Ski legend Crawford dies at 74

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A practical joker with a dynamic personality and a love of the outdoors, Marvin Crawford became a Steamboat Springs legend for his feats on a pair of skis.

Crawford, a former Olympian and 14-time national ski champion, died Monday evening in Colorado Springs, four days after suffering a massive stroke. He was 74.

Born in Denver on July 30, 1932, Crawford was raised in Steamboat, where he graduated from high school. He was the son of Dr. M.L. Crawford, a well-known Steamboat physician.

It was on the slopes of Howelsen Hill that Crawford honed his tremendous skiing talent. At age 12, he took his first leap off Howelsen Hill's 90-meter jump, landing nearly 200 feet from take-off. Two years later, competing against athletes as many as four years older than him, Crawford won the national junior jumping championship.

But ski jumping wasn't Crawford's best event -- he had four of them. Crawford excelled in jumping, downhill, slalom and cross-country skiing, and he quickly became known as the country's best four-way competitor.

Crawford enrolled at the University of Denver and joined the ski team coached by Willy Schaeffler. He was a collegiate star, winning the prestigious Skimeister Award as the overall winner of the four skiing disciplines in every competition he entered.

As a college junior in 1953, Crawford won the jumping, cross-country and slalom events at the NCAA Championships. He finished second in downhill, losing by just two-tenths of a second.

Crawford later became a member of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team and finished 18th at the World Championships held in Falun, Sweden. He competed in his only Olympics in 1956 in Cortina, Italy, where he finished 23rd but compiled more points than any American before him in Nordic combined.

His skiing career ended shortly thereafter, and he returned to Denver to work for IBM. In the early 1960s, Crawford and his wife, Edie, moved their young family to Steamboat, where he was instrumental in the early years of the Steamboat Ski Area, then known as the Storm Mountain Ski Area and then the Mount Werner Ski Area. He served as the resort's first general manager.

An entrepreneur, Crawford and his friend Bob Day established Ski Country Enterprises and were influential in real estate development in and around Steamboat. Crawford also worked in the insurance business for a time.

In 1979, Crawford was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. In 1981, he was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.

He retired in the mid-'80s, moving to Grand Junction with his wife. Two years ago, the couple moved to Colorado Springs, where Crawford enjoyed golfing and online stock trading. He also worked as a driver for a Colorado Springs coach company.

Longtime friend Jim Severson remembered Crawford as a born leader with a dynamic personality and great sense of humor.

"Marv was an idol of mine," Severson said Tuesday from his Steamboat home. "To me, he was one of the most dynamic, outstanding guys."

His sense of humor included a knack for playing practical jokes on anyone at anytime and anywhere, said Gary Crawford, Marv's son.

"He used to love to take squirt guns to very fine dining establishments," Gary Crawford said Tuesday.

"He touched so many lives. He was the best father anyone could ask for."

Crawford suffered a massive stroke midday Thursday. He never regained consciousness. He passed away at Pikes Peak Hospice early Monday evening.

Crawford is survived by his wife; three sons, Gary, Rod and Greg; three sisters, Marlene Willie, Jean Olson and Linda Brown; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

"Marv's Party," a celebration of Crawford's life, is at 1 p.m. Jan. 22 at Howelsen Hill. The informal gathering may be held outdoors depending on the number of people who attend. All friends are encouraged to come share memories and stories about Crawford.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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