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Friends, family recall ski pioneer

Jonathan Batuello
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Eric Drummond/Summit DailyMax Dercum and his grandson Erik Tieze share a smile while watching home movie footage of the late Edna Dercum during a celebration of the ski pioneer's life at the Ski Tip Lodge Friday.
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KEYSTONE, Colorado ” A slideshow played and one couldn’t help but feel the life and warmth of ski pioneer Edna Dercum’s smile.

As her husband, Max, described the scenes of each film and picture, even he had a smile on his face recalling the life of his wife, who died Sept. 15 at 92.

“She was the most enthusiastic person that wanted to be engaged in everything going on,” said their son, Rolf Dercum. “If we weren’t out skiing or doing something outside, we would be pushed out the door. She just was always supportive.”



Edna Dercum’s remarkable life was celebrated Friday at Keystone Ski Tip Lodge, a place that she and Max started.

Friends and family recalled tales of their interactions with her, from schussing down slopes with her at Arapahoe Basin on wooden skis to cooking with her in the kitchen at the lodge.



“There would be days I would be washing the dishes and Edna would say: ‘Ken leave the dishes, there’s fresh snow and we’re going to go skiing. You can do your work when we get back,'” said Ken Everett, an employee at the Lodge in the 1970s.

That seize-the-day attitude was a recurring theme among guests. No tears were shed, but instead smiles and laughter were shared over the memories of Dercum.

“This lodge, they didn’t run it as a business. It was a continuous party,” Rolf Dercum said. “It was just a long, wonderful life she had, and she was always having a good time and happy time.”



Dercum continued to ski well into her later years and always had the same smile on her face.

“The thing I remember the most is … even a few weeks ago, right before she died, she had this sort of purity of spirit,” said her grandson Erik Tieze. “She just always was so in love with the present moment … I remember being a little kid out here, running around and seeing that smile.”

That smile helped bring guests back to the Ski Tip Lodge every year, including annual visits from a group from Chicago known for hanging out by the fireplace in their long johns when they weren’t skiing, Rolf said.

One year, they brought a friend who was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune to write about the place.

“My mom was really nervous and worried,” Rolf said. “All these people the reporter knew came out in front of the fireplace in their long johns, scratching and telling stories, and my mom thought: ‘This person is going to write the worst report on this place.’ But they didn’t. She said it was great these people found a place they could be free and happy, and skiing was the main topic.”

The history of the Dercums and influence in Summit County can be felt everywhere, and Tieze recalled the varying visitors, including ski inventor Howard Head and current U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who have come through the lodge.

As Max recounted tales with a straw hat atop his head Friday afternoon, the clouds broke, a reminder of Dercum’s sunny smile.

“There’s a lot of history being show right there, in this place,” Max said.

Rolf Dercum personified his late mother the best, though. As he stood atop a chair thanking more than 100 people in attendance, he gave a brief remark.

“She would have loved to have been here,” he said. “But she would be happy it might snow.”


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