker Hill, if you know the Park City area, it's now what is the Pinebrook subdivision just off of I-80? There is a wonderful placard at the site of the old jump and some remnants up there as well. But Ecker Hill was really the epicenter of the ski jumping world for many years.
Alan Engen: |00:40:52| It was, and probably to lead into Ecker Hill. We ought to make mention of the fact it was another jumping hill, which was right where the Pineview Dam was located, called Becker Hill, named after the beer baron Gus Becker, who had a jumping hill built right there. As a matter of fact, the hill was right were, you know, the headwaters are there at Pineview Dam is where the hill was located, and that's what brought the professional ski jumpers to Utah. And it was right there at Becker Hill. That dad started his jumping here in Utah, and he liked it so much. He actually stayed behind and helped. And my uncle helped build the Ecker Hill to begin with. So that's how that got started.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:40| Just to clarify, Becker Hill at Pineview, that's Pineview Reservoir. That's up by Ogden Canyon.
Alan Engen: |00:41:47| That's exactly right. That's, you know, and it's, you know, Snowbasin isn't all that far away from that, but it wasn't there at that time.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:56| But things really progressed, and ski jumping was a big deal. How did he make the transition to becoming one of the pioneers of the Alta ski area, which started in the 1930s?
Alan Engen: |00:42:10| Well, dad jumped professionally from the early 30s through the mid-1930s. About the mid-1930s ski jump, the professional ski jumping group was starting to disband and a lot of that was because a lot of the jumpers were injured. They couldn't do it anymore. And so that period of the early dominance of professional ski jumping and people would come up by the thousands to watch them jump. I mean, there was a big deal, but also along that time frame, why were there other dimensions that were starting to take place. People were wanting to get out into the mountains themselves and not just watch people ski. They wanted to participate themselves. And so they were wandering out all over the place, and the Forest Service came and talked to my dad and said, Alf, would you be willing to help layout some areas where people can start to congregate so that we could bring them up and ski in a controlled environment? It was through the Forest Service. So Dad was hired by the Forest Service in the mid-1930s to go up and start taking a look at potential areas. One of the first that he talked about was Alta, because Alta was a known commodity. It had been around for a lot of years as a mining town. They knew it had plenty of good snow, but they wanted to see whether it would actually be good for a ski area. And Dad went up over Catherine's pass from Brighton into Alta. And stayed with a couple of miners by the name of the Jacobsen brothers.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:45| So Alan, he skied from Brighton up over Catherine's and down into what we know today is Alta.
Alan Engen: |00:43:53| That is true. That was the only way dad could get into Alta at that time. He did it in the middle of the winter, so he had to hike in. That was a powerful skier. He had strong legs so he could go through that deep snow all the way over Catherine's pass. But he came over it and he dropped into the Albion basin and at the foot of the Albion basin, there was a cabin and that cabin was one of the very few left miners at Alta by the name of the Jacobsen brothers, and they lived there together. And so Dad stopped in at the cabin and said, I'm here to kind of look over this area up here to see whether it might be a site for potential skiers in the future. And the Jacobsen brothers were very helpful. He said, Sure, take a look. You stay. If you want to stay here with us for a few days, do whatever you want. But dad didn't stay too long. He looked the area over and the biggest thing that he saw was a it was a great place for a ski area, but no to the miners denuded all of the tree coverage that held back the avalanches and dad. When he went back to the Forest Service, he said, You know, yes, let's go ahead and develop the area. But for gosh sakes, we got. To do something about the tree planting, we've got to put new trees in there, so it'll hold back the avalanches. So Dad actually became one of the early CCC foremen that went back into Alta with a team of young men and actually did a lot of the early replanting of some of the old timber that still remains up at Alta today.
Tom Kelly: |00:45:39| That's an amazing story. I hadn't heard that and did. He also was he also involved in laying out some of the early runs at Alta?
Alan Engen: |00:45:47| Dad, because of his involvement with the Forest Service, he was a special consultant and when the nod was given that we, yes, we are going to go ahead and put in a ski area at Alta. They needed to do some planning and dad was involved in the early planning. If you'd take a look at the early maps that are drawn out as to where the lifts would go and everything else.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:14| And from there, he actually became very involved. He became director of skiing. And that really became his life.
Alan Engen: |00:46:22| Well, yeah, a lot of things happened in between, you know, for example, when Dad laid out the area at Alta, that was before we actually moved back to Sun Valley. And so Dad went back to Sun Valley and spent a good portion of his years in the Sun Valley area. And then, after coaching the 1948 Olympic team, why came back to Alta? And then he went back into the actual operation of Alta. Up there at that time.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:50| At that time, in the late 40s and in the 50s, as we talked about earlier in the podcast. Skiing was really taking off. Alta was a premier destination and this was the place to be. It was the place to come and ski in the West.
