The idea of teaching blind people to cross-country ski began in Norway in the 1950’s with a blind Norwegian musician named Erling Stordahl. His work led in 1964 to the creation of the Ridderrenn, which today annually attracts more than 1,000 disabled participants and guides from around the world to the mountains of Norway for a week-long event.
The Ridderrenn concept was brought to the United States in 1975 through the efforts of Olav Pedersen, with the support and involvement of many others. Olav was at the time a ski instructor in Colorado and had immigrated from Norway a decade earlier. He had known Erling in Norway and been aware from the very beginning of Erling’s dreams and plans. The following article, written by Olav in 1995 just prior to the twentieth anniversary Ski for Light event, presents Olav’s recollections of those days in Norway, the first U.S. event, and his belief that his involvement with Erling Stordahl and the SFL concept was truly a matter of fate.
A Matter of Trust and Fate
by Olav Pedersen
Certain experiences in life, which first seem to have little significance, may later turn out to be a sign of things about to happen to you. And when people ask me, “How did you get involved with Ski for Light?,” I tell how one such experience transformed my life. It goes like this:
A young, blind musician and entertainer, Erling Stordahl and his two companions, also blind, came to my hometown, Voss, Norway, to give a concert. It was October 1952. I was working at the railway station and when the three arrived on the train that morning, I assisted them to their hotel nearby. As I was about to leave them, I said, “Good Luck.” Then Erling said, “By the way, would you be able to be our M.C. tonight?” I hesitated for a moment and then answered, “I’ll try, Erling.”
That night the three men turned my outlook on life almost upside down. The concert hall had never seen an audience more jubilant and appreciative; the applause wouldn’t stop. And later that night in an interview, Erling told me his life’s story. Since I also worked as a free-lance journalist at that time, the article I wrote about this young blind man was printed in several national newspapers. Today – more than forty years later – I wish I had saved that article, because I know that was what got me involved in Ski for Light. It bonded me to Erling in a manner which I personally explain as an act of God; it was part of my destiny, my fate.
I became even more convinced of that when in 1955, Erling again came to Voss, only this time on my invitation to entertain at the Norwegian Skiing Championships. As the chairman of the event, I was also host of H. M. King Olav V. One afternoon Erling asked me to meet with him in his room. It happened to be my 38th birthday. He made me curious about what he had in mind. He said, “Olav, what I am telling you now nobody else has ever heard, not even Anna. I have had this idea for some time that I will give up what I am doing now and try to start a program to teach cross-country skiing to blind people.”
Was I surprised to hear what he said to me? Yes, of course. Was he really serious? And why was he revealing this to me? But when he added, “I’ll tell you, because I trust you,” I knew he wanted an honest reaction to his idea, which he knew many people would find pretty crazy.
However skepticism could not stop him. His vision found understanding and support from the public, the media, members of the government and last – but not least – from King Olav and the Royal Family.
We all know the results of his groundbreaking efforts: The Ridderrenn and Beitost?len Healthsport Center, an institution for development of equal opportunities for disabled and able-bodied people.
In September, 1973 I traveled to Norway to seek Erling’s advice and help to try to export the concept to the U.S. As I explained my plan to him, I found that his trust in me was as strong as ever. He was glad to hear what I told him, and we reminisced about our conversation in 1955. We talked in some detail about how we could coordinate our efforts and laughingly he said: “We have to get the King with us.” With a strong handshake, I said good-bye knowing that having gotten his blessing of my plan, the next step would be to find interested people back home.
Luckily my friends in the Summit Lions Club were ready. A committee was formed and a year of regular planning meetings were conducted. We heard that some newspapers in Norway enthusiastically had endorsed the idea of an American Ridderrenn, and private persons wrote to us and encouraged us to go ahead. Soon our plans had settled on February, 1975 as the date for the first event, to be held in Summit County. But during the last few months of preparations it looked like economic shortfalls might threaten the final lap to our goal. And here is where the Sons of Norway Foundation came to the rescue. On February 17 (my birthday), we welcomed 40 blind Norwegian skiers and their guides to our very first Race for Light. Erling Stordahl and his wife, Anna, were among them. Also from Norway came some expert help from the National Guard to do the technical part of the event. Twenty American and Canadian blind people got their first experience in cross-country skiing. Some of them we will most likely see at this 20th anniversary.
We also know that Erling had planned to be here, but cancer didn’t give him the opportunity to once more show us that “If I can do this, I can do anything.” How we are missing you, Erling, and thanking you for helping us to sow the seed in the United States.
After that first event in 1975 the torch was passed to Bjarne Eikevik and the Sons of Norway. Race for Light became Ski for Light to emphasize the recreational nature of the program. A non-profit corporation was formed, and blind participants got involved in shaping the future direction of the program. In the years that followed, Ski for Light was nurtured by countless individuals and groups, and took root in the United States as a program that makes a real difference in the lives of its guides and participants. Erling, Olav and Bjarne are all gone now, but their work and inspiration lives on in the Ski for Light of today.
How We Got Our Name
by Raymond Bud Keith
The name “Ski for Light” came from Erling Stordahl, founder of the Norwegian Ridderrenn. Erling was full of metaphors. Instead of focusing on blindness and the absence of light, he focused on the unknown and enlightenment. So, in looking at the Norwegian culture, he used or created a metaphor from Peer Gynt. In the legend, a Norwegian knight, the ridder part of ridderrenn, needed to escape some bad guys. He came to an abyss and not having any idea of whether he could safely make it, leaped with faith and succeeded.
Erling equated this with the human struggle and pushed the need for us to try things where success was doubtful, and discover some previously unknown strength or ability within ourselves that help us succeed. It is the metaphorical struggle from ignorance to enlightenment. So in cross-country skiing, blind folks are enabled to ski from the ignorance of not knowing anything about the limits of our abilities to the enlightenment of learning that we can succeed at much more than we had ever imagined.
The first event using an English name, in 1975, was called “Race for Light”. Oral Miller and I were the first two blind folks who insinuated ourselves into leadership for the second event. We both insisted that racing and hard training for a race might fit in the Norwegian culture, but it wouldn’t fit in our culture for many reasons. We insisted on something more appropriate, so we switched to Ski for Light, keeping the idea of enlightening oneself regarding possibilities and deemphasizing the racing aspects.
