The legendary legacy of Trygve Berge spans 60 years of Breckenridge Ski Resort and more. He’s an Olympian who met Sophia Loren, survived a plane crash, and started Ullr Fest.
The trailblazer turns 90 this month, and the Breckenridge Visitor Center and Breckenridge Ski Resort are hosting a reception for him at the Riverwalk Center to celebrate Monday, April 11. There will be photos and videos showcasing her life, her cake and more.
Berge deserved recognition and celebration.
He is a man of resilience. Berge broke his femur several times and walked away from train, plane and automobile accidents. Originally from Voss, Norway, Berge grew up during the Nazi occupation of her home. Bombs fall from the sky, potatoes are confiscated from the family farm and ski gatherings are banned. The experience naturally shaped him to cherish every day.
His passion for skiing led Berge on his way to becoming a Norwegian downhill champion in 1954 and competing in the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina, Italy.
Berge came to the United States after the Olympics and lived in Aspen Highlands with skiing icon Stein Eriksen in 1958. There he met Bill Rounds, who offered Berge a job in the lumber yard at his family in Breckenridge. Soon after, Berge ended up co-founding the station with Rounds and fellow Norwegian Olympian Sigurd Rockne.
Breckenridge opened on December 16, 1961. Berge cut the slopes and became the ski school principal known for his thrill-seeking somersaults, bumps, and flips. In the summer, he mountaineered and worked as a stonemason all over town.
Although Berge didn’t think the station would be as popular as it is today, he said he would lay the groundwork much the same way he and the others did at the era. Breckenridge has become his home, and can be seen at local establishments like The Crown, Fatty’s Pizzeria and Briar Rose Chophouse & Saloon.
He is also a man of balance. The Colorado Ski Hall of Famer prefers the sport to something like snowboarding, for example, because of how it can glide down the slope without shifting weight significantly to one side or the other. Skiing has been a passion of Berge over the years because a race is never the same experience twice as conditions and equipment change.
“The feeling is different,” Berge said. “…I think skiing is the best sport you can do.”
After winters of skiing virtually every day, he opts for quality over quantity and good weather, doing perhaps only 30-40 days a season now. He never really followed ski days when he was younger and prefers to ski in company rather than chasing records.
“My record is how long I can live and be fit,” Berge said.
Berge’s advice for longevity is moderation. He knows it’s easy to get carried away at a resort, but said he’s not a big drinker. It strives to achieve a balance between rest and physical and psychological exercise.
“I always make sure to rest and eat well, and I’ve never been sick,” Berge said. “I don’t even have a doctor.
Socializing is also essential for Berge.
“Having good friends and taking care of each other is really important,” he said.
One of his compatriots is Gene Dayton, who has known Berge for about 50 years. Dayton is responsible for establishing Summit’s Nordic scene and his family still runs the Breckenridge Nordic Center. He also helped found the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
Although they are 11 years younger and focusing on another skiing concentration, the couple still meet for coffee and breakfast. The friendship also passed on to their children. Dayton said he had always admired the icon and that Berge always took the time to listen to him.
He also greatly admires Berge’s tenacity. A story he told involves that Berge recently made a fireplace for a friend from Dayton. According to the friend, Berge tripped while carrying a large rock and his head went through the drywall. Berge pulled his head out of the hole and – bleeding in several places – put dislocated fingers back in place.
“He picked up the rock and put it down very calmly where he was going and didn’t miss a beat,” Dayton said. “He’s a tireless and incredible worker. It’s an ethic you rarely see in the world today.
For Berge’s birthday, Dayton will give her the music. He plans to perform traditional accordion tunes at the Riverwalk Center during the party. Dayton, whose son Matt competed in the Olympics, also hopes to play the Olympic theme on the alphorn to mark Berge’s accomplishments.
Greg Gutzki, another local and longtime friend, will be speaking at the event. Technical director of the International Snow Sculpting Championship, Gutzki met Berge in the 1970s while working at the Holiday Inn in Frisco. He said Berge had a good upbeat attitude and was a kind and kind gentleman.
Gutzki remained in hotel management for years, but he also ran High Country Coatings, an industrial paint company that had him paint towers, chairs and ski lift terminals in the area. He also did general contracting and would hire Berge to do masonry.
He called Berge an artist not only with stone, but also with skis.
Just a few weeks ago, Gutzki and his friends received lessons from Berge on how to do the “mambo”, a technique which requires skiers to keep their shoulders pointed downhill while the legs pivot . Gutzki repeated an anecdote that Berge could ski with a $50 bill between his legs and he would still be there at the bottom of the trail.
“Watching him ski is like he’s skiing through the air,” Gutzki said. “It’s so smooth, it’s poetry.”
Berge said he goes where the fun is. If people want to follow in his footsteps and join him on the slopes, a champagne toast will be held at the Vista Haus on Monday at 3:30 p.m., then people can walk down Four O’Clock to the Riverwalk for what’s next. of the celebration. Doors open at 4 p.m. and RSVPs are encouraged online to keep the occasion small.
“It’s an honor to be able to pay tribute to him,” Gutzki said.