Alan Engen: |00:47:04| Yes, I would say it was certainly one of the places. You know, we had other areas such as Brighton that had some skiing going on in the early days. But Alta came in kind of at the forefront because it was one of the early areas that actually built an uphill conveyance called a chairlift. Ok. There was another area called Sun Valley, Idaho that had put in chairlifts up there too, and they were a little bit ahead of Alta. But here in Utah, the old Collins chairlift was the first one to go in at Alta, so that drew a lot of attention. People didn't have to walk. They could actually ride up and it started it. I think something like 50 cents a ride or something like this, and you could go all the way up to a whole day of skiing at Alta for a dollar fifty, I believe. And that was about 1938.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:57| It's fun. We also had Katharina Schmitz from Doppelmayr USA, the lift company, on a recent edition of Last Chair, and we talked about the evolution of lifts. And, you know, today we have these high speed four packs, six packs, eight packs are coming. We have these fancy gondolas. But back then, a simple what I'll call slow double chairlift was the lift of the day.
Alan Engen: |00:48:22| Oh, absolutely. Double chairlifts - that was a big thing. Now what do we have? We have quads that are a lot bigger than that right now and go a lot faster. But yeah, when the double chairlift came, that was a big deal. The old Alta chairlift, though, was kind of a big thing. I mean, even some of the early chair lifts that were put in at Alta didn't have a back to them. And so when you sat on the seat, you were just sitting on the seat, you know, and hanging on to the hanging onto the rail
Tom Kelly: |00:48:52| And skiing was quite different then too. There weren't the kind of groomed runs. There was no snowmaking. There were none of the really manicuring tools that we have today. It was raw snow.
Alan Engen: |00:49:04| No, absolutely. And even when I, as a young skier, skied at Alta, and that came quite a bit later. But virtually, you could go up and you could ski a brand new, pristine powder run all day long and never crossed your tracks a second time. I mean, it was just that big, but it had a downside to it. And that was if people fell in the tracks and you, you were skiing down and you got your tip hooked into those holes. Why, you could take a big spill at the same time?
Tom Kelly: |00:49:36| Yeah, it was a different era. I want to talk about a signature run that is iconic for so many people. It's the run that looms over you when you come to Alta and that is Alf's High Rustler. Do you know much of the origin of that run and how it became popular? And you know what it meant to Alf?
Alan Engen: |00:49:58| Well, yes. What is known as Alf's High Rustler in the early days of development at Alta, which would have placed it right around the early 1940s, maybe even a little bit sooner than that, the actual run itself, the mountainside, was actually used and skiers would come up and they'd hike up. They even put a little tow in there. But it eventually developed into a place where it was very prominent. People would see it firsthand when they would come in. And in the 1980s, as a tribute to my father, because it was such a prominent run, they renamed High Rustler: Alf's High Rustler.
Tom Kelly: |00:50:45| It's such a signature run and it's a challenging run. I mean, it's a real badge of honor to ski that run. You have the long traverse from the top of the lift in the old days you had to hike it, but it really is that special run that visitors to Alta. They want to make that their closing run of the day.
Alan Engen: |00:51:04| Well, yeah. And if they did it, the closing run, that was pretty hard on their legs too. But they had the long traverse over and then it was not easy getting into the top of all High Rustler. But I will also say one of the best things about Alcide wrestler is they have a torchlight parade that they do at Christmas and New Year's, and that is really quite a deal to actually have to make that traverse when you can't see very well anyway, all the way over there and drop in and then make the run all the way down. That was a challenging time.
Tom Kelly: |00:51:39| Yeah, this is not the manicured run that you often see torchlight parades. Big, big, big, big bumps. Yeah, I want to talk a little bit before we close out about the Alf Engen Ski Museum, and it's a fascinating story. And you and your wife Barbara have told me this story, but it actually grew out of the fact that you needed something to do with all Alf's trophies.
Alan Engen: |00:52:01| That is true. You know, we as a family knew of all of my father's awards because he had him in his condominium down in Salt Lake and we were saying, OK, what happens when my father isn't around anymore? Certainly, it's deserving to have someplace where people could actually take a look and remember back of what dad had done in his lifetime. And so I guess I was one of the ones that kind of came up with a harebrained idea of, well, maybe we ought to have a museum not knowing at all what I was talking about, because none of the people that I knew had any kind of knowledge about what it would take to to put together a museum, a ski museum. But I was fortunate enough to bring together a very, very fine cadre of people that love skiing and loved history. And it was because of them and the efforts that was made from, you know, the outgrowth of the ski archives in the late 80s and into the early 90s that we were able to put together a plan for how to go about and build a ski museum.