- 2017: Granby, Colorado
- 2016: Bellaire, Michigan
- 2015: Granby, Colorado
- 2014: Anchorage, Alaska
- 2013: Bellaire, Michigan
- 2012: Provo, Utah
- 2011: Granby, Colorado
- 2010: Provo, Utah
- 2009: Provo, Utah
- 2008: Bend, Oregon
- 2007: North Conway, New Hampshire
- 2006: Granby, Colorado
- 2005: Granby, Colorado
- 2004: Green Bay, Wisconsin
- 2003: Anchorage, Alaska
- 2002: Granby, Colorado
- 2001: Green Bay, Wisconsin
- 2000: Granby, Colorado
- 1999: Anchorage, Alaska
- 1998: North Conway, New Hampshire
- 1997: Brainerd, Minnesota
- 1996: Spearfish, South Dakota
- 1995: Granby, Colorado
- 1994: Granby, Colorado
- 1993: Brainerd, Minnesota
- 1992: Granby, Colorado
- 1991: Cable, Wisconsin
- 1990: Brainerd, Minnesota
- 1989: Bozeman, Montana
- 1988: Fairlee, Vermont
- 1987: Traverse City, Michigan
- 1986: Duluth, Minnesota
- 1985: Frisco, Colorado
- 1984: Lake Placid, New York (cancelled)
- 1983: Cable, Wisconsin
- 1982: Spearfish, South Dakota
- 1981: Saratoga Springs, New York
- 1980: Traverse City, Michigan
- 1979: Squaw Valley, California
- 1978: Deadwood, South Dakota
- 1977: Woodstock, Vermont
- 1976: Lakewood, Minnesota
- 1975: Frisco, Colorado
- Scott McCall: 2014-Present
- Marion Elmquist: 2008-2014
- Larry Showalter: 2002-2008
- Nancy McKinney Milsteadt: 1996-2002
- Raymond (Bud) Keith: 1994-1996
- Scott McCall: 1992-1994
- Judith Dixon: 1989-1992
- Robert Norbie: 1988-1989
- Raymond (Bud) Keith: 1981-1988
- Bjarne Eikevik: 1976-1981
- Carl Platou: 1975-1976
Bud Keith, one of Ski for Light’s pioneers, was the only person to have attended each of SFL’s first 33 events. Prior to his death in 2008 Bud captured his memories and recollections of each of the first 32 events in this history. Rich in detail and anecdotal information, this chronology could only have been written by someone who viewed the organization as one of his life’s passions. Thank you for all that you did, and for these memories, Bud.
1975, Frisco, Colorado
Olav Pedersen, a Norwegian-American ski instructor who lived in Breckenridge, Colorado had worked for several years to import the idea of teaching cross country skiing to blind people in the United States. His idea was based on a Norwegian program called Ridderrennet that had been in existence for twelve years. One of Olav’s major contacts in Norway who supported the effort was Reidar Alveberg. Reidar had been a resistance fighter during the Nazi years, and subsequently became a wealthy businessman. He was an avid sportsman and was President of the Norwegian Ski Association.
Pedersen called his U.S. version “Race for Light” since there was really no equivalent for a translation of the Norwegian name, “Knight’s Race.” As the program came together, there were almost as many Norwegian military and national guardsmen as skiers. There were about twenty disabled skiers from Norway and Sweden and a few more guides. Among the blind skiers in the Norwegian group were two young men from Uganda that Reidar Alveberg had sponsored for immigration to Norway.
The 42 blind skiers from the United States and Canada stayed with local families while most blind Norwegian and Swedish skiers and all sighted guides stayed in the Holiday Inn in Frisco. Two of the U.S. skiers at this first event were a teenager named John Novotny, and a Washington, DC-based blind activist named Oral Miller. The Norwegian military and a binational national guard prepared and maintained tracks. They also served as ski guides for some of the skiers. Local Lions clubs provided transportation from the Denver airport to Summit County.
The Sons of Norway played a part in sponsoring both guides and skiers from around the country. Additionally, through the strong encouragement of its President, Tor Dahl, the Sons of Norway Foundation provided valuable financial support.
During the year before, a young Norwegian named Einar Bergh was Deputy Director and Vice Consul at the Norwegian Information Service in New York. After reading about the plans for the program, Einar’s boss encouraged him to coordinate publicity for the event. He also produced the first program journal. Einar was also Oral Miller’s part-time guide and was dubbed the first “skiing eye dog.” In subsequent years Einar became SFL Secretary, began the SFL Bulletin, generated thousands in corporate financial support, and was the SFL official mealtime announcer for many years.
Skiing was held on frozen Lake Dillon, just behind the hotel. On the final Saturday SFL held its first race. Colorado Governor, Richard Lamb, began the race as guide for Erling Stordahl, the blind Norwegian who actually began the program in Norway. Lamb wasn’t nearly as strong a skier as Stordahl, so he dropped off around the first bend and Norwegian Olympic champion, Haakon Brusveen, guided Erling for most of the race. (Brusveen had won the 15 kilometer event at Squaw Valley in 1960.) In the meantime, Lamb made his way across the race course so that he could guide Erling across the finish line. Olav’s wife, Suzanne, had been given the task of teaching Bud Keith to ski. Since he lived in Washington, DC, Keith was paired with Soren Sommerfelt, the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States to ski the race.
Erik Bye, Norway’s most famous entertainer, contacted some of his American media colleagues, including radio commentators Lowell Thomas and Eric Sevareid to help get this first event some coverage. As a result, Charles Kuralt of CBS was at the finish line and Ski for Light received its first national publicity. Bye had come with a film crew to produce a documentary of that event and it was widely shown around Norway for several years.
On one afternoon some of the Norwegian disabled skiers and their guides went to visit Breckenridge, nine miles away from the hotel. One of these was wheelchair user Vidar Johnsen. He found Breckenridge to be so inaccessible that he simply rolled his wheelchair all nine miles back along the highway to the hotel.
After the Colorado event, a number of Norwegian-Americans decided to hold a second event in Minneapolis. They formed an organizing committee that was later incorporated as Ski for Light. This name was chosen since it was recognized early that training for races and competition should not be the focus of such a program in the United States. The first president of the new organization was Carl Platou, a Minneapolis hospital administrator. After a hard fight, insisting that blind people should be involved in program planning, Bud Keith and Oral Miller, skiers in the first event were invited to join the planning committee and became members of the corporate board.
Many of the new Ski for Light board also formed another Minnesota-based corporation with Platou as its President to build the Vinland National Center, a healthsports Center to be modelled after the Beitostolen Helsesportsenter where the Ridderrennet is held each spring in Norway.
1976, Minneapolis, Minnesota
For this Minnesota event, all the folks from out of town stayed at the Marriott Hotel in Bloomington. Again there was a sizeable group of strong skiers from Norway and Sweden. There was an increase to more than 60 blind and visually impaired participants from the U.S. and Canada. The week was completely free for blind Americans, including plane fare provided by SAS. A Minneapolis-based businessman, Jan Haug, provided all the ski equipment and for several years provided this equipment below his cost.
