June 20, 1938 – October 15, 2022
Per Guldbrandsgaard, one of the “Stein boys” who followed gold medal-winning Olympian Stein Eriksen from Norway to teach at his new US ski schools, died on October 15, 2022 in Aspen after 84 years of a busy life of skiing and traveling the world.
Born June 20, 1938 in Drammen, Norway, Per grew up as an avid skier in the mountain town of Geilo, one of two sons working on the family farm. Skiing was the means of transportation since his toddlers. He graduated from Stavern Military School in two years before flying out to circumnavigate the world on a work ship. Back in Geilo, he becomes a banker, only teaches skiing on weekends, before realizing something about himself.
“I am an outdoorsman. I said to myself, I have to get out of this bank, I can’t stay here anymore,” he recalls. “I love being outside and talking to people and helping them feel good about their skiing.”
Per taught full-time at Geilo from 1960 to 1965, including a summer interlude teaching at Portillo and La Parva, Chile. In 1965, Stein Eriksen returned to the glaciers of Norway to assess and hire many professional European instructors, and he recruited certified Norwegian Per to be on staff at his Sugarbush, VT ski school.
Per taught for two seasons at Sugarbush, where slippery conditions were similar to those in Europe.
In 1967, Stein was asked to start a ski school for Aspen Skiing Co.’s new gem, Snowmass-at-Aspen. So he picked a team to take him west. The instructors were delighted to discover the powder snow of the fledgling ski resort of Snowmass. Per worked as Stein’s assistant and supervisor before he left in 1969 to accept the opportunity to have his own school – in Snowcrest, Minnesota.
He spent the next 15 winters as ski school director at Snowcrest, a 300-foot vertical ski area that hosted some 1,000 guests from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. There he served as a PSIA Alpine Ski Instructor Examiner, also establishing the district’s first certification process for cross-country ski instructors. He was the representative and advertising “face” for ski equipment, Gladiator sunglasses and ski sportswear.
He was often mistaken for Stein Eriksen for their similarities in facial features – and both had thick, wavy hair that was never encumbered by a ski hat, even on the coldest days. He was sometimes referred to as Stein’s “brother from Lille”.
Meanwhile, Stein had moved to Utah and was to be ski director when Deer Valley opened in 1980. Stein asked Per to run the ski school for him. “Their offer was missing a zero,” Per said dryly, “so I declined and stayed with Minnesota.”
The Snowcrest season ended on March 1, so Per returned to Snowmass each spring to continue teaching there for the last 6 weeks of his season. In 1995 he returned to Snowmass for good – bringing with him his “Norwegian New Year” tradition. At 4 p.m. Mountain Time every December 31, Per rang in the New Year just as the clock struck midnight in Norway, accompanied by other ski pros cheering “skål” at their favorite watering hole in the Snowmass Village upper mall.
He retired in 2014 after 55 years teaching skiing, 47 of them at Snowmass. He has shared his love of skiing with legions of ski guests, most of whom have become lifelong friends, incorporating him into their own families to introduce each new generation to the joys of winter sports.
When he finished each day of skiing, après-ski, he was always surrounded by colleagues and colleagues at places marked with plaques known as “Per’s Corner”, not only at Venga Venga but also at Mountain Dragon/Slow Groovin BBQ.
When he first came to Snowmass, he laid down his roots and his heart, explaining that “I’ve been in heaven ever since.” He was an essential part of the large Norwegian community in Aspen/Snowmass. For many years he returned to Norway every summer in the summer, but he also looked forward to his respite in mid-January on Waikiki Beach in Hawai’i. In recent interviews for the Aspen Business Journal and Skiing History magazine, he said, “I’ve had a great life doing exactly what I love to do.
He is survived by the two sons of his late brother Svein (who had also taught at Snowmass), both living in Norway. Per also leaves behind a multitude of friends, colleagues and ski guests, all of whom were very fond of him.