Tom Kelly: |00:53:16| So the Alf Engen Ski Museum exists today. It is at the Utah Olympic Park. You had a great opportunity with the Olympics coming in 2002 to actually find a place, a building for this museum.
Alan Engen: |00:53:31| You know, it's been said a number of times, and I think it was started by a comment that Mike Korologos said that having the ski museum up there was a fortuitous situation that kind of came together at the right time. You had a figurehead like my father, which was very, very well known that you could build around and you also had the plan of having an Olympic Games coming, actually coming to Utah and to put that together. Yes, it made the ingredients for putting together something like this to happen up at the Utah Olympic Park. And I know that we looked around at a lot of different locations at the time as to where a ski museum could be placed, but it was probably Spence Eccles senior that really had a driving influence is an actual location because he said, Alan, if you're going to put a museum in of this caliber, you can't just put it anyplace. You've got to put it in a place where people will come and visit, not just once, but multiple times. And he says, in my opinion, where you need to put it is up at Utah Olympic Park, and that's what happened.
Tom Kelly: |00:54:46| This is truly one of the finest ski museums in the world. And while it is a bit regional in nature because of where it is and the subject matter, the quality of the displays, the scope of what is available in this museum is really unrivaled around the world. I know that you take a lot of pride in looking back at what's been built here and how it serves tourists and skiers and visitors from. All countries who come to visit Utah.
Alan Engen: |00:55:17| Well, I think that's true, and we had some initial goals that we had set out initially. The first one was that we didn't want it to be static. We wanted to have a place that continued to change because if you have just a place and everybody is seen at once, why, what's going to bring them back a second time? So we wanted to continually make it change all the time and give the visitors an opportunity and the wanting to come back and see what's new in the ski museum. The second thing that we had in mind in this came from my father because I, when we were talking to dad a little bit about having a ski museum, he says. You gotta make it interesting for the kids. He says, build it around the kids so the kids have an interest and they can see what is happening with the ski sport and they will want to become a part of it. So it's been those two primary driving forces that we've tried to adhere to.
Tom Kelly: |00:56:17| One of the fun things for kids. There are interactive displays where they can sit in a chairlift and get a sensation that they're actually going down the mountain or off a ski jump, or actually stand on a pair of ski jumping skis and soar off a scaffold.
Alan Engen: |00:56:33| Absolutely. And I think that the neat part to me is when I go up there on occasion right now and I see these groups of young kids coming up there to go with their classes to come up there is to see the smiles on their face as they go through the facility because they are learning, they are seeing there, they're feeling what was really like to be skiing in those days. And I think a lot of them will become a very active part of the ski community in the future.
Tom Kelly: |00:57:07| It's a great ski museum. It's located at the Utah Olympic Park, right at Kimball Junction, alongside of I-80, at the entrance to Park City. And they do have a great gift shop and I believe that you can actually purchase your two books For the Love of Skiing and First Tracks at the museum as well.
Alan Engen: |00:57:23| Well, I think they're still there, still for sale there.
Tom Kelly: |00:57:26| They are. I know I just got some a short time ago. Alan, thank you so much for this, for this great discussion of your father and your family and what they've meant to the sport. We're going to close out this edition of last share with a little section called Fresh Tracks, some fun, little short questions for you and just one to to to kick it off. Do you have that favorite ski run from your career that just brings back great memories?
Alan Engen: |00:57:54| Well, you know, I was thinking a little bit about that and I was thinking, OK, where was it that some of the early photos were taken of my father and myself, skiing in powder? And I have to say that probably the premier place that we would go to is Greeley Bowl. It had two special features to it. Number one, it was nice and steep, and it always had good snow. But it was a long run, so you didn't have to ride the lift back up to take another run. You could go with a photographer and make turns over there. And so as I think back of the times where I wanted to go a little bit by myself and take a run, I usually go over to Greeley and then ski hike really and all the way down to the bottom.
Tom Kelly: |00:58:47| You know, it's funny because I think that's one of the more overlooked runs at Alta. People have other places they want to go, Alf's High Rustler is on the other side. But I love Greeley Bowl and you know, I love it in the summertime. It is a great wildflower hike to get there.
Alan Engen: |00:59:02| It is absolutely beautiful.