Snow was scarce. Skiing during the week was at an in-town site, Theodore Wirth Park. Race day was held at Honeywell’s Minnreg Country Club in Lakeville, south of town. Members of the Minnesota Vikings professional football team were present, and former Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, presented awards. Einar Bergh’s brother, Kjell, a Minneapolis businessman, served as race announcer that day and served in that role seven times during the first ten years.
Erik Bye returned with a pianist, entertained the group on several occasions, and later reported his experience to his Norwegian audience.
Three people, two blind skiers and Olav Pedersen, were selected to attend the Ridderrennet, and a team has been sent ever since. Two men who attended SFL that year are Egil Almaas and Leif Hovelsen. There will be more to say about Egil later. Leif Hovelsen was another Norwegian resistance fighter. His father was Carl Howelsen who is credited with bringing ski jumping to the U.S. He performed with the Barnum and Bailey circus in the early 1900’s where he skied down an indoor track, jumped and flew over two elephants before landing. The jumping hill in Steamboat Springs is named for him. In his own right, Leif is internationally known as a major force in Moral Rearmament, now known as Initiatives for Change.
Immediately after the Minnesota event, Carl Platou stepped down as SFL president to focus on the Vinland Center. Bjarne Eikevik, a Norwegian-born businessman from Florida assumed the SFL presidency.
1977, Woodstock, Vermont
With Bjarne’s encouragement, the Third District of the Sons of Norway developed a committee to continue the program. Bud Keith and Oral Miller insisted that blind participants should pay their own way, so a modest charge was made and the rest was subsidized. This made a lot of sense because SFL had become fairly well known in the blindness community and the number of participants grew to more than 90. For the next eight or ten years SFL routinely turned down thirty or forty people to keep the numbers at around a hundred.
During the preceding summer, a Norwegian-American housewife, Grethe Twiford Winther was recruited to handle the paperwork associated with the event. She was a vital part of the organization for the next six years, replacing Einar as SFL Secretary.
Blind skiers stayed in the luxurious Woodstock Inn, and guides stayed in local homes. Bjarne wanted to put more focus on recreational skiing and the appreciation of nature, so SFL took a break on Friday from the golf course and planned a ski tour. It was the highlight of the week. The weather was glorious. Skiers carried their lunches and spent the whole day on the beautiful lumbering trails of Mt. Tom. It was so enjoyable for the Norwegians that they incorporated a picnic day into their program at Beitostolen the next year.
Another memorable part of the week was an evening of horse-drawn sleigh rides through the winter woods.
Some members of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team were recruited to work with the program. One of them was assigned to guide a fast Norwegian. Luckily this Norwegian had enough sight to ski alone, since at the 3 kilometer pole during the race he led the U.S. skier by a hundred meters, and he was nearly a quarter mile ahead when he crossed the finish line.
At this event SFL continued the practice of selecting a team of four official representatives to attend the Ridderrennet, but also invited others to join the group at their own expense.
This was the event at which Judy Dixon joined SFL. She hasn’t missed a year since, and she is the only person to hold all four SFL offices. She has also served as event coordinator more than anyone else.
Also joining SFL that year was a man who became its unofficial poet laureate, Marty Mahler. Marty was educated as an industrial engineer. After he lost his sight and couldn’t get a job he started a machine shop. Among the products he designed and manufactured were aluminum canes and bowling rails for blind people. During the 1990’s Marty conducted several major fund-raising campaigns that brought in many thousands of dollars.
Also joining SFL that eventful year were Stan Smith, Arne Landvik-Larsen and Kjell Skavnes.
After the Woodstock event several of the New England participants organized a weekend event, and that was the beginning of SFL’s regional programming.
1978, Deadwood, South Dakota
The Sons of Norway in South Dakota invited SFL to Deadwood. Most of the group stayed at the rustic Franklin Hotel, a real fire trap with shared bathrooms for most guests. The price was right, however, $92 for the week including seven nights and 14 meals. The food provided matched the price. It was terrible and not very nutritious. One dinner included potatoes, rice, gravy and green beans. Diners sat on long benches at trestle tables loading at one end with the first ones in being the last ones out.
Skiing was held at Deer Mountain Ski area. Although there were trails through the woods, there was also a lot of open space for practicing downhills. Friday’s ski tour went along a smooth and mostly straight old railroad bed. It was a few miles of a gradual climb to get to the picnic site, and a wonderful several mile downslope going home.
There were a few mobility-impaired sled users who spent their time on the small downhill run. The lightweight cross-country sleds in use today hadn’t been developed, and the sleds in use at the time were just too heavy and sluggish for most folks to move with just their arms.
This was the year SFL first tried to include a deaf-blind woman, Maureen Hogg. It was successful, but required an exhausting effort on the part of her guide, Jan Henriksen.
SFL learned that it was possible, and Maureen returned several more times.
One technique Jan used was to run his hand across Maureen’s back to indicate left and right turns. He’d run his hand up her back to warn of an uphill, and he said at the final banquet that all week he kept hoping for a really long downhill.
Most of the social life that year was spent at local bars, primarily the Old Style No. 10 Saloon. A dozen or so Norwegian students had been recruited from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to serve as guides, and they provided much of the saloon’s entertainment.
After a year in New Mexico with his family, Erik Bye came to Deadwood with another film crew, decked out in cowboy boots and a wide brimmed hat. This may have been the inspiration for several others who skied late in the week wearing Stetsons.
five people who began their long careers with SFL that year were Leif Andol, Scott Bertrand, Mary Kozy, Marvin Liewer and Rob Rasmussen.
The local host committee went to work planning a follow-up Ski for Light program, and the Black Hills Ski for Light has conducted a regional event ever since.
Bud Keith’s guide that year was Irja Skabo, a Norwegian flight attendant with Pan American Airlines. Several years later, Irja was working on Pan Am flight 103 when it was destroyed over Lockerbie, Scotland.
During the summer of 1978 Egil Almaas was approached to serve as SFL Treasurer. He had been a guide in the 1976 event and was quite active in the Norwegian-American community in Minneapolis. When Egil took over the books SFL was $51,000 in debt. This is when it became obvious that guides and skiers needed to cover their own expenses if SFL was to survive. Egil remained SFL Treasurer for eighteen years.
1979, Squaw Valley, California
The Sons of Norway in California invited SFL to Squaw Valley. Unfortunately, none of them had been involved in operating the early events, and no real planning had taken place. When an advance team arrived in Squaw Valley three days early, no local guides had been recruited, the ski touring center didn’t know of SFL’s pending arrival, dining arrangements for a group of more than 200 hadn’t been made, and no housing had been assigned. Five SFL alumni actually organized and coordinated the event in three days. Everybody pitched in. Even current and former Sons of Norway Presidents wound up hauling luggage for new arrivals.
