Father, daughter take their spot on iconic list of Winter Carnival grand marshals
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When the Diamond Hitch Parade makes its way down Lincoln Avenue as part of the 2020 Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival celebration, Paul Berge and his daughter Mären are sure to feel right at home as this year’s grand marshals.
“It’s humbling. I mean it’s kind of like, wow all the other people in this town that have done so much for the club,” Mären said. “It’s the longstanding families of this valley, and I’m just honored to be in that group.”
Paul Berge’s family isn’t from Steamboat Springs, and he didn’t grow up skiing on the slopes of Howelsen Hill. Paul is a native of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, he attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and enjoyed a long career in banking before retiring as chairman and CEO of M&I Bank in Madison.
But back in the 1970s, he would come to Steamboat with his family, and the Berges were never able to shake the Yampa Valley curse. In 1972, he and his late wife, Mary, built a home on Mount Werner, just below the Thunderhead Lift along with several close family friends.
The families would take turns using the home for vacations, and over time. the Berges fell in love, not only with the skiing, but with the community.
Steamboat seemed to be the perfect fit for the family, who began skiing in Wisconsin. Both of his children — Bobby, who now lives in New Hampshire, and Mären, who calls Steamboat Springs home — were competitive ski racers when they were younger. While they competed in the Central Division, Mären often trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. After her high school graduation, Mären came to Steamboat to spend a post-graduate year training at the club.
A ski season-ending injury later that year meant returning to her hometown to enroll at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It was here that her career as an Alpine ski coach began. After four years as a Wisconsin Badger, Mären returned to Steamboat for what was supposed to be just one winter before pursuing a master’s degree in business. Thirty-two winters later her father still jokes about, “just one winter in Steamboat.”
Click here to view a full schedule of events for the 2020 Winter Carnival, running from Wednesday, Feb. 5, to Sunday, Feb. 9, in Steamboat Springs.
Mären spent 13 years at Steamboat Resort enjoying numerous jobs from mountain host, mountain host supervisor, rental shop supervisor, soft goods buyer, sales representative, sales supervisor and guest services manager. She currently serves as a supervisor in the ticket office.
She also worked as a coach for the Buddy Werner League and Development programs and took part in the Town Challenge series where she won the Championship Carl’s Cup five years in a row.
Mären became the first manager of the newly created Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Foundation, an endowment fund for the SSWSC. For 10 years, she was instrumental in helping build a substantial amount of money toward the foundation’s original goal of $10 million.
At the same time, she took on additional roles with the SSWSC. She became, and continues to be, a Level 4 race administrator, responsible for overseeing more than 600 regional, national and international level Alpine, telemark and snowboard races. As with many nonprofits, Mären wore many hats at the SSWSC, including bringing the “Steamboat Entertains Again” cookbook to fruition along with managing the club’s website and information technology needs
As retirement was closing in on Paul, he and Mary built a handcrafted log home adjacent to the ski area, naming it Viking Lodge in recognition of their Norwegian ancestry. Paul and Mary became Steamboat seasonal residents, and Viking Lodge became their winter retirement home.
In the ensuing winters Paul, an avid skier, became a ski ambassador at the ski area and also joined the Winter Sports Club Foundation’s board of directors. He is the past president and continues on the board today serving on the executive, investment and development committees. He has also traveled to several Olympics and been an avid supporter of the U.S. Nordic combined team and other aspiring skiers from the Steamboat.
Paul also was part of an investment group, led by Tim and Diane Mueller, owners of the Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont, that attempted to buy Steamboat Resort in 2002 before American Skiing Corp. pulled out of the deal.
Paul said he is proud and honored to have been named a grand marshal for the 107th annual Winter Carnival.
“Obviously, I’m proud to be recognized in this manner,” Paul said. “In the last 20 or 25 years, I haven’t missed maybe but one or two Winter Carnivals, and for three or four years, Mären and I were the judges for the parade.
“Clearly, Mären is the one that should be recognized for her activities in Steamboat,” Paul added. “I’m proud of the fact that we’re able to do it together, and I’m disappointed that Mary can no longer be with us. I’m not sure whether Bobby will be able to make it, but I’m hopeful.”
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