It’s a known fact that the great, late skier Stein Eriksen bought a new Studebaker in April 1953 from the dealership owned by Everett Kircher, founder of Michigan’s Boyne Mountain ski resort, where Stein was working at the time. The unknown is which model he owned, and what happened to Stein’s Studebaker.

I’m interested because my wife Judy and I own a restored 1953 Studebaker Starlight Coupe that her dad bought the same year.  It’s also is sometimes called a Commander Starlight, and was Studebaker’s main model that year.

Correspondent Jan Brunvand with his 1953 Studebaker Starlight coupe. In the background, early snow on the Wasatch mountains. Credit: Jan Brunvand

The classic Raymond Loewy design was variously described at the time as a “sports car,” “a sports coupe,” and “a graceful 1953” model. Stein once told me—in a brief encounter on a chair lift at Deer Valley—that it “looked like an Italian sports car” and that he sold it in Oslo.

That’s as far as I got until recently when I learned a bit more about Stein’s Studebaker. The somewhat melancholy occasion was a memorial service in Frisco, CO, for my brother Tor Arne Brunvand who passed away last spring. Tor was in the hospitality business in Summit County for many years before moving east, ending his career owning a hotel in Waterville Valley, NH.

Among the locals who showed up in Frisco this past October to remember Tor was another great Norwegian/American skier, Trygve Berge. He had been a colleague of Stein’s as an instructor in the early and mid 1950s, then became co-founder of Breckenridge ski resort. At  age 90, he is still skiing gracefully – as gracefully as Stein did.

Trygve, Tor, Jan

I had met Trygve a couple of times when he came to ski with Stein in Utah. Here’s a photo of us taken in January 2007 at Deer Valley. This was before I became interested in Stein’s Studebaker, so the subject never came up.

Meeting Trygve again in Frisco, I pulled up a photo of our Studebaker on my iPhone and asked him if Stein’s car had looked something like that. “Yes,” he said, “but Stein’s car was yellow.”

Perfect, since Studebaker did offer both the Starlight coupe (my car) and the Starliner hardtop version in yellow. I could just picture Stein with his blond hair waving in the breeze driving this beauty.

Our own Studebaker is dark green, shaped like the red one with the roof pillar in this brochure.

Just as the program started, Trygve added, “Stein loved to drive that car with the top down.”

Uh oh. Studebaker did not make a convertible version of this 1953 car. I double-checked in the literature and online.

So what’s going on here? In later years some people did customize ’53s as ragtops, but it’s unlikely a car dealer would  have done it, or that Stein would have waited around for the job.

More likely, I think, is that Trgyve’s statement is what psychologists call a “false memory.”

With the windows down and the wind blowing freely through the cabin, it would be easy to extrapolate a memory from so many years ago as an image of Stein tooling around town with the top down, even though the actual top of his car was likely solid metal and not  removable.

At least that’s what I will continue to believe until (and if) I learn anything more about Stein’s Studebaker.


  1. Best greetings, Jan, Fun story and great photo of you three “legends” of skiing history. Fond memories of Tor from Waterville Valley days.

  2. Jack Wahlberg says:

    Jan, Happy and Healthy New Year, Loved your story about Stein and i’ll keep my eye open for a yellow Studebaker. I have good memories of Stein and those crazy Norwegian’s from the 50’s and 60’s.
    FYI; my next phone call is to make reservations at Okemo next week to celebrate the first anniversary of my 75 year old Ski Buddy’s Heart Transplant. Great story which I shared with Jon briefly before he passed.
    Jack Wahlberg
    PSIA retired
    56/57 MSU Ski Team

  3. Darrell Hirte says:

    Great story, Jan. I’m 76 and fondly recall Stein’s ski instruction videos.
    I ski his Style, which greatly annoys some folks! As to Studebaker, I own a 62 GT Hawk, successor to the 53’s. Bought her (DeeDee) in 77, they are wonderful attention-getting cars. I can imagine Stein driving that 53!
    Darrell Hirte, Sula MT

  4. John W. Lundin says:

    My long time friend and rowing coach, Charley McIntyre from Seattle, taught skiing for many years on Snoqualmie Pass. He told me about going to several teaching clinics with Christian Pravada, the great Austrian racer who was teaching at Sun Valley at the time. Christian drove them from Seattle to Mt. Hood in his Studebaker, that must have looked much like Stein’s since the company kept those classic looks for years. Charley said Pravda pulled on leather driving gloves and drove just like he skied – very fast without ever slowing down for turns. He considered his car to be a sports car.

  5. Jan Brunvand says:

    Kathe: Have we met? We visited Tor in Waterville Valley a couple of times, but never in ski season. I think Tor skied also at Cannon. Sadly, he had to give up skiing after a bad fall (down some steps, not on skis) after he retired. I’m skiing now mostly on blues and greens and with the Wild Old Bunch at Alta. If you get out here, let’s take some runs together.

  6. Great writing Jan about another non-skiing side of Stein! Nice tribute to your brother Tor, with whom I stayed at his Hotel in New Hampshire. Along with you three kids, I regularly remember your Mom and Dad and the wonderful influence they had on me at the Lansing Ski Club and year-round.

  7. Lee Hall Delfausse says:


    Wonderful story about a legend who graced our valley of Waitsfield, VT while he worked at Sugarbush.

    Lee Hall Delfausse
    Snow Sanctuary
    No Sanctuary Here

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