Tom Kelly: |00:59:04| Greeley Bowl. Check it out on the trail map. By the way, speaking of trail maps, I didn't cover this earlier, but I have to hit it. You actually painted one of the early trail maps, or really the first, probably full trail map of the mountain.
Alan Engen: |00:59:17| Yes, I was hired by the area manager at that time, Chic Morton and Chic was wanting to put together something that highlighted Alta's 50th anniversary. I believe it was. And so he knew that I was. I was at the University of Utah, started studying art, and he asked if I'd be willing to do the first illustration, the first ski area illustration at Alta, which I did. And it was used for a number of years, and I think the original painting still hangs on the wall at the Sitzmark Club of the Alta Lodge.
Tom Kelly: |00:59:56| Yeah, it's amazing. And we're going to actually put this into the blog page. So if you're listening to the podcast, go to skiutah.com and you'll be able to see this original trail map. We've talked about a number of stories about your father, but do you have a favorite Alf Engen story? Favorite story of your father you can share?
Alan Engen: |01:00:18| Well, you know, I talked a little bit about how he got started jumping here in the United States, but I'm going to make a follow on to that after dad coached the 1948 Olympic team. He and my mother were invited by the Norwegian government to go back to Norway and see the changes that had been made over the years, and that's what he did. And this was in 1948, and when they got there, they had all kinds of celebrations and they said, all this ski hill, this ski jumping hill over here, and it was just outside of Mandal, Norway. He said, you set the record before you left Norway many, many years ago, and that record had a big sign at the bottom of it. The hill record set by Alf Engen and he said nobody has ever broken that hill record. Would you like to take a jump, another jump on that particular hill? And so dad said, OK, I'll try it out. So dad went up and lo and behold, he jumped it and he landed in the same spot, the same spot where he had broken the hill record many, many years ago.
Tom Kelly: |01:01:26| That is a great story. Where is that sign today?
Alan Engen: |01:01:30| The actual sign, I think, is still with the hill. It's just a little hill outside of Mandal, Norway, where my dad was born. It was probably closer to Drammen is where it was actually located.
Tom Kelly: |01:01:43| No one's probably ever beaten the record.
Alan Engen: |01:01:45| Not. As far as I know,
Tom Kelly: |01:01:47| We talked about your favorite ski run. Is there any really exotic place that you've skied before that you wanted to highlight?
Alan Engen: |01:01:56| Well, I've had the opportunity of skiing in many places throughout Europe and America. And I would have to say that the one place that really stood out to me was Zermatt. The reason why I say that is number one is it's absolutely is one of the most picturesque places that you can ever be with the Matterhorn right there. But the other was that it gave me one of the greatest challenges that I had. I was able to compete in what they called the Gornergrat Derby and there that you actually start up on the glaciers way the heck up there, you have to go up by train to get up there. And I remember the day that we had the competition there for the Gornergrat Derby, it was a really miserable day. You couldn't see anything. And so when we started out, when we started the downhill run, we had to start in fog and we didn't know basically where we were going. They set some tracks and flags that you kind of tried to get to the marker. And luckily it was flat. It was really flat on the corner, but you didn't want to get off the course because then you go on to a crevasse and then the lower part of the course was really steep. It was really steep. And by that time your legs were just dead tired. You were really hanging on for dear life, but there was about seven miles. That course was about seven miles, and anybody has tried to ski seven miles on a one-on-one run that's wearing on your legs. But I did. I was able to compete in that and I was able to finish, and I think I finished 10th, which was probably one of my better finishes in Europe at that time. So I do remember that place.
Tom Kelly: |01:03:43| Alan, just to close it off, maybe a little bit of a deep question, but as you think back at your life growing up with your father, Alf Engen and the experiences that you've had, the camaraderie, the Gemutchlikeit, all of those things that go with skiing, what is the sport mean to you?
Alan Engen: |01:03:59| Well, you know, it means an awful lot and I think to me, one of the I would have to say one of the things that I'm most proud of is that I, I am part of a skiing dynasty. I followed in the tracks of my father and my two uncles, who each of their own rights made major contributions to skiing. And when I went into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame, it made our family, the Engen family, the only family so far in any sport that we know of that has four members in the National Ski Hall of Fame. That I'm proud of.
Tom Kelly: |01:04:44| Well, you should be in. Truly, the Engen family are, as we talked about earlier, winter legends of Norse mythology. So Alan, again, thank you so much for joining us on Last Chair.
Alan Engen: |01:04:56| It's been an honor and a privilege to be with you, Tom. Thank you so much.