When the ski racing family loses one of its own, it seems to touch all of us. I’ve always felt that way, and now I’m certain of it. In the last 48 hours since AJ Kitt delivered to me the grievous news about the loss of our dear friend and teammate Eric Keck, my phone has lit up. The sorrow, the memories, the stories are clogging the ether. So, I have a favor to ask of my ski family. Please keep them coming. Please fill the ether and pages below with your tales and memories. In his 52 years, he lived twice the life of most, and the stories, the epic tales, are too many for any one person to catalog. If you knew him at all, it shouldn’t be too hard. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 25 years in skiing and another 20 covering it, there is no better way to launch a tale or get peoples’ attention than with the word: Keck.

Claire Abbe Brown | skiracing.com Eric Keck at the 1991 nationals in his last slalom. We wore padded slalom and pants and sweaters back then. But as was always the case, none of the uniforming fit Keck, so he was an early adopter of the slalom speed suit. The shinguards aren’t quite big enough, so he had to supplement with Rollerblade kneepads, one of our sponsors at the time. Also, he had a bad back from being as big as he was, so he wore a pink lifting belt from another sponsor, Viejo. It made him mad that nothing fit, but he prided himself on Jerry-rigging his way through life. And could not have cared less what people might have thought of his look.

Keck showed up as a Freshman at Burke Mountain Academy belly laughing. I was junior, and really, that’s about all I can remember. He needed laughter like he needed oxygen. I don’t recall any athletic or academic prowess, just joy. I could not possibly have foreseen ALL the things he would try, master, or become. Strike that. I could not have foreseen ANY of those things. Flash forward another five years, and we were teammates on the US Development Team. He was starting to approach full size, which if you’ve been following, was and remains unprecedented in alpine skiing. By the time he and I were dabbling in World Cup downhill, he weighed 255 pounds and was growing. Not a bumbling 255, but the guy you could beat out of the blocks running the 40-yard dash only to find yourself in his jet wash 20 yards later. He performed unusual feats of inhuman strength as a matter of course, like grabbing the seat of a bike with one hand and rotating it 90 degrees upward to “check the swing weight.” If the hotel key was somehow lost, it was odd how easily the door would just … come off the hinges. His strength was otherworldly. His character was bigger still.

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Though the record books will never show it, for a US skier in our era, Eric Keck was our celebrity. Just the sight of him drew stares in Europe. His seminal moment is a story that has been passed on through the generations. Keck and I were called up from a rained-out Europa Cup to the hallowed and largely snowless grounds of Kitzbuehel. Weather and travel had kept us off snow since our last race two weeks earlier in Big Mountain, Montana — not exactly the ideal bullpen for Kitz. I was scared because that was the human thing to be. By inspection, which meant skipping down a brownish staircase of ice, I was not just scared, I was out. I needed at least a day of skiing. That idea never occurred to Keck. He was so pumped. I sheepishly took a position below the Mausefalle.

Mackenzie Moran | skiracing.com “One of the greatest teammates you could ever hope to work with.” – Jim Tracy (Former Coach)

Keck was in the snow seed, a group of skiers selected from the back of the field to go before the first seed to, paradoxically, clear any loose snow. The forerunners and first few from the snow seed plunked off the Mausefalle at introductory speeds. When Keck came into view, he was 15 feet off the deck doing double their pace. The sight was awesome until I could see he was descending on the wrong side of the red slat fence where, again, there was but a smattering of snow and a labyrinth of trees. I saw head, feet, head, feet as the sound of human pachinko echoed my way. It looked, frankly, deadly. By the time I collected myself to run the 150 yards to get to him, he’d apparently gotten some brief medical treatment. Upon my arrival, he bolted upright pumping a broken ski over his head and with two bloodied gauze pads unfurling from his nostrils. He then gave a thunderous war cry. I was later told that the antics in the start were equally Keck, snorting and hooting as he dwarfed the otherwise titans of our time such as Daniel Maher and Michael Mair. Ask them, they remember. No one had gone over that fence in 50 years of racing until that day, though AJ Kitt almost did and Bill Hudson definitely did. It was a memorable day for the Americans commemorated the following year with an erection of an actual suspension A-net, unofficially named: The Keck Catcher.

He was a monster of a human being and never failed to live up to our expectations of his largess. But, for me, the real marvel of Keck was his ability to defy all expectations.

There came a time when he confided in me that he was conflicted about the selfish nature of an individual sport like skiing, or so he felt. He wanted something more, something else, to move on. For all the joking, bravado, cajoling and showmanship, there was an exceedingly contemplative person at the helm. He’d also met a woman who had captured his heart. And like that, he was off on the next episode of his life, and there were many.

