Eric Keck, a member of the legendary troupe of American Downhillers from the 80s and 90s, died suddenly at the age of 52 on Wednesday, July 9.

Keck attended Burke Mountain Academy and Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont prior to joining the U.S. Ski Team, where he competed on the World Cup for three years alongside teammates AJ Kitt and Tommy Moe.

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“He made everyone feel like he was their best friend on our team,” said Kitt. “As far as he skiing, he wasn’t intimidated by anything. Downhiller by nature but a slalom skier at heart, quick feet, amazing touch. All of the guys, we’re devastated by this.”

Keck’s World Cup career was short-lived, he chose to attend college in 1991. And although Keck rarely squeaked into the top 30, he will forever be known as the “biggest” downhiller in the history of World Cup ski racing, weighing in at 245 pounds during his career.

When Keck made the decision to go to college, he took his size, speed, and agility from the mountain to the field, where he took up football for the first time in his life. Keck spent two years playing at Saddleback Junior College in California prior to transferring to Columbia University. As an Ivy Leaguer, Keck competed as a defensive tackle and co-captain for the Lions.

Keck eventually went on to become a school principal for the Southwick School in Northfield, New Hampshire.

He is survived by his wife, Beth, his three daughters, Phoebe, Zion, and Zachri, and his son Thunder, and his two grandchildren.

Stay tuned for a full-length feature on the life and legacy of Eric Keck.

26 COMMENTS

  1. There are ski racing greats and great skiers, Eric was a ski racer who was a great person. After graduation from Columbia he worked in inner city schools. Many of us loved Eric. He will be deeply missed.

  2. Besides a big heart.. My God he was funny. He also fit into the group of older guys that would be encouraging and kind to younger development athletes asked to train with the big boys on the speed group. Not everyone was a team player but Keck was and we were better because of it. Hope you are well Kirk and we see you on the hill some day!

  3. So very sad to read this. Eric was an incredible person. He could make you laugh or make you scared. A powerhouse with a heart of gold. Many and only fond memories of ski racing with Keck. My heart and prayers go to his family, teammates and friends.

  4. Erik was an unbelievable teammate, so positive and could always put a smile on your face. We will miss you buddy!

  5. He was my daughter’s principal and a neighbor. This is such a loss for our community. We are devastated.

  6. He was a wonderful friend and colleague who made my son and I both feel welcomed and appreciated as we worked together at WRSD. He will be so missed-our thoughts and prayers go out to his family ❤

  7. Good as gold, that man. It seemed he could do almost anything, and he pretty much did everything. Kind, smart, funny, thoughtful, brave, loyal…the list goes on. We’ll never forget you Eric!

  8. Eric and I grew up together in Vermont. We were friends, classmates, teammates, and competitors. While we didn’t see much of each other in our adult years, I can’t overstate the impact he, and his family, had on me. He was loved and will be missed by many.

  9. I only knew him after his downhill racing career, but his fearlessness was always on him… Strong in stature and strong and his Christlike character…I feel like I miss him already, I can’t wait to see him in the presence of his Lord and Savior… Praying for you Beth and the kids…

  10. Saddened and sorry to hear of Eric Keck Passing. I will forever remember and be thankful for the first time we met. I was fresh out of Alaska; my first time East… it was just before competing in the season opener Eastern Cup DH races with speed training camp at Sugarloaf Maine 1985. I was attending BMA. Eric attending GMVS. He was so welcoming and nice. Like a new found friend out of nowhere, Eric somehow observed I was out of my element on the blue ice, somewhat missing home Alaska, and needing some peer pointers/encouragement vs. competitive jousting. I sure enjoyed duking it out with Eric and the GMVS boys on DH/SG days!!! To this day, my heartfelt appreciation for Eric being such a friendly, always smiling, positive, funny, need for speed, multi-talented, and humble big guy.

  11. Eric was my cousin and a great friend. He Taught me how to ski, rock climb, caving. He never held back and lived life to the fullest. We will miss him dearly. He was bigger then life RIP.

  12. I am at a loss for words. “Kecker” was the very embodiment of a good human being: kind, caring, fun, giving, humble, genuine…… I was so fortunate to have our lives cross numerous times from GMVS to USST to NECI. Always a smile on his face and always solidly in the moment, if ever there was a person to enjoyed living life to the very utmost, Eric Was that person. I am sad beyond words …….