Housing was difficult. Some people stayed four or six together in barrack-style cabins that had been built for the 1960 Olympics. One sighted guide, Brit Peterson, had to lead five totally blind women more than a quarter of a mile along a snowy narrow road to get to the dining room. Thankfully, the weather was spectacular, there was plenty of snow, and enough guides came from other parts of the country. Also, a strong contingent had flown over from Norway to participate in fund-raising skiathons being held in different parts of the country. For several years Reidar Alveberg had helped recruit hundreds of Norwegians who flew to the United States to help raise money for Ski for Light and the Vinland Center. Some of these Norwegian skiers happened to be nearby in California and were bussed in to serve as guides and the event turned into a big success.
On race day a young Norwegian guide hadn’t waxed her skis properly and couldn’t stay up with her blind skier, Harry Cordellos, a very competitive athlete. Harry followed the good tracks and skied the last mile of the race by himself with vocal guidance from the onlookers.
This was Brit Peterson’s first year. Another attendee in Squaw Valley was a Norwegian-American sculptor, Bill Osmundsen. Bill had created numerous magnificent bronzes that have been placed all over the U.S. and Europe. Bill announced his intention to create a major sculpture to honor Ski for Light.
Later in the summer of 1979, Bjarne Eikevik’s son, Steve, along with several other younger members of Sons of Norway organized a program of warm weather sports at the Land of the Vikings, a vacation property in Northeastern Pennsylvania owned by the Third District of the Sons of Norway. It was called Sports for Health and has continued as a summer program to this day. A few years later the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional SFL also became an annual winter event at the Land of the Vikings.
Also in 1979 the SFL board voted to make a name change. It was looking at ways to show a broader scope than skiing, so it legally changed its name to Healthsports, Inc. The letterhead showed four programs–Ski for Light, Ski for Light Regionals, Skiathons and the Vinland National Center.
1980, Traverse City, Michigan
One of the blind skiers at the Squaw Valley event, George Wurtzel, wanted to bring the event to his home town. He worked with the local Sons of Norway lodges and SFL received an invitation. Housing for disabled skiers was at the Park Place Hotel, a highrise in the middle of town. Most out of town guides stayed with local families. Skiing was at Ranch Rudolph, a forested area out of town. Many local guides were recruited and it was a true community experience.
Some staff from the fledgling Vinland National Center helped to coordinate activities for mobility-impaired participants. It turned out to be primarily a downhill program. One afternoon a skier lost control and hit a snowmobile parked at the bottom. He broke both legs. After extensive discussions, the SFL board made the determination that cross-country skiing should be its sole official activity.
At Ranch Rudolph the first SFL video, “If I Can Do This”, was produced with national Sons of Norway support. That video served well for fifteen years.
The man who coordinated skiing activities was an instructor at the local community college. What distinguished him from many of the others who have helped over the years is that he was seven feet tall.
Jean Replinger and Maria Hansen joined SFL that year.
1981, Saratoga Springs, New York
This was a very interesting and historic year. SFL was invited by the New York state Department of Parks and the New York Office on Disabled Persons. There was constant friction on who was calling the shots, but it eventually worked out. Not many of the participants were aware of the stress in the background
Most people stayed in the very distinguished Gideon Putnam Hotel in this historic park known for spas and horse racing. Many guides stayed next door in a staff dormitory. When the coordinating committee arrived at the hotel it discovered that Universal Studios was filming the movie, “Ghost Story”. For the week skiers shared space with Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr
Skiing was held on a world-class golf course. For two days everything was wonderful; blue sunny skies and really good snow. Then temperatures rose, there were two inches of rain and temperatures dropped to zero. The plentiful snow became two inches of solid ice. On Wednesday and Thursday there was no skiing. There was a lot of creative drinking and other social experiments. On Friday folks boarded buses and went north looking for skiable snow. They didn’t find any, so the whole crowd filled up a nearly deserted restaurant for several hours of merriment that really pleased the owner. However, a park ranger with knowledge of the local area was also out that day. He commandeered state-owned snow removal equipment, and went to a small park where he literally ground up about a kilometer and a half of ice for the next day. Despite the lack of identifiable tracks, there was a festive race and the week ended on a high
After serving as SFL president through five events, Bjarne Eikevik decided to step down. During the Saratoga Springs board meeting, SFL elected Bud Keith as its first blind president
Among the participants that year were Bill and Valerie Anders. Bill was an astronaut on Apollo 8, the first trip around the moon, and was the U.S. Ambassador to Norway under President Ford. He guided Bud Keith in the 1977 Ridderrennet. Coincidentally, J. Paul Bremer who was appointed as the U.S. Civil Administrator of Iraq in 2003 and 2004, had been the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Norway from 1976 through 1979. Bremmer guided Bud in the 1978 Ridderrennet
This was also the last SFL event that Erling Stordahl attended
A few weeks after the Saratoga Springs event, second time guide, Jean Replinger, sent a lengthy evaluation of her experience to the new SFL president. Jean was a professor at Southwest Minnesota State University and offered to help strengthen the guide training program. SFL had written a training manual and had offered some training to guides for several years, but it lacked organization. Jean went to work and at the beginning of the next year’s event, SFL had its first really structured guide training program. Subsequently, Jean served for many years as a guide, served many years as a Board member, served many years as coordinator of the SFL information center, and has offered substantial financial support for many of her students to attend as guides
Grethe Winther decided to step down as SFL Secretary and Leslee Lane, first time guide but long time friend, agreed to step in. She stayed for four years
1982, Spearfish, South Dakota
For the first time SFL was invited back to a previous site. After some difficult negotiation with the South Dakota host committee, housing was shifted from the very inadequate hotel in Deadwood to a modern Holiday Inn. It required nearly a half hour longer bus ride to the ski area, but it was much more suitable for SFL’s numbers and needs
SFL was now regularly gathering a community of 250 disabled skiers and guides, and had break out meetings each afternoon after skiing. Also, by this time, SFL realized the benefit of having all participants together at breakfast and dinner to facilitate communication. There was nothing really new or unusual during the event. There was adequate snow and good weather
This was the first event for Joanne Jorud
1983, Cable, Wisconsin
At the suggestion of midwestern guides, SFL decided to hold the 1983 event at the home of the Birkebeiner, the largest cross-country ski race in the United States, and named for a famous citizen race in Norway. Most guides and skiers stayed in the sprawling main lodge in hotel rooms. Twenty or so guides stayed a hundred feet away in a hostel. Once again SFL had very substantial support from the Sons of Norway, both as ski guides and as support volunteers