That was almost 30 years ago, and in the interim Eric Keck became a renaissance man like no one I’ve ever known. Our coach at the time, Bill Egan, had once been a football coach at Saddleback college on the California coast. Egan got him a look from the football staff there. They liked what they saw. So between bouts of surfing, and breaking oversized boards, he started pounding junior college players into submission. Keck was now full-sized, approaching 300 pounds. I could be getting the timeline wrong here, but the next time I saw him, he was driving east with his wife, Beth, and first daughter, Zion. He showed up at my house with a truck packed like the Clampets on their way to Beverly, Zion cradled like a football. He’d been recruited by Columbia University. I did not see that coming. He led them to their first winning season in, forever, becoming something of an icon there — the giant Christian. At some point, he became a minister all the while living in cramped apartment in NYC. He was starting to get recruited by the big money folk on Wall Street. Not his style. I recall he and his family joining us on a river trip on the Green in Utah. We were sitting by a campfire when now four-year-old Zion let out a blood-curdling scream from a nearby tent. He leaped over the fire to her rescue. “Uh, it’s just a butterfly, honey.” He returned to the fire and said, “We gotta get out of the city.”

Geoff Mintz | skiracing.com Steve Porino, Eric Keck, Zion and Beth on the Green River in Utah.

I think it was Idaho next, but I had a hard time keeping track. I just remember that it turned out he could build hot rods and be completely indoctrinated by the ilk who did that sort of thing in northern Idaho while, in the same breath, working with underprivileged families of the inner city. He was both master and menace with all things mechanical. He learned it from his father, a shop teacher, and likely from all the things he broke along his highly destructive and experimental path. At some point, he was drawn back to live in the very home where he grew up in Montpelier, Vermont. There he somehow landed a job as Dean of Admission for the esteemed New England Culinary Institute. The man could eat, but Dean of Admissions? I don’t know of any experience he had to prepare for that, but Eric Keck had a way of convincing anyone he could do anything. And in time, he could.

Claire Abbe Brown | skiracing.com Eric with his family on July 1, 2020. His wife, Beth, their four children and two grandchildren. Photo: Beth Keck

Understand, I’m just skimming the surface. There are countless other wild-haired tangents to his life, all while remaining the consummate family man to his wife, four kids, and two grandchildren. It wasn’t until his passing that I learned he’d become a policeman in his spare time while working as the principal of Southwick School in Northfield, New Hampshire. During the training, he schooled all the recruits half his age. He was a physical specimen to the very end, but his greatest strength was to lift and inspire everyone and anyone with whom he came in contact. Unbridled, ever-evolving, he left us with so much to admire and so many yarns to spin that I want to keep writing and writing and reminding everyone and myself what an incomparable human being we have lost. But I’ll let you all take it over from here. Let me get you started. Keck!

Have a memory of Eric Keck? Comment below or send a letter to the editor.

There will be a community wide gathering this coming Sunday, July 19 at 5 p.m. at Highland Mountain Bike Park. The address can be found here. https://www.highlandmountain.com/

In lieu of flowers, a fund for local kids to get to go mountain biking at Highland is in the process of being set up. Further details to follow.

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A former U.S. Ski team downhill racer turned writer then broadcaster, Porino hails from a family of skiers. He put on his first pair of skis at age three. By six, he had entered the world of racing, and in 1981, at the age of 14, he enrolled in the Burke Mountain Ski Academy in Burke, Vt. In 1988, he earned a spot as a downhill racer on the U.S. Ski team and raced for the national team until 1992. Porino also coached the Snowbird Ski team in Utah from 1993-96 while completing his communications degree at the University of Utah. He currently resides in Sun Valley, Idaho, with his wife Amanda, daughters and son, and he still enjoys hitting the slopes.

28 COMMENTS

  1. I first met Eric in our USST days, where he was always the entertainer in chief, keeping us all in stitches whenever the men’s and women’s teams had training camps together. We reconnected in New York, when I was working for SKI magazine and he was playing for Columbia. He and Beth took me in for dinners in their tiny apt, where they were always feeding a handful of his teammates as well. My favorite Keck story comes from that time, and I may have some details wrong, but it went like this: Beth had stepped away from her music career to move to NYC and take care of Eric and Zion. They lived up by the school on 118th and Broadway. One day Eric discovered there was a free piano on the east side (midtown or lower I think), and knew he had found the perfect present for Beth. He called on that legendary strength (none of which is exaggerated) and pushed it along the street all the way uptown and crosstown to their tiny apartment. Funny, kind, loyal, devoted, tough, loving…Eric Keck was one of a kind and we’ll miss him so much.

  2. I met Eric when I was maybe eight, at the beginning of our ski racing adventures. Eric was like my Totoro. He was big, he was friendly and he just always seemed to appear at my side especially when I needed him and his great big laugh. He was Keck from the start and only got better at being Keck. In many ways I suppose his survival until 52 defied his odds. But you can’t help but be heartbroken to lose Keck the consummate instigator, a lover of life and gentle soul. You will be missed my friend.

