Provo’s Olympian

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Corey Engen enjoys displaying his accomplishments in his Courtyard at Jamestown apartment inProvo. He was inducted in the USSA Hall of Fame in 1973.

By utahvalley360.com

From Norway to Provo, Corey Engen has enjoyed the life skiing has provided for him, and is glad he passed that love on to others

Corey Engen learned to ski in his native Norway at age 3 on skis handmade by his father. Corey’s father passed away when Corey was 2, but he left his family with a love of skiing and a history of the sport.

“My father was a very good skier,” Corey says. “He was invited to the competition at Holmenkollen, which is only for the best Norwegians and some people from outside the country.”

With his father gone, it was Corey’s older brothers, Alf and Sverre, that took Corey to the slopes and taught him how to ski. Less than three decades later, their little brother would be competing for his adopted homeland of the United States in the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

“I was running the ski school at Snow Basin and my wife and I decided that competing in the Olympics would be a good way for me to make sure I could keep skiing for a living,” Corey says. “It was an incredible experience.”

Corey competed in the Nordic competition, which at the time was made up of cross-country skiing and ski jumping. He especially excelled at ski jumping, where he placed third but didn’t medal in the overall Nordic competition.

“In St. Moritz, we would practice cross country skiing on someone’s farm until someone came and asked us to leave,” he says. “Now there are practice facilities and plenty of places to train.”

Corey’s brothers were the first of the Engens to move to the United States, eventually settling in Salt Lake City. Corey and his mother followed them and arrived in Salt Lake City the same month he turned 17 years old. The Engens chose to settle in Salt Lake City after Alf and Sverre discovered Utah while participating on a traveling ski jumping team.

“There were less people involved (in the ski industry) back then,” Corey says. “Alpine skiing was just starting. Before that, people were mainly cross country skiing.”

In Utah, Corey continued his love for skiing, although he didn’t attend school and spoke little English when he arrived.

“I learned English by watching movies,” he says. “Sometimes I would go to the same movie three or four times because I loved to hear them talk. After I saw the same one a couple of times I was able to understand some of the things they were saying.”

In 1938 Corey married Norma Bleak – a Salt Lake native who stood by him for 60 years.

“She got the whole family baptized,” Corey says of his conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I realized that my mother had been a Mormon all her life — she just hadn’t been baptized. She already believed all the things Norma told us.”

Norma also motivated Corey in his quest to make a living from skiing.

While working at Snow Basin as an instructor in 1937, the Engens moved to McCall, Idaho, to run the winter recreation programs for the city. Corey worked for Brown’s Tie and Lumber Co. during the summer.

“I told them I would go to Idaho for two weeks,” he says. “I went for two weeks and stayed for 50 years.”

In 1961, Corey was contacted by a U.S. Forest official who wanted to get him involved with a new ski resort in McCall. J.R. Simplot, a potato mogul and Boise resident, was funding the resort and Corey was asked to assist in planning the resort’s facilities. Warren Brown, owner of Brown’s Tie and Lumber Co., was a third partner and assisted in financing and operations.

Corey helped get the resort up and running and stayed with Brundage Mountain (just outside of McCall) until he retired at 79 years old and moved back to Utah where he settled in Lindon with his wife. He continued to compete into his 70s, winning the U.S. Veteran’s Nationals Competition in 1987 at Mammoth Mountain, Calif. He was 71 years old.

This long-term dedication to the sport and successful competing career led to him being inducted into the United States Ski Association’s Hall of Fame in 1973.

He served as a consultant during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and was extremely proud of the way his adopted hometown showed itself to the world.

“Those Games were extremely well done,” he says. “It is a huge undertaking and Salt Lake City was amazing. I never would’ve thought that the Olympics would be in Salt Lake when I moved here as a little boy. It was a great experience for me to be involved.”

Out of everything he has accomplished in his skiing career, from being inducted to the Hall of Fame to running a successful ski resort, it was the opportunity to teach young people how to ski that he is most proud of.

“I loved being around the kids,” he says. “I taught some good ones. Skiing has been very good to me in my life. I was always excited to teach the sport to young people and pass it on.”

Now Corey lives at the Courtyard at Jamestown in Provo. Awards and medals line the walls of his apartment, but it’s the photos of his children and grandchildren that he shows off to his visitors first.

When all is said and done, Corey is first and foremost a family man. He gushes about his grandchildren and is quick to share the accomplishments of his son, David, and his daughter, Carol. He misses Norma and is excited for the reunion the two will have someday.

“I’m trying to be a good boy so I can see her in heaven,” he says. “I know I’ll see her again. She’s waiting for me.”

Until that reunion takes place, Corey continues to share his love for skiing and young people with those he meets in Utah Valley, the national ski community and beyond.

COREY ENGEN TIMELINE

1916

Corey Engen was born in Mjondalen, Norway

1918

Father died during the European influenza outbreak

1919

Began skiing on a pair of skis his

father made

1933

Moved to Salt Lake City from Norway with his mother. The two joined Corey’s brothers, Alf and Sverre, who were already in Utah. Corey was almost immediately recruited to be a ski jumper for the Utah Ski Club.

1937

Moved to McCall, Idaho, to run the winter programs for the city.

1938

Married Norma Bleak from Salt Lake City.

1940

Chosen for the U.S. Olympic team, but the Olympics were cancelled due to World War II.

1945

Moved back to Utah to manage Snow Basin Ski Area.

1948

Represented the United States at the Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Competed on the Classic Combined Team, which was made up of ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Placed third in the jumping section of the Nordic.

1951

Returned to McCall, Idaho. He purchased the Shell Oil Co. wholesale distributorship and operated that for the next 15 years. He also continued to direct the winter sports program where he coached several future Olympians.

Won the U.S. National Classic Combined Championships.

1960

Awarded the Russell Wilder Memorial Award, presented by the National Ski Association for furthering the sport of skiing in the minds and hearts of youth in America.

1961

Joined J.R. Simplot and Warren Brown in creating Brundage Mountain Ski Area outside of McCall, Idaho. Corey was in charge of operations, Simplot helped with financing and Brown assisted with both financing and operations.

1973

Elected to the National Ski Hall of Fame.

1983

He and a crew of volunteers hosted the U.S. Masters Championships at Brundage Mountain.

1987

Won a gold medal at the U.S. Veterans Nationals in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., at age 71.

1995

Retired from the day-to-day operations of Brundage Mountain and moved to Lindon with his wife, Norma.

1999

Elected to the Idaho Sports Hall of Fame.

2002

Elected to the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame.

 

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