The trails were fairly narrow for SFL’s needs, and snow was sparse. By the end of the week the weather had warmed up to the point that, on race day, most skiers crossed the finish line with their skis under water
After four years of confusion and the failure of achieving a new name recognition, SFL officially changed its corporate name from Healthsports, Inc. Back to Ski for Light, Inc
1984, Lake Placid, New York
This is the event that never was. Two weeks before several hundred guides and skiers were scheduled to arrive, Lake Placid had five days of continuous rain and twenty inches of snow washed away. In an emotional telephone conference call the SFL board agreed to call off the event. Board members formed teams and called all skiers, guides and volunteers and only missed four. Three folks had already hit the road by the time of the cancellation and drove to Lake Placid. Thankfully they were the adventuresome and philosophic type. They confirmed the decision since all they found was mud
Several folks still went to the Ridderrennet. While there Bud Keith met Lisen Wikant who had visited the U.S. on one of the Norwegian skiathon teams. Lisen is a certified tourism guide in Oslo and offered to coordinate tours for the SFL team for the next year. She’s been doing that ever since
1985, Frisco, Colorado
For the tenth anniversary Olav Pedersen and the people of Summit County invited SFL back. Many people stayed at the same Holiday Inn, and others stayed at another hotel just across the highway. Skiing was held at a different location, the Frisco Ski Touring Center, and the gymnasium of the local high school was used for the talent show. The final banquet and awards ceremony was held at the Beaver Run Resort. The last scheduled bus didn’t return for the stragglers, and several dozen folks were stranded until after 2 a.m
To commemorate the first ten years of Ski for Light, a guide and SFL board member, Barbara Rostad, produced a hard cover volume called “If I Can Do This …” containing many pictures, poetry and commentary from past participants. Jim Salestrom, a Breckenridge-based singer-song writer, composed and recorded a song about SFL and featured it in an album. Jim has become a special friend of SFL and has played an evening during nearly every succeeding SFL event held in Colorado
At the final banquet Bill Osmundson presented his model sculpture of a sighted woman guiding a blind man. The model, made in fiber glass, was flown in a crate to Denver by SAS. The finished sculpture now stands in Frisco, Colorado, within healthy walking distance of the Holiday Inn where everything started
This was the first year for Jeanne Anderson Mackenzie, Jean and Gordon Larson, Bruce Scharfenberg, Doug Boose, Marvin Liewer and Maury Witteveen
Leslee Lane resigned as SFL secretary and Joanne Jorud agreed to take on our secretarial responsibilities. She has continued in one or more important roles ever since
1986, Duluth, Minnesota
This time SFL was invited by the City of Duluth. Almost everyone stayed at the Radisson in a circular tower. Folks skied at a local golf course, and used a giant tent as a warming hut. It was quite cold, but the wind off Lake Superior was somehow diverted and conditions were surprisingly good
The program for mobility-impaired skiers was almost dead, but a first-time participant, Jeff Pagels, decided it was worth continuing. Jeff had been a high-competition athlete and had only recently been injured. He found SFL to be his way to ski and compete again. He subsequently became one of the premier sit skiers in world competition. Through his enthusiasm and creativity the SFL sit ski program was reborn
Late in 1986 a Norwegian-American New York funds manager offered to help raise money and encouraged the SFL board to employ someone to work full time on financial development. A partially sighted participant, Laura Oftedahl, was hired and SFL found office space in Alexandria, Virginia. Several months into her new job the funds manager decided that SFL was not doing things as he thought they should be done, so he withdrew his promised support. Laura’s employment ended after only seven months
1987, Traverse City, Michigan
The local Sons of Norway were again interested in supporting an International Week in Michigan. SFL decided on a different hotel and ski area from our 1980 event. Most guides and skiers stayed at the Grand Traverse Resort. Plans had been to ski on the resort’s golf course, but poor snow conditions forced a search elsewhere. Quick arrangements were made to ski at Jellystone Park. Trails were winding and narrow. There were numerous painful encounters with trees, and there were several swollen knees when folks left for home
The highlight of the week turned out to be a blizzard, called an Alberta Clipper, that blew in on Saturday evening. It was so bad that the resort lost electricity and the blind participants wound up serving as guides for the totally helpless sighted people. The airport was closed, and most people were stuck until Monday. Luckily the hotel restaurant had plenty of food, so folks had breakfast by candle light and then with electric lights after power was restored
For the week, the hotel offered the SFL President a suite on the 12th floor of its new tower, overlooking the golf course and into Lake Michigan. The suite consisted of a large bedroom, a living room, two balconies, a dining room with an L-shaped bar for ten and two bathrooms, each with its own hot tub and television
1988, Fairlee, Vermont
The ramshackle Lake Morey Inn was the site of SFL’s second visit to Vermont. It sat on the shore of a lake, and as it grew, it followed the zigs and zags of the shoreline. The many twists and turns along with many level changes offered severe mobility challenges to everyone, –sighted, blind and those in wheelchairs
SFL was all set to have a week of somewhat limited skiing on a golf course, but this was decreased by rain and melting snow. For some people the most strenuous exercise of the week was a daily walk around the lake, about five miles
This was the height of the SFL hugathon tradition. Arne Landvik-Larsen took nearly a week to get the dining room matron to loosen up, accept a hug, and then break into a big smile
At the mid-week board meeting Bob Norbie, one of Jean Replinger’s former students, was elected to be SFL’s fourth president
This was the first year for Suzanne Brown
1989, Bozeman, Montana
Again, a local host committee invited SFL to visit their part of the snow belt. Most people stayed at a Holiday Inn. There were short loops and gentle slopes adjacent to the hotel for beginning skiers, and for the early part of the week at a downtown park for more advanced skiers. Race day was held at a beautiful ranch out of town where advanced skiers had been bused on Thursday and Friday. Fortunately there was good weather on that Saturday because there was no warming hut, and only frozen portable toilets were available for restrooms. Lunch was served at a local school house. This event was notable for its poor food service at the hotel
For years SFL had been operating a small sales room selling t-shirts, pins, and a few other items. An experienced sales person was recruited to run the sales room in Bozeman, and it was much more successful than in previous years
One of the visitors at this event was Jan Stenerud. Norwegian-born, he attended Montana State University on a ski scholarship, and after watching an American football game thought that his soccer skills would serve him well as a place kicker. Jan subsequently became the best place kicker in professional football history and is still the only man in the Football Hall of Fame who played no other position
Kjell Skavnes and Arne Landvik-Larsen were still the bosses of the ski fitting, but the skis came from Hank Clark of CCM-USA. Robb Rasmussen and Cathy Sandell had dined with him at the previous American Birkebeiner and told him about SFL. Hank was enthused and offered to provide the skis, which he did at no cost. As usual, skis boots and poles were provided to first time skiers at no cost, and ski packages were sold to anyone at a very nominal price. Many skiers signed a poster the local group displayed that said “Mange Tusen Takk to Hank Clark of CCM.”