  3. Big man, big spirit, big adventures, big impact, big legacy, big love. Expanding on the Kecker & Kitz tale… I was his roommate in Kitzbuhel that infamous year. Post-crash, laying in our beds that evening, Eric brought to life (for me) 30 seconds of a big ass living. Turning heads in the start with a bellowing roar, high fiving the start referee, blasting out of the start like a raging bull, flying off the Mausfalle blind, realizing instantly his math was off… and the blow-by-blow of his flyover-the-fence, landing, tumbling, rag-dolling, rolling, pounding, crashing, body slam. As he lay in bed, he was deeply bruised and hurting… Yet he was unbroken. That Kecker moment lives in me and whispers… the lamb is in the lion and the lion in the lamb. Shalom.

  4. Eric and I came up through the ski ranks together – we started racing against each other at age 7(?). I remember hearing he was a good hockey player – and hoping that he would take up hockey full time and stop beating me in skiing. We were the same age, and we continued to cross paths for many many years. In the late 80’s, Keck and I in Squaw Valley with Steve Porino, Kyle Weiche and Bill Hudson for a summer. Keck and I had jobs in the Kitchen at Sunnyside on lake Tahoe – unloading trucks and doing various odd jobs. Meanwhile, Steve had the cush job of water ski instructor, which entailed spending most of the day lying in a lounge chair waiting for someone to book a lesson. Every Tuesday we received a delivery of fish packed in ice which had to be unpacked and refrigerated. Our hands would get incredibly cold dealing with the fish, to the point of frostbite – Eric realized that we could run outside and put our hands on the hot railing that was sitting in the sun to get some relief. There we would stand in hoodies, frozen hands on the stair railing, gazing down on Steve with his shirt off lying in the sun. You can bet we did some grumbling about our contrasting situations – but we also realized it was pretty damn funny. I won’t go to deep into the stories of me trying to play Keck in one v one basketball – but I know he enjoyed getting me riled up, while I, at 5’7″ 160 lb tried taking him on in hoops – it inevitably ended up with me punting the ball across the parking lot as he laughed. Larger than life is such an overused cliche, but Keck sure came close to embodying that phrase. He never took anything too seriously, and always tried to find the fun. I will always remember us standing in the sun with our hands on that railing….

  5. Kecker was one of the first people I met at GMVS. He was larger than life and I had never met anyone quite like him. So many stories. He had convinced me to kayak with him and Pete Jenkins on the Mad River, I had never been in a kayak. We rolled over a low head dam and I got stuck, recirculating again and again. I thought I was done. I was getting worked and running out of breath, when i felt someone grabbing my boat and flipping me over. Keck had ejected and ran/swam over in chest high water grabbing me, flipping me upright. He had saved my life.

    I spent lots of time at the house in Montpelier Vt with his family, traveled around Europe in the summer for camps, and doing a spring Europe Fis B tour. While at UVM, I latched onto the Kirk Dwyer training group. We ran around in his loaded down Saab 99 gle driving up to the Loaf for Nor-Ams during massive dumps, with no lights on.

    I met up with him in Aspen after the famed Kitz crash. I’l never forget the look on AJ’s face when he told me the story. He looked horrified and thought the crash was a life ender. Keck told me about the women he met and eventually moved to So Call with. I was there when Beth gave birth to Zion. I had never seen him happier.

    Although i had not seen Eric in years we stayed in touched. I followed the success of his kids, Zion running track at MI State, Thunder crushing people on special teams at Stanford. Its heartbreaking for me to think i will never see him again.
    Rest in peace buddy, you will be missed.

  6. I knew him at NECI where he was the Dean of Students. His job not so much to recruit but retain. Once we were going to lunch, which he routinely offered to buy me, which is brilliant because it was free, and a student passed him and said “how are you today Dr. Keck?” to which he humbly replied “Better then you” and the student laughed and went about his day. It was brilliant in a way that only he could pull off. Reading this, I realize just how humble a man he was. I knew he went to Burke and skied with the US Team, but only because others told me, in awe of his legend. He was/is my friend and he could have been a gold medalist, Nobel Peace prize winning author, super bowl winning billionaire and I imagine I would still know him best as a man who gave great hugs, made me laugh when I wanted to cry, and offered to buy me a free lunch just to get me out of my office. Understanding his legend makes me more grateful then ever to have been a bit player in his story. Thank you for sharing!!

