Ellefson to be remembered at hike today
Five years ago today, the Vail community and the entire running world lost 39-year-old, trail-runner, snowshoe-racer and sky-marathoner Lyndon Ellefson, when he fell to his death in a crevasse in the Alps.
Ellefson, a Barron, Wis., native, who came to Vail in 1981, embodied many, if not all, of the reasons so many people move to the Vail Valley. He loved the outdoors. He loved to be active and push his physical limits, and he loved to immerse himself in the beauty of his natural surroundings.
But what stands out the most in talking to the people who knew him and did things with him, was the fact that Ellefson was always smiling, always positive and always having fun.
“He was very positive and very high on life,” said Hooker Lowe, a longtime local, friend and fellow trail runner of Ellefson’s. “He was always running, or going to a concert, or doing something new and fun. He was always there when you needed a friend.”
So this evening, his friends and family will gather at the bottom of the gondola in Lionshead to commemorate his legacy with, what else? A jaunt up the Berry Picker Trail on Vail Mountain.
Some will walk, others will run. At the top, participants will be greeted by wildflowers, beautiful Colorado skies, the Mountain of the Holy Cross and the spirit of Lyndon Ellefson in virtually everything they see.
Steve Camp, an amateur trail running competitor, who is helping organize the memorial, befriended Ellefson in 1997. Camp says that in the months he knew Lyndon, “He touched me in a way that few people ever have.”
“He was a great person,” said Camp. “He was also a great father, friend and athlete, as well. He wanted people to know that they could do the same thing.”
Camp tells a story that illustrates of what spending time with Ellefson consisted.
“The first time I did something with him, I get to is house and he says, “OK, we are going to run up the mountain.’ So, we run straight up the mountain to Eagle’s Nest, in the snow, wearing just running shoes. Then, we run straight back down, go home, get on our skiing and snowboarding stuff, ride the rest of the day and go out to apres ski afterwards. That was a day in the life of Lyndon Ellefson.”
Ellefson married his wife, Tashina, on July 9, 1983. She explains why life with Lyndon, and their two sons, Sylvan and Kjell, was always an adventure, and why his death was not entirely tragic.
“He had a love for life,” said Tashina. “He loved it so much that he was willing to take chances in life, and that’s how he died. He was a real family man. He loved his boys. He loved to run and he loved the outdoors. He also just loved people and talking to people. He wasn’t afraid to be caring and open and genuine. There weren’t many people like him.”
While his friends are sad that they no longer have this amazing person in their life, Camp wants people to know that the tears shed at this memorial will be tears of joy, which come from having crossed paths with Ellefson.
“This is not a sad day,” said Camp. “We are celebrating Lyndon’s life and the love he had for playing on the mountain. He truly loved life and it rubbed off on everyone.”
The memorial hike is open to the public and will culminate with a meeting at Bart and Yeti’s for a few Leinenkugel’s, Ellefson’s brew of choice. The hike begins at 6 p.m.
David L’Heureux is a freelance writer based in Vail.