During the following fall, a Minneapolis businessman and SFL board member, Tore Lund, organized an auction in Minneapolis. Surprisingly, it raised nearly $17,000, the largest single fund-raising effort to date
This was the first year for Nancy McKinney Milsteadt.
After only a year and a half as SFL President, Bob Norbie made a significant career change and resigned. Judy Dixon became SFL’s second blind leader and SFL’s first woman President
1990, Brainerd, Minnesota
Cragun’s Resort was the site of both housing and skiing. Cragun’s is another resort that grew over the years and followed the shore line of a lake. From one end of the hotel to the other there were three level changes and half a dozen turns. The hotel is approximately a quarter mile long. As a contrast to the preceding event, food at Cragun’s is always excellent
The golf course where skiing took place had several challenges, including a double road crossing, and the necessity of crossing a steep ravine. The ski tour required skiing across the frozen lake
This was the first event totally planned and coordinated by the SFL board without reliance on a local host committee. For all but two previous events it was practice to help develop a bid from a local host committee that would be responsible for on site volunteers, recruiting 20 or 30 guides, and raising around $20,000. It had become more and more difficult to find local groups who would raise that amount, there was a solid core of returning volunteers, and it was easier for an experienced board to plan an event
Following the success of the Bozeman store performance, Tore Lund proposed an expansion for this event. It was very successful
In the fall of 1990 Tore also ran another auction, and made more money than the year before
1991, Cable, Wisconsin
SFL returned to Telemark Lodge for both housing and skiing. Snow conditions were not good, and by the end of the week everything turned to ice. There was enough fresh snow for a race on Friday, but the narrowness of trails and two years of unreliable snow made SFL cross Telemark off the list for future consideration
Tore again operated the expanded sales room, and it was even more successful than the year before
Shortly after the Telemark event, Jeanne Anderson Mackenzie, who had been on the newly established site selection committee, suggested a resort hotel called the Inn at Silver Creek near Winter Park, Colorado. It was a struggling property that had been the ambitious creation of a local businessman. It was a time share property that was renting rooms. It was large enough for the usual SFL group, and it had ample banquet and convention facilities. It was struggling financially and offered very good rates. Not far down the road was Snow Mountain Ranch, also known as the YMCA of the Rockies. It had an extensive system of well groomed trails, and a ski center with food, restrooms and a ski shop
1992, Granby, Colorado
This was the introduction to the Inn at Silver Creek and Snow Mountain Ranch. Everyone found this venue to be almost perfect. There is a very reasonable bus ride between the hotel and ski area where there’s always fantastic skiing. There is plenty of snow, the tracks are just excellent for blind skiers, and the beauty of the mountains inspires the guides
The struggling hotel was in bankruptcy and their restaurant and bar areas were closed, but there was a small makeshift bar and adequate space to do what needed to be done
Several herds of elk had wandered close to the hotel to feed, and a hayride one evening took folks among the herds for really close up looks at the animals
Scott McCall, a skier from Atlanta, was elected as the third blind President. Scott was just in the process of leaving his job as Executive Director of the Atlanta Services for the Blind to become a Vice President of the American Foundation for the Blind, so Judy Dixon generously agreed to serve another six months. Scott stepped into office in September
A major project during the week was the production of a video to be used as a guide training vehicle
This was the first year for Marion Elmquist
1993, Brainerd, Minnesota
SFL again spent a week at Cragun’s Resort with the fine food and difficult ski conditions
This was the first year for Larry Showalter
1994, Granby, Colorado
Management at the Inn at Silver Creek made a very attractive proposal for SFL to hold the event for two successive years, so everyone returned to this excellent venue knowing that SFL would return the next year to celebrate its twentieth anniversary
The management of Snow Mountain Ranch had changed, but there was still the high quality grooming of their extensive trail system, and the snow was fine
Bud Keith was re-elected as SFL President
At the end of October, 1994, Erling Stordahl, the founder of the Ridderrennet, died of cancer
1995, Granby, Colorado
The 20th anniversary year was a repeat of good skiing. The Inn had upgraded its food service. Snow Mountain Ranch was as good as ever. Jim Salestrom, a Colorado-based entertainer produced a quality video that could be used as a general publicity and fund-raising tool. Lisa Wangberg also produced a video montage of photographs from past events
Ridderrennets Venner, the governing board of the Norwegian program, brought a group of talented blind skiers and experienced guides to the first event in 1975. They have organized a contingent from Norway for all of the events, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary they numbered nearly 60
1996, Spearfish, South Dakota
For the second time the Spearfish Holiday Inn housed SFL participants and for the third time skiing was held at Deer Mountain ski area. However, very little skiing took place. On the day that most people arrived a bitterly cold blizzard moved in. There wasn’t a lot of snow, but temperatures dropped to all time record lows. The actual temperature outside was 42 below zero with wind chills down to 82 below. The SFL spirit generated very creative indoor activities. There was aerobic hall walking, Japanese paper folding, an electronic dart tournament, several wine tasting parties, water aerobics, Norwegian and Japanese language classes, and when the temperatures warmed up enough to go between the hotel and a car, there were shopping trips
There was a little skiing at the end of the week, but the highlight of the week was the sense of accomplishment in providing enough activity to satisfy most people under extremely difficult circumstances. Since changes in airline regulations had made refunds of tickets impossible, and since it had been shown that SFL could still hold a quality event without adequate snow, the SFL Board of Directors decided that there would be an event regardless of outside circumstances
Nancy McKinney Milsteadt was elected to serve as SFL president
1997, Brainerd, Minnesota
There was nothing really new or noteworthy at this event, other than being convinced that, after three trials, skiing was so unsatisfactory that, despite the great food, there was no reason to consider returning
1998, North Conway, New Hampshire
SFL found itself in the midst of many retail shopping outlet stores at the Sheridan Four Points Hotel. Skiing took place at the Great Glen Touring Center with a beautiful building and a fairly extensive trail system. However, the trails were narrow and winding with lots of difficult hills. The bus ride was longer than usual, and the return was made even longer since bus drivers had to deal with the traffic from all the shoppers
As the week progressed a couple of days of skiing were aborted due to rain and ice
The hotel presented an interesting problem with the state’s alcoholic beverages laws. There were actually lines on the carpet that defined the public areas where one could drink. Several years later, the Great Glen Touring Center burned down
Sculptor Bill Osmundsen worked during the week in the lobby of the Sheraton Four Points Hotel creating a clay model of his new motif “Sit Skier” which was developed with Jeff Pagels who provided his expertise on the sit ski
