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Friends, family celebrate Ellefson

Vail Daily/Ken LawdermilkFriends and family of the late Lyndon Ellefson gather at base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola Thursday before hiking to Eagle's Nest. The walk was a celebration of the life of Lyndon Ellefson, who died in a hiking accident in the Alps five years ago Thursday.
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VAIL – It was a beautiful evening for a beautiful moment.Friends and the family of the late Lyndon Ellefson gathered at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola Thursday on a pristine Vail evening, not to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his death, but to celebrate his life with a walk up to Eagle’s Nest.”Welcome, everybody. This is all about Lyndon,” said friend and event-organizer Steve Camp. “A celebration of living life and appreciating the outdoors and appreciating friendship. I appreciate everyone coming. Let’s just have a good time, walk up the mountain, look at the flowers and the trees and come down and toast a few at Bart and Yeti’s afterward.”And that they did, doubtless putting down some Leinenkugel’s, Ellefson’s favorite drink.Tashina Ellefson, Lyndon’s widow, and sons Sylvan, 16, and Kjell, 11, were on hand for the walk.Tashina was surprised by the outpouring of support from the community.”It just kind of blows me away that people still carry him so strongly in their hearts,” she said. “You’d expect that from a family, but not from a community. And how people in this community still support us, it really does blow me away. The love and the concern for us is phenomenal.”Though there was no shortage of warmth from friends, Thursday could not have been easy for the Ellefsons.”Sometimes, it feels like it was just yesterday,” Tashina said. “Today, I was kind of reliving everything from the phone call, to driving up here, to getting him. … It still hurts. But the intensity isn’t there as it used to be every single time.”But the Ellefsons seem to have done the best they’ve could and that was much in evidence Thursday night. Tashina was often lovingly clutching Kjell, who understandably was a little more subdued than usual, and seemed a bit overwhelmed by the event.”My mom is a pretty strong woman,” Sylvan said. “She’s definitely taken the role of both parents. I think she’s done a really good job of it.”Tashina throws the credit to both Sylvan and Kjell.”They’ve been wonderful,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for better teen-agers. They’ve been phenomenal. They’ve been helpful. When I’ve had rough times, they’ve both jumped in to help. There’s been no whining or complaining. It’s, “What can we do now?'”What everyone did Thursday was remember Lyndon Ellefson, a world-class runner, who died five years ago in the Alps.”The biggest thing that I really liked was that there was a partnership,” said Tashina. “He would get to do his stuff and I would get to do my stuff. Then, a lot of times, we did things as a family, too. But we really supported each other, Even though we didn’t have the same interests, we supported each other.””He was a pretty active guy and I think that’s what got me so active in soccer, Nordic and alpine,” Sylvan said.In a sign that the apple does not fall far from the tree, on Thursday, Sylvan had played soccer and gone on a three-hour bike ride, “so I think I’m going to walk (up Vail Mountain) rather than run.”Chris Sauro, 31, of West Vail, came to Thursday’s event, wearing a Lyndon Ellefson Vertical Kilometer Snowshoe Race T-Shirt from January 2000. He worked with Ellefson with Vail Resorts and had nothing but fond memories of the man.”He was always running and always had a smile on his face,” Sauro said. “So I guess he was always happy. He was always easy to talk to and he always gave you a lot of support and encouragement in whatever you were doing. I doesn’t feel like it’s been five years. But, time seems to fly when you’re living out here.”About 22 years ago, Maldy Zang was working at Eagle’s Nest and Ellefson was working the gondola. They became fast friends along with Hooker Lowe.”Fun. Lot of fun,” Zang said. “I’m not at liberty to go into a couple of (stories). I do remember his high-water pants, though. Everybody did. He had pants that were (up to his calves).”And they were not in fashion,” he added with a laugh.One story which is printable was a hike on a 14er.”He could be mischievous. He and I and Hooker (Lowe), we did a couple of 14ers,” Zang said. “We had a good time on one religious group, which was up there too. (Lyndon) found a couple sticks up there and made a cross and everybody though the cross had grown up there.”Zang laughed and the fond memories continued all evening.Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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