  7. So, this one time; USST guys dryland camp in Colorado Springs. After each training session we would have a pick up soccer game on the astro turf field to end the day; DH guys vs. Tech guys. Since I was a tech team coach I was stuck with the eastern academy types against the DH boys. A couple of times I got the ball with Eric close by covering. I used a patented spin move and slipped the ball between Erics legs and scampered off past him much to his chagrin as I giggled my way by him. Later on in that scrimmage the same scenario came again but I was gonna fool him and go the opposite direction. It was a beautiful move much to my delight….unti he reached out with a massive paw and grabbed my by the back of my shorts and gritted out ” not this time ya little Bolivian” as he lifted me one armed and spun a 360. I think I sorta let out a yelp thinking he was gonna hemmer throw me into orbit with arms and legs flailing. But no, he gently put me down albeit facing the wrong direction, as he scampered off laughing at his brilliant move. Gawd we laughed. His latest was a Bruno Mars reference that I’m still wondering to take as a compliment or back handed jab. It’s hard to fathom that such a truly good human is gone too soon. Then, there was this one time in Las Lenas…….

  8. What a tribute. Thank you. I was one of those Eric befriended, schooled and inspired while he was at Columbia… He got me to do things I never thought we could do… but mainly what it looked like to be a good person. Thank you for writing this! We all know there are stories that we shall tell the rest of our lives that involve Keck!

  9. Feats of Strength: After enjoying a New Years feast to be remembered and for those who don’t know, the Keck family are champion hosts. Anyway Kecker gives me the nod to follow him. After putting on our ski clothes we saddled up on two snowchine. For the next three hours and under a full moon he would guide me to a beautiful adventure and through the open fields of crisp Vermont. At one point my snowmobile and I were “off piste”. The snow was deep and new. I was stuck. Eric dismounts his snowmobile and without really setting up, grabbed my snowmobile singlehandedly, and lifted the beast up and placed it back on track. He was always setting friends back on track both literally and figuratively.

  10. Keck and I met back in Bantams, must have been 81-82 timeframe.
    Yes, that’s right – he skated like the wind and created one as he went by you as well.!!
    We were a powerhouse, coached by “Butch” Morrissette in Montpelier, VT and went on to take a bunch of awards and medals before disbanding and feeding 3 separate local high school teams.

    Certainly didn’t hurt having Eric on first line since he was about 6” taller and a good 25-35 beefier than anyone else. Eric played with a huge heart and always had a smile. The other teams never knew how gentle a giant he really was.

    I’ll never forget one particular game at the ‘Salt Shed’ where Eric’s dad Tom (who was also a gentle giant, and our school Industrial Arts teacher) put a bumper sticker on the back of Eric’s Jersey that said I’D RATHER BE SKIING – it was hilarious, unless you were coach. Tom Keck – that’s where he inherited all the intelligent, curious, humble, outwardly, humorous qualities we all loved about Eric.
    May he rest in eternal peace.

  11. I remember Eric fondly and will never forget the first time I met him. I worked at the local bike shop Onion River Sports in downtown Montpelier VT and Eric was in because he had broken his chain (once again) and the first thing I remember was his smile and huberous. I would then go on to share group rides and good conversation with Eric over the years until me moved. I still joke Eric never met a chain this gentle giant couldn’t break and I will miss him.

  12. I met Eric the first day he showed up to Saddleback College to try and be a football player. I was looking in the mirror but my reflection was only size, age and athleticism. His character, integrity and positivity is unparalleled. By the end of our first one on one workout, I was hooked. How could I not be. He can connect like no other. That same day, I followed him home to the where he was renting a room and all he could talk about was the girl he was going to marry and that she was coming out very soon. I met Beth very shortly after and it was obvious why he was all in. I marveled at their commitment and connection and I still do today. In the 29 years since we all met, I still have yet to see a more natural team or a more perfect pair. They are both from another planet.
    Eric has a way of influencing with a laugh, a smile and can confidently say things that just make you think. One day a couple years after college, he called me out of the blue. We had not spoken for a couple years and I have no idea how he got the number where I was staying but it just so happened that he called me a couple hours after I quit my sales job. I was feeling lost, unsure and really scared because I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. Eric had the answer! Mind you, when he called, I was holding my newborn, crying and totally freaked out about what I had just done. He did not know any of that. I answered and he says, Peacer, what are you doing? My reply was not much. He persisted, Peacer, what are you doing?? My reply was, what do you mean?? Then he says, (voice booming, half laughing but dead serious) I know this may sound weird but, GOD to told me to call you! I asked him what he was talking about. His reply was, GOD told me last night that you are supposed to be a teacher! The story goes on and it only gets better but the end result is, he told me he lived near me again and I needed to be at his school the next day to meet his principal. I was hired a few months later, got to teach a couple years with him before we moved him to Eagle, ID for his next adventure and I have been a teacher ever since. Keck made me do it.
    He is unquestionably the best human being I have ever known and losing him is tragic for this world, not just myself.
    I could go on with so many more Keck influences on my life, seriously. He is piped in with a much higher power and loved to share that love. I am better for knowing him because I always wanted to be more like him, ever since we met. He is truly one of a kind.