1999, Anchorage, Alaska
With strong support from an enthusiastic host committee, SFL took its adventure to the far north. Housing was at the luxurious Hotel Captain Cook in the heart of Anchorage. Skiing was a modest bus ride away at Russian Jack Springs Park. The trail system was just about perfect for most skiers, and there were several more difficult trails for advanced skiers. There was even an option to join a shoreline trail and ski back to the hotel. All week long skiers and guides alike enjoyed viewing moose lying down or standing very close to the ski tracks. Snow was good and the weather was gentle all week long. On the final weekend guides and skiers experienced preparations for the Iditarod
After years of plowing through legal technicalities, in 1998 SFL formally established the SFL endowment fund. Valerie Anders came to Anchorage with her husband Bill and donated $25,000 to give the fund a kick start
2000, Granby, Colorado
SFL celebrated its 25th anniversary at what has become its favorite venue. This time the Inn at Silver Creek housed and fed more than 300 people. The hotel seemed to have settled its legal situation, since the bar and restaurant were opened. Snow Mountain Ranch had again changed management, and seemed even better
To help celebrate this special anniversary, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway attended. He participated in a sled hockey game with the mobility-impaired skiers, and served as a ski guide for Laura Oftedahl
In January, just before our event, Bjarne Eikevik died of cancer. We had several occasions during the week to remember this important founder of SFL
2001, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Despite the two bad years at Telemark, and with the encouragement from Jeff Pagels, SFL decided to take a chance on northern Wisconsin again. Participants stayed at the Radisson Hotel, literally across the highway from the airport. The hotel was part of a complex owned by the Oneida Indians, that included a casino and summer concert stage. Folks skied at the Brown County reforestation Camp, about a 20-minute bus ride away. One really neat feature of skiing there was to ski past a small zoo with howling wolves
Skiing was almost perfect for all levels of participation, and snow was plentiful
In April, after a several year struggle with cancer, John Novotny died. After his introduction to cross country skiing at the first event, John left college in Illinois and moved to Breckenridge so that he could do some serious training. John became the dominant blind cross country skier in the United States, and for several years was one of the best blind skiers in the world
2002, Granby, Colorado
Despite the fact that a selection committee had searched for years to find new locations, very few places have the combination of reliable snow, appropriate ski trails, and housing for 250 people with a dining facility in which all participants can eat at the same time. So, SFL returned to the Inn at Silver Creek and Snow Mountain Ranch. Once again everyone left satisfied
Larry Showalter became the fourth blind SFL President
Several months earlier, Olav Pedersen had a serious fall in which he suffered a closed head injury. On race day his wife, Suzanne, brought him in a wheelchair with oxygen to visit with folks at the finish line. That was his final appearance at SFL. Earlier, the SFL Board gave a name to race day and calls it the Olav Pedersen Race/Rally
2003, Anchorage, Alaska
SFL returned to what was expected to be a repeat of the wonderful 1999 event only to find Anchorage without much snow. There was not enough snow to use the trails all week, so there was a lot of tourism. There was a race and rally on Friday, but skiing was not the focus of the event. The quality and comfort of the Hotel Captain Cook helped keep spirits high, and folks were able to see the start of the Iditarod on Saturday only because truckloads of snow had been dumped in the streets
In early December, after a relatively brief illness, Ambassador Soren Sommerfelt died in Virginia
2004, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Lodging was again at the expanded Radisson Hotel/casino with skiing at the Brown County reforestation Camp. For the second year in a row, an area that usually has tons of snow was bare as SFL week approached. The snow gods were friendly however, and there was just enough snow before and during the event week for really good skiing. Temperatures remained moderate, and the week turned out to be one of the best
Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek and his wife came to ski. In 30 years, Ambassador Vollebaek is only the second ambassador who has attended, joining Soren Sommerfelt who attended eight or nine times. In June, Olav Pedersen died having never recovered from the fall two and a half years earlier
In October, Erik Bye died of cancer. In January, 2005, Reidar Alveberg died from complications of diabetes
2005, Granby, Colorado
SFL again returned to the Inn at Silver Creek and Snow Mountain Ranch to celebrate the 30th anniversary. Once again there was good weather and good snow for the large crowd of attendees. Norwegian Ambassador Vollebaek and his wife returned to ski. Throughout the week attendees reviewed the past 30 years by sharing humorous SFL moments and by acknowledging most of the people who have influenced the growth and longevity of SFL
In the spring of 2005, blind skier Willie Reckert died one year and one day after he retired from the U.S. Dept. of Justice after 52 years of service. In his will Willie left $40,000 to Ski for Light. An interesting fact of Willie’s life is that he was the person who discovered the 18 minute gap in the richard Nixon tape provided to the special prosecutor by Nixon’s secretary, Rosemary Woods
2006, Granby, Colorado
Again Colorado delivered with good snow and good tracks. A highlight of the week was the 75 new guides and skiers that gave a fresh enthusiasm to the week. A first was a snow poker game that got everyone of all ski abilities involved, and one evening there was a sleigh ride to a mountain bonfire
On Friday a new guide and new skier, Rick Linstrom and Terri Bowen, who came to SFL with such an intention, were married. Federal Judge and blind skier Richard Casey officiated at the ceremony
Shortly after the event, Larry Showalter accepted the American Foundation for the Blind Access Award on behalf of SFL. This prestigious award was given to SFL for 30 years of enabling thousands of blind skiers and sighted guides to work together in mainstream recreational activities
Sadly, on March 10, Vicki O’Brien, long time guide and former SFL board member, was killed in a head on collision near Jackson Hole, Wyoming
2007, North Conway, New Hampshire
The SFL headquarters was the North Conway Grand Hotel, which had been the Sheridan Four Points Hotel in 1998. The staff and management had changed and were terrific, and the food was a great improvement. Most of the staff were foreign students learning about America
Snowfall in New England had been light and when we arrived in New Hampshire we learned that Great Glen Ski Center had no useable snow. The event coordinators quickly negotiated a contract with the Jackson Ski Foundation, and limited but very adequate skiing was available for the entire week. Instead of a race/rally on the final day, a ski poker tournament was organized and was a big hit
Later in the spring the Norwegian Embassy in Washington hosted a wonderful reception to support the SFL endowment fund. That evening Brit Peterson became the first recipient of the Brit Peterson award. The award will be presented to honor anyone whose donations over the years total $25,000 or more
Appendix 1 – Ski Equipment
During the second event, Jan Haug, a Norwegian-American businessman from Minneapolis donated the skis, boots and poles. They were provided free to all skiers. For several years afterwards Jan provided this service
