VAIL — To say Erik Steinberg is excited about returning to Vail would be an understatement.
The man feels like he’s staring down a starting gate.
“I owe so much to Ski Club Vail, it’s been a part of every part of my life,” Steinberg said Friday amid moving here.
Steinberg’s latest gig in a long and storied career will begin this ski season as a coach for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s new Ski Cross program for U-14 and U-16 skiers.
Leading up to this, he helped Bill Johnson win Olympic gold in 1984 and Doug Lewis win a World Championship bronze in 1985. His Women’s Team made U.S. ski racing history in Vail in 1986 with a World Cup downhill win by Pam Fletcher and six Americans in the first 14 places.
Steinberg moved to Vail with his family in 1964 when his father, Tom Steinberg, was recruited to become Vail’s first doctor and founded the Vail Clinic and Hospital.
“I always knew that in my retiring years, or sooner, that I would be back in Vail doing something,” Erik Steinberg said. “Now, coming home to coach again, I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
Steinberg really loves and believes in the sport of ski cross.
It’s the contact that we never had in downhill,” he said. “The contact with the other athlete was always something where we wondered how you could add that in.
“I ran into Moose Barrows, Billy Kidd and a couple of skiers from that generation, and I mentioned what I was doing, and they were so excited, they said, ‘That’s the sport that we wish we would have had when we were young downhillers.’”
In total, Steinberg has coached 41 national champions.
But in between coaching traditional ski racers, he’s had the pleasure of meeting some alternative talent, as well.
Before heading up the Billy Kidd Performance Center in Steamboat in the ’90s, Steinberg was the executive director of Ski Club Vail from 1988 to 1993. In that time he got to know a young local athlete by the name of Seth Morrison, who would go on to become a ski legend.
“We really believed in Seth,” said Steinberg. “He was a good, but not great alpine racer in high school. He wasn’t necessarily fast on his edges on the course, but he was absolutely fearless. My coaches at the time heard about this competition that they were going to invent down in Crested Butte, called “extreme skiing.” They made a couple of calls and found a place for Seth to stay, Seth went down there and the rest was history.”
Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Steinberg and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail are hosting a meet-and-greet-style open house and informational meeting at the SSCV Clubhouse on Vail Valley Drive just east of the Children’s Ski School at Golden Peak.
“Everyone is invited to meet Erik, welcome him home to Vail and learn more about SSCV’s Ski Cross Team,” said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Executive Director Aldo Radamus.
Steinberg says he has an important goal for today’s meeting: “I want to meet the next generation of Seth Morrisons.”