  13. Where do I start? I guess when we were 15 at GMVS I first met him the same way he introduced himself to everyone, BAM! For me it was a chocolate pudding pie in the ear hole from the 2nd story of the dorm building where he was sniping anyone who walked by with the leftovers from lunch. I proceeded to run up the stairs and beat the living hell out of him. The only problem was that he was laughing his ass off while I was trying in vain to wrestle him to the floor. I was so pissed! That was the start of a lifelong friendship that included a lot of other participants. See… Keck had a way of attracting people to him. And he knew it. And he played into it. Stories got heavily embellished. Ideas for new stunts grew larger. And I soon learned never to doubt him.

    He tried to teach me how to kayak, but I couldn’t keep the damn boat going straight. He tried to teach me how to road bike, but I couldn’t figure out the damn shifting. Once we were old enough to drive he showed up a school with a Datsun 280-Z that he and his father “Big Tom” built from a wreck. Suddenly he was stunt driver and we were racing that car all over the back roads of Vermont; sideways. When we finally realized we needed to start some serious weight lifting to beef up our legs so we could be DH racers, he and I started a regular weight lifting program. The only problem was that each time it was my turn to lift we had to unload the bar by about half the weight. But we got stronger together.

    One day Mark Rolfes showed up at school. He was a GMVS alum, and did a 1 year stint on the USST racing DH before a wrecked knee diverted him to being the eastern race rep for Rossignol. Rolfes needed some lab rats to test DH skis for him, so on quite a few mid-week mornings we loaded the lifts early at Sugarbush North and hit the test track. With a little coaching from Rolfes, Keck and I started keeping track of who was faster on each pair. It turned out that we learned a lot about gliding on those early mornings. A skill which brought the two of us a long way.

    On a trip to the Buffalo wind tunnel our team stayed at my parents’ house in Rochester. One morning I came down to the breakfast table to find Keck eating his morning cereal from a mixing bowl. He used an entire box of cereal, an entire half gallon of milk and a large mixing spoon. The look on his face was like, “you gotta problem?” He was always so annoyed that the world didn’t accommodate giants the same way as the little mortals.

    Later that afternoon we went to the local mall to… shop(?). Someone dared Keck to swim through the wishing pool that people throw coins into. Of course he took the challenge, and we all got escorted out of the mall by security, Eric dripping wet.

    From jumping out of 3-story windows into snow banks in Argentina, to exploring exotic cities on our ski travels around the world I always felt safe when I was with him. We pushed so many limits that I never imagined I would get anywhere near. When I won my first World Cup race the first call I made was to him. He had just retired the season before, and I wanted him to know that “we did it”. Erik Keck taught me so much along the way, and showed my how to push beyond doubt. It didn’t feel right to enjoy that day without him being part of it.

    He had an unbridled sense of self confidence. An adventurous spirit. And he was an infectious person to be with. Kecker, you’ll be with me forever.

  14. In a world of insecure, crazy, ski racers, Keck’s centeredness, confidence and sense of humor (intelligence?) were other-worldly. He seemed utterly un-cowed by the pressures and hierarchies of ski racing which can be crushing. If a coach was getting too “heavy” or if a fellow racer was getting ego-maniacal, he would have some witty quip that would totally de-pressurize the situation with humor. I remember despite his intimidating presence, he had great compassion in his eyes.

  15. Where do I start? I guess at the beginning. My dad was a pastor for 44 years near NYC. I had a beautiful childhood despite being poor and being bullied. As they say, the same hot water that softens the potato, hardens the egg. I am thankful for the tenacity God gave me. Keck became one of my many “bosses” after I took my 5 homeschooled kids and left my abusive ex. I did the only thing I knew how to do after being home with them for 12 years. I renewed my teaching certificate, earned my masters degree, got accepted into a PhD program and substitute taught. I also wrote 2 books about our experiences which were published to help other victims. Yet somehow, no one even interviewed me for the many teaching positions I applied for. Keck noticed. He saw me working hatd to take care of my kids and made sure I worked every day as a sub. Often calling me personally to ask what would work for my schedule, which room I wanted to work in, and to tell me how much he appreciated and valued me as a teacher. He was the only principal in 5 schools and 10 years of work who did this! He SAW me and made me feel important when others overlooked or ignored my hardwork and qualifications. Eventually, I stopped subbing to focus solely on finishing my PhD. I met a wonderful man who loved my kids and I. He encouraged me to focus on my dreams and let him handle the bills. So, Eric hired my son. Fresh out of college, very capable, Dr. Keck gave him his shot and encouraged him every step of the way! Every time I saw him until just a couple of mos. Before his passing he had encouraging words! He would tell me what a blessing my older son was, or ask about the PhD, or tell me how much they all missed me at Southwick. I can never repay the confidence he gave me to come back day after day as a sub. Even if kids or other staff treated subs. Like 2nd class employees at times, Eric never did, he always treated me as an equal. He transformed Southwick school into a unique and innovative school, highly successful and definitively beloved by all. I am so grateful for all of it, so mourn his loss for all of us, and feel like the best way to honor him is to finish this darn PhD which is BTW, all about helping police officers as they negotiate domestic violence calls! So, off I go, back to the research and writing but remembering this man who distinguished himself by caring that everyone was treated well and with respect.

