PARK CITY — The Alf Engen Ski Museum at Utah Olympic Park recognized two 20th century skiing legends and five modern winter athletes who called Utah home as the museum unveiled new and updated exhibits Tuesday.
A case housing Alf Engen's many trophies from his skiing career was rebuilt, now featuring a touch screen where visitors can learn about the most significant awards.
Engen was born in Norway in 1909, then moved to Chicago to work at age 19. He later moved to Utah, where his ski jumping career took off. He later helped to establish the Alta Ski School as well as several ski resorts throughout the western United States. He, his two brothers and his son, Alan, are members of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
"If there was one reason why this museum was built," Alan Engen said, "our family didn't know what to do with all of dad's trophies. He had a whole house full of them."
Engen said his family wanted to make a way for people to see Alf Engen's awards and contributions to the sport of skiing, but they never imagined it would be as big as it is today.
The museum opened an exhibit dedicated to another Norwegian-born skier who settled in Utah for the rest of his life: Stein Eriksen. It includes artifacts, photos and information about the legendary skier who died in Park City in 2015.
In a rotating exhibit that changes every four years, the updated Hometown Heroes exhibit features glass cases with mannequins dressed in competition-worn apparel and equipment belonging to Olympic skiing medalists Ted Ligety and Brita Sigourney, world championship ski jumpers Lindsey Van and Sarah Hendrickson, and Paralympic snowboarding medalist Keith Gabel.
"This year, we broke from being just Olympic athletes to athletes who have done well at World Championships," said Tom Kelly, chairman of the museum's board. "In particular, we wanted to include Lindsey Van and Sarah Hendrickson. … They weren't Olympic medalists, but we wanted to make sure that they were honored."
Hendrickson, of Park City, won the first women's World Cup in 2012 and won a gold medal at the 2013 World Championships. She competed in 2014 as the first female to ever jump at the Olympics, and competed in the 2018 Games as well.
Van was influential in getting women's ski jumping into the Olympics in 2014 following a lawsuit against the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics for holding a men's ski jumping event but not women's. She also won the inaugural World Championship female ski jumping competition in 2009.
"It's pretty cool to see the display up there. It takes me back and reminds me how much I enjoyed ski jumping," Van said after the unveiling. "It's exciting to see the sport continue to grow."
Sigourney is a California native but has called Park City home for several years as she trains in freestyle skiing. She won a silver medal in the 2011 Winter X Games and bronze in 2012. She competed in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics, winning the bronze medal in 2018.
Gabel, of Ogden, won the bronze medal in 2014 and silver in the 2018 Paralympic snowboard cross, and silver at the 2017 Para-Snowboard World Cup. He lost a foot after it was crushed in a work accident about 15 years ago.
His parents, Keith Gabel Sr. and Theresa Martin-Gabel, felt proud and overwhelmed to have their son receive the honor. They attended the event in his stead as he was out of the country.
"It's pretty special," his father said. "When he first lost his leg, that was probably the most devastating thing that happened to him, but it ended up being probably the best thing that happened to him. … If you asked him today, if he could have his leg back, would he give up what he's got? He would tell you no. He would definitely keep what he's got now."
The Gabels said Keith had no plans to compete until he met an adaptive skiing coach while working at Snowbasin who invited him to join the team.
He plans to compete in 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
"He told us that he's already got the bronze, he's got the silver and he's going to continue and win the gold," his mother said.
Ligety, an alpine skier who has won two gold medals in the Olympics and five gold and two bronze medals in the World Championships, was honored again after being one of the 2014 Hometown Heroes.