At the 1977 event in Woodstock, Kjell Skavnes and Arne Landvik-larsen were guides and planning committee members. They volunteered to help fit new skiers with boots, skis and poles
There was always some equipment left over that was shipped back to Jan Haug in Minneapolis. Jan died suddenly around 1980 and SFL had to find other sources of equipment and other storage facilities. Often the left over equipment was stored where the event had been held, or shipped to the site of the next event. At the end of the 1985 event Kjell Skavnes offered to store the leftovers at his home in New Jersey. There was a lot of unusable equipment, so Kjell sorted things out, received new skis during the year, and drove from New Jersey with 100 sets of skis and poles on the roof of his car. Kjell did this four times. While at the event, Arne and Kjell continued the role of ski fitting, matching all first time skiers with boots, skis and poles. Their inventory didn’t always meet participant needs, so occasionally SFL had to work with local ski shops, but Kjell and Arne provided the large majority of equipment through 1988. In 1989 the skis were donated by Hank Clark of CCM-USA, after learning about SFL from Robb Rasmussen and Cathy Sandell
In 1990 Robb Rasmussen, who ran a bike and ski shop in Brookings, South Dakota, offered to provide skis. He loaded up his truck and supplied skis for that year’s event in Brainerd. Robb continued to meet most SFL ski equipment needs throughout the decade of the 90’s
As mentioned earlier, the SFL store expanded in 1990. In the mid 90’s the ski equipment room and sales room were combined since Robb was also selling ski clothing
These four men, Jan Haug, Arne Landvik-Larsen, Kjell Skavnes and Robb Rasmussen have provided equipment and services of untold value during these thirty years
Appendix 2 – Norwegian Food
To recognize the initial influence of Norway in creating SFL and the ongoing relationship with the Norwegian culture, Friday of SFL Week has traditionally been designated Norway night. During the first decade, SFL attempted to provide a meal based on Norwegian foods followed by presentations of Norwegian entertainment
A year or so after Brit Peterson joined SFL, there was a disappointing experience with the Norwegian dinner. She offered to help coordinate the meal for the next year
Brit wrote letters to Norwegian food distributors and SFL received donations of shrimp, cheese, sardines, salmon, crackers, Norwegian chocolate and other goodies. Frequently hotel staff was unfamiliar with how such food should be served, so Brit began to work with hotel chefs. Brit must have performed this service for at least fifteen years, and deserves many thanks
Appendix 3 – Special Fund Raisers
In addition to his work as guardian of ski equipment, Kjell Skavnes provided another invaluable service as a fund raiser. Kjell was an automobile dealer and very successful race car driver, and for many years donated his financial winnings to SFL. Some years this amounted to $8000 or $9000. The total may be in excess of $50,000
Brit Peterson has also excelled with her financial support. She and her husband, Roy, directed that gifts to commemorate their 50th anniversary go in cash to SFL. This brought in more than $17,000. Brit did the same for her 80th birthday and to commemorate Olav Pedersen’s death. Brit also has probably brought in or given close to $50,000
In the early 1990s a Minneapolis businessman and SFL board member, Tore Lund, conducted two highly successful auctions in the Twin Cities. In two years Tore netted almost $40,000
Also in the early 1990’s, Marty Mahler obtained names and addresses of past donors and began a systematic mail appeal. For five or six years he routinely brought in between $5,000 and $10,000
The Mary Lou Goodfellow Guild Mary Lou Goodfellow was a guide from the Seattle area and the aunt of Nancy McKinney. Mary Lou died in an unusual airplane accident in the late 1980’s, and her friends established a foundation in her honor. Each year the Foundation raises and donates funds to SFL, primarily for the support of guides and the guide training program
Valerie Anders is married to Bill Anders, one of the Apollo 8 astronauts. Bill was the U.S. Ambassador to Norway in 1977 when he served as Bud Keith’s guide in the Ridderrenn. Later, when he worked for G.E. in New York, he attended the weather-plagued event in Saratoga Springs. In 1998 Valerie became aware of the newly formalized endowment fund. In 1999 she and Bill attended the event in Anchorage where she gave a gift of $25,000 to kick off the fund
Zachery Fisher was one of the Fisher Brothers who built many of the New York skyscrapers. He was also a close friend of Mark Evans Austad, the U.S. Ambassador to Norway in 1982. At a party in the American Embassy in Oslo to which the SFL Ridderren team had been invited, Ambassador Austad told Mr. Fisher about SFL and told him that it was a good organization for him to support. Immediately Mr. Fisher donated $5,000 and gave another $1,000 year after year. For the 20th anniversary he donated another $5,000. He died a few years later
This charitable man also established the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York city, the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research at Rockefeller University, and the Fisher Houses that annually provide more than 150,000 days of comfort housing for families of wounded American servicemen
Appendix 4 – Corporate Support
Quite a few organizations and corporations have given support over the years. Five deserve special recognition: Sons of Norway International, Scandinavian Airlines, Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Lines, Royal Norwegian Cruise Lines, and JanSport
From before the first event and throughout the entire SFL history, the Sons of Norway and the Sons of Norway Foundation have been important players. In addition to the initial financial support, Sons of Norway lodges have been the single largest source of funds over the years. Each year lodges from around the country and numerous individual members send in donations. For many years Norwegian-born members of Sons of Norway served as ski guides. Many of their children have followed in their boot prints. For nearly thirty years the SFL corporate office space has been provided in the Sons of Norway international headquarters. Most supplies and historical documents are stored there, and Sons of Norway staff have provided clerical help with mail
From 1977 to 1981, Einar Bergh was the General Manager for Public Relations with the Sons of Norway and was authorized to spend a substantial portion of his time on Ski for Light
In addition to its help with domestic transportation for the first two years of SFL, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) annually provided four round trip tickets from a U.S. gateway city to Oslo for the Ridderrennet team. SAS also provided two additional round trip tickets for use in a sweepstakes that ran for many years. The person behind this support was Norwegian-born Ray Hagen. Ray was the President of the North American operation for SAS, and annually met the SFL team at Kennedy Airport, often to exchange economy seats for business class. Ray died from ALS in July, 2004
For as long as SFL ran the sweepstakes, Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Lines and later Royal Norwegian Cruise Lines offered a free Caribbean cruise for two
One person was of paramount importance in securing the initial support of the Sons of Norway, SAS, and the two cruise lines–Bjarne Eikevik
Beginning sometime in the early 90’s, Jeff Pagels secured major support from JanSport. They began providing SFL with wonderful long-sleeved t-shirts and later with other products that SFL has been able to give to guides. SFL annually raises thousands of dollars from sales of the shirts, and guides receive a token of thanks donated by JanSport for being such a necessary part of SFL