  16. met eric and beth at a matterhorn, stowe VT fundraiser we friends [thanks again charlie schaffer and family] of ’84 gold medalist billy johnson threw for bill’s medical and assisted living expenses post TBI. bill’s 2 boys, nick and tyler came from CA with bill’s mom, DB. eric quietly introduced himself to bill and family, and gave remembrances of USST legends concerning bill to the boys; very important to them since they had met very few of bill’s peers and even fewer USST DHers to that time; experiences tyler announced at bill’s 2016 ‘celebration of life’ [where some of bill’s ashes were deposited on the Aztec jump by avalanche cannon] were ‘the best days of my life’. tom kelly, bode and family, doug lewis, deb armstrong, dave and lynne irwin, franz klammer, ioc presient dr. jacque rogge, president ghw bush, senator george mitchell, and other luminaries took keen, compassionate interest in billy post injury, but no one i have known had more interest in, and true spiritual compassion for, bill than eric, who called me several times after we first met, met twice more with me at his prompting to check on billy, offered USST memorabilia for auction and any other help he could, and gave the kindest personal fellowship to me and others helping bill. frankly i have never met anyone in skiing like him, nor do ii expect to again. to me he took olympism to a higher level, living his principles every day. accordingly he will be dearly missed, and never forgotten.

  17. I grew up in Montpelier, Vermont and unfortunately never got to meet him in person. As an aspiring ski racer myself he was our local legend. I saw him a few times over the summers always on rollerblades tucking down the hills. I asked my parents to buy me rollerblades because if the guy who made the USST from our small 6200 person town is dryland training with them then I want to use them too! His inspiration helped me to become a better ski racer.

  18. So sad to hear of Eric’s passing. He was one of my faves on the Downhill Team! The big guy had a great sense of humor and was a hell of an athlete. We had a lot of laughs together. I remember at one summer camp, he mentioned that his mother warned him that he couldn’t come home unless he got a haircut. So naturally, as his coach, I volunteered! He asked if I knew how to cut hair, and of course, I said, “Sure, I cut hair all the time!” (Uh-huh). I gave him the most God-awful butcher job – he looked like a prisoner that was just released from San Quentin. It was a shorter version of Mo’s from the Three Stooges. We laughed so hard, we almost peed ourselves! I mean, the cut was bad, but he thought it was so funny. It wasn’t more than a day after we all returned home when I get a call from Eric. He said his mom kicked him out of the house when she saw his haircut – telling him to fix it before he came home. I think he stayed at a friend’s house for a week before being allowed at home. The bottom line, he was “all in” when it came to fun. To know another one of the “great ones” has been taken away breaks my heart. I loved him like all my boys and will miss him. RIP Keck’r.

  19. Big, yes! But let’s not forget what a talented athlete he was. He fits the downhiller and footballer mold, but he was a tremendously graceful slalom skier, skater, water skier, wakeboarder, kayaker –he did it all, better than most everyone else. Before he became this incredible renaissance man in life, he was a large, yet surprisingly agile renaissance sportsman.

    While I am privileged to have memories, I wish I had the full, unedited movie – crazy, unique, fun and inventive adventure every day of his life. He never did anything conventionally. That’s why we loved him so much. Cars aren’t allowed in Saas Fee, Switzerland, so Eric brought his roller blades to summer camp for the daily trek from hotel to the tram. It was all downhill from the tram to our hotel on the other side of town. In addition to his own boot bag and skis, we would pile our gear on him as well. The streets were narrow and the momentum built up quickly. I like to think of him laughing and shouting, bags and skis stacked high on his back and arms, careening through the streets at ridiculous speeds as little, old Swiss ladies dove for cover. Lunch was mostly gone by the time the rest of us arrived at the hotel.

    One summer in Squaw Valley and a few years as teammates with Eric provide a lifetime of memories and smiles. Thanks Kecker.