  13. What a great dude! I will never forget he took me under his wing for two days when I went to see by brother Todd at GMVS. I was like 11 years old and and he was probably 17. It seemed like he stuck with me the whole time I was there on and off the mountain. He was so cool and kind, and just changed my whole perspective…..

  14. eric and beth reached out post TBI to ’84 gold medalist billy johnson, family and friends in the kindest, heartfelt, generous ways. i knew eric briefly but he left indelible impressions of what good men, teammates, dads, husbands and friends can be, and were in his case. wish i had spent more time with him. prayers and deepest sympathies to his family and wider community.

    • Hi Phoebe! Thanks for the correction, I just made that change. We send all of our well wishes to you and your family!

  15. So often, our young people struggle to connect with adults, to find one who gets them. Dr. Eric Keck got them. It didn’t matter the child or their background, Eric simply was able to connect with them and make them feel like they had a friend, mentor, teacher, and more. He taught them to recognize their fears, frustrations, and worries, and then how to be fearless. If he saw a barrier to his students’ success, he simply removed it. He would partner with anyone, anywhere, any time and simply find a way around, under, over or even through the barrier and keep at it until the children had what they needed. “Quick feet, amazing touch” does not only describe him as a skier, but also as an administrator and friend. It is my job to now try and find someone to take on the vision, passion, and love that Eric developed in the Winnisquam community these past six years, but I can honestly say, I simply cannot imagine another who will do for our children, their parents, his staff, colleagues, and community that which Eric did for all of us. Eric, Beth and their four amazing children are truly one of the very best gifts this community has ever received and Eric, one of the best people I have ever known. The community loves you Eric and will miss you, I will miss you. I imagine for you, heaven to be a mountain (with a great place to get something to eat) where you get to ski, bike, even run surrounded by kindred spirits who love all of life, act without fear, and simply enjoy the beauty and camaraderie of your next adventure.

  16. Kecker was truly larger than life, a gentle giant of a man with a huge heart. He was, also, a bit of a wild man back in the day. Here’s an indelible memory of him that I hold. I was working a USST camp (I don’t recall exactly when) at Mt. Hood. I was standing on main street with some of the athletes and a van drives by. The door pops open and one of the biggest rear ends you’ve ever seen fills up the space (mooning people back then was seen as a prank, not grounds for arrest!). A few seconds later, Kecker’s smiling and laughing face greets us. He definitely lived life to the fullest!

  17. met eric and beth at a matterhorn, stowe VT lobster feed fundraiser [thanks charlie schaffer] friends and family of billy johnson did for bill post TBI. bill’s 2 boys nick and tyler attended with bill’s mom. eric made sure all 3 heard a story or 2 on bill’s career reserved for long term memory. nick and tyler had met very few USST members-alums to that time, and i do not think any DHers. bill and family appreciated eric’s attendance and support very much, which continued years afterward. knew from day 1 eric was special; what an olympian is supposed to be, and was in his case. rip.

  18. Thank you for making that change. He is also survived by his legendary dad, Tom of Montpelier, Vt; his sister Heidi and her husband, Roger, plus their 4 kid’s of Montana; as well as Zion’s husband, Logan.

  19. This guy was a LEGEND and carried himself as such when he was in Sun Valley with the Crist Bros and Moe. A massive human but total teddy bear in person. Always laughing and joking almost always at his own expense. A huge part of a very special group of U.S. Ski Teamers in that era. He will be missed.

  20. Very sad to hear the news of Eric’s passing. I grew up across the street from Eric in Montpelier, Vermont. He was about 11 years older than me, and I idolized him as a kid. By the time I was in elementary school and junior high, Eric was on the US Ski Team, and traveling all the time. On the rare occasions that he was in town visiting his parents, Tom and Bev, I would be super excited and run over to hang out with him. In addition to being a gifted athlete, he was a kind and warm hearted person. He was like a big kid himself, and always generous with his time. I have great memories of Eric getting involved in neighborhood basketball and football games. One time he showed up with a new pair of Air Jordan sneakers and proceeded to dunk on the hoop in our driveway (probably against the training rules of the US Ski Team!) I also remember when he switched from skiing to football and transferred to Columbia University (a football program that had been really bad until Eric’s years there.) My recollection is that he was All Ivy League as a defensive lineman, and had a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles and/or Chicago Bears. He was an unbelievable athlete (probably one of the greatest to come out of central Vermont) and a great person. My deep sympathy and prayers go out to the entire family. RIP

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