  20. Truly brokenhearted to hear the news. I have a couple short memories of Keck from my days at GMVS I’ll pass along here:

    Keck was two years ahead of me at GMVS, a senior when I started as a sophomore in the fall of the ’85-86 year. He truly towered above me, and I feared he’d be another cruel senior who liked beating up on underclassman, but the first thing he said to me was, “Hey dude, nice Cinelli cap!” Holy crap. A senior complemented my cycling hat. He was as kind and friendly as they get. Late that fall I ran into him in the gym, and as I was wrapping up a set of squats, Keck walks up and said, “You all done with that?” I nodded yes, as Keck walked up to the rack. I was quite pleased with myself that the strong-as-an-ox Eric Keck would be squatting the same weight I was, even if just a warm-up set. But nope: he yanked it off the rack started benching with it instead. Did maybe 25 in a row—with the same weight I’d barely been able to squat 12 reps with.

    The next memory was in the winter. It was just another average day of slalom training, and I was maybe the third one down a freshly set course on Inverness. But as I got halfway through the course, there was already ruts, and at least have the gates were broken. Not just knocked down, but plastic Breakaway gates snapped in half. It was like a team of Samurai swordsmen jumped out of the trees and completely decimated it. I asked my coaches at the bottom, “What the hell happened?” and they all said just one word in unison: “Keck.”

    Sometime later that winter a tradition started at GMVS: “Reuben Tuesdays” for lunch. After a hard morning training session on the hill, we’d all compete to see how many we could eat. I could manage about 5 or 6, but Keck set the school record of I think 16. It must have been eight pounds of food. All wolfed down in a quick “feeding” before afternoon classes started. I often wonder what would happen if Keck had dared to take on a Hot Dog Eating World Championship run.

    Later that spring, I was a new recruit on the cycling team, and Keck was one of the ringers. I could out-climb Keck pretty easily, but God help me if he was anywhere near me when we got to a sprint finish. I was comfortably ahead of him in a training ride, but as we sprinted for the line, somehow he roared past me, sounding like an 18-wheeler that sucked me up into its wind vortex, and I remember seeing something I’d never seen before: his entire bike frame was flexing side to side with each downstroke of the pedals. Never knew steel could bend like that. But sure enough, even though he dusted me, he tossed out a “Good sprint, kid” to me as we both spun down cooling our legs. He was never the type to rub his success in your face. He needed you to feel good about the outcome, too. Make sense to me he became a teacher. And a father. And a policeman. And a minister. There was no glory in it if others couldn’t share in the fun, too.

    Miss ya, Keck. Look after us up there.

  21. It has taken me so long to come to terms with Eric’s passing. Obviously the stories are many and Eric’s personality has been punctuated by everyone’s comments above. I met Eric when I was 12. I had just moved from New Jersey to come race in Vermont. We were at a slalom at Cochran’s I believe. Flat, slow slalom. I came down, did decent for a Jersey boy. Then I keep watching up the hill at the other racers. This one kid comes down and completely and utterly destroys the course. A BAMBOO course. He was shinning bamboo gates at 12 years old. Bamboo was flying everywhere. Gatekeepers scrambling to fix all the splintered wood. It was chaos. I was completely speechless. No idea what that kid was. I turned to look at whoever was next to me, and was it was obvious I was in awe of this creature. The person looked at me and laughed at my horror.
    Eric became one of my best friends soon thereafter.
    Why I Iove Eric: When we were on the US Team, I took a massive crash at a downhill in Fernie, BC. I was knocked out cold. Woke up wrapped up in the fencing. There was the stretcher, coaches, patrol, etc. It’s amazing that I remember everything about that day now, but then, I couldn’t even remember what country we were in. Eric was right there next to me as they were strapping me in to take me to the hospital in the ambulance. “Hey Todd, you good?” “I think so,” “I responded: “You sure?” He asked. I kind of gave him a glazed look. He asked “What’s your wife’s name?” I couldn’t remember. “What are your kids names?” Still no memory of my kids. Eric looked at the paramedics and said: “You fellas better get him to the hospital quick.” The doors to the ambulance shut and the ride to the hospital was a haze. But I do remember the paramedics asking me about my wife and kids of whom I couldn’t remember. For those that know me, you see why that’s less a “how touching Eric really cared about me story” and was really a “Kecker is a an insanely funny guy” story. For those that don’t know me: I was about 21 years old, no wife, no kids, not even a dog. But how I tried for hours to remember my non-existent family unit.
    He was always trying to get you to do something with him, more than often against your better judgement, but it always wound up being a good time. The first to cheer you on when you kicked ass and also the first to laugh with you to try and lift you up when you were down. The best cheerleader.
    Eric is my eternal brother, he is always with me. And when I need a laugh he makes me laugh. I have Eric to thank for many great times. Miss you, my buddy.

  22. Pino, thanks for capturing not only the spirit of Eric, but of the American Downhillers of the early ’90s. Eric made an impression on me, as well. He was a really big guy for a downhiller. But from the first time you met him, you knew his heart was even bigger.

  23. I’m so saddened to hear this news. To me Eric was always so big hearted and nutty (in a great way). I knew Eric from our Burke Academy days. Our girls room shared a common wall with his and his roommates room. One evening, I remember hearing loud THUMP! ….THUMP! from their room and the walls shook. Not being sure if all was ok, I ran in to check on the two younger guys. They were fine. While the roommate watched and was shook his head in disbelief, Eric, wearing his downhill helmet repeatedly ran straight at the wall ramming it head first. He thought it was so nice I had been concerned but with a huge grin told me he was just ‘having a little fun!’ It hurt watching him do this but he was strong.

    I also knit a hat for Eric in those Burke years and made it customized for what he liked back then. I had forgotten all about it. But Eric didn’t and wrote me a few years ago telling me how much he’s cherished that hat and he still appreciates me making it for him. He was offering to send it back to me in case I’d like to give my my young daughter since I created it? I said he should keep it, but to me that was Keck’s huge heart and thoughtfulness after so many decades not only to still have this hat, but to share how special it was to him and be so considerate to offer to pass it along. He was larger than life in so many ways. My thoughts go out to Eric’s family.

  24. Had some fun and scare kayaking with that big beast here in Idaho! He was not easy to shake. I heard when he moved to California he started surfing the ocean waves with his whitewater Kayak (and big kayakers knife attached to his lifevest). Can you imagine giving that big man a hard time about being a local. He had a huge heart.

  25. I didn’t have a lot of interactions with Keck but he was true legendary status around Ketchum-Sun Valley growing up. He would come in to town to hang with Reggie Crist and stayed at their house. He would ride around town on full sized bikes that looked like baby tricycles under him. I didn’t think humans came bigger in size than Babba Street…until Keck came to town. And this was when he was in his early 20’s, he only got bigger each summer he came back to town. I remember hearing that he was going to play college football and felt REALLY REALLY sorry for whoever was up against him. I couldn’t imagine a human could live through getting tackled by Keck. But he was about the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. A huge smile and that classic “gentle giant” that Porino described and so many others have spoken to. Sad to hear of this loss but amazing to know he has grandchildren! The legend will live on.

  26. attended eric’s 7-19-20 memorial, northfield NH. learned some new eric facts from family and friends: eric earned his PHDed at columbia university, about the best and toughest such program in the nation; eric was captain, not co-captain, of the columbia football team; eric was dyslexic, but loved learning – everything – despite school being accordingly difficult; eric was a painter and metal sculptor whose sculptures appear nationally and in canada; eric built hot rods one of which is displayed in japan; billy johnson and eric got pulled over on the autobahn in billy’s porche doing over 175 mph [bill got the ticket]; eric is credited by educators and police in the tilton NH region with transforming that community by his school and police work there. what a life eh? namaste eric. see beth keck’s vid of eric’s memorial of SUN JUL 19, 2020 here: https://www.facebook.com/beth.w.keck/videos/10158323779311006/

  27. Adding to Harold’s comment, with some more intel gleaned at Eric’s memorial.

    One picture on display was a professional shot of Eric in his Columbia jersey, clicked into his ski equipment, airborne off the football bleachers. The backstory is that it was from a Sports Illustrated shoot. The shot left Eric with a very sore back, and never ran in the magazine because the logo on his skis violated NCAA rules.

    The multi sport talent ran throughout his life. Eric’s Dad Tom recalls the day when 10-year-old Eric had an early morning swim meet at Dartmouth, then scooted up to Stowe for a ski race, then had an evening hockey match.

    Finally, there was much talk about Eric’s penchant for Jerry rigging and his ability to fix (or ably rig) everything, from clothing and structures to tools and vehicles. Eric’s Dad Tom, a shop teacher, denies that he had anything to do with teaching Eric those skills. “He was never around! He was totally self-taught.”

    A fitting piece of his handiwork was featured Saturday night, when friends gathered to tell stories. It was the giant fire pit with a three-story blaze that might have alerted the authorities if they weren’t already there, honoring their fellow policeman.

    We miss you Eric!

  28. Many people have asked about the memorial foundation we’ve opened for Eric. Here is the link. Please note that this fund in no way benefits our family finances; instead the money will benefit local kids through funding organizations that have scholarships already in place. Eric was passionate about getting kids outside and finding thrills through activities rather than harmful behavior. Our first donation will be to Highland Mountain Bike Park. Eric worked hard to get local students exposed to mountain biking and had started the discussion and planning to put pump tracks in at the elementary school where he was Principal . We hope to see this memorial foundation fund rides and camps for many local kids who otherwise might not have had access. Thank you for your thoughtful donation.

    For the text option text : Remberickeck to 44944

    To donate to the Eric Keck Memorial Foundation online please click the link below. buynowcc.com/ekmf

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