Mikaela Shiffrin’s father, Jeff Shiffrin, dies unexpectedly at 65

John LaConte
Vail Daily
Mikaela Shiffrin accepts the World Cup overall trophy in March 2017 flanked by her parents, Eileen and Jeff.
Vail Daily file photo

Olympic champion and Eagle County local Mikaela Shiffrin broke the news Monday morning that her father, Jeff Shiffrin, has died.

The Eagle County coroner has confirmed that Shiffrin, 65, died of a head injury, and the cause of death is an accident. The Shiffrins live in Edwards.

Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised two remarkable Alpine ski racers. Taylor Shiffrin was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team. Olympic and World Champion Mikaela Shiffrin’s skiing success is remarkable.

In a string of tweets posted to Twitter, Mikaela Shiffrin wrote:

“My family is heartbroken beyond comprehension about the unexpected passing of my kindhearted, loving, caring, patient, wonderful father. Our mountains, our ocean, our sunrise, our heart, our soul, our everything. He taught us so many valuable lessons … but above everything else, he taught us the golden rule: be nice, think first. This is something I will carry with me forever. He was the firm foundation of our family and we miss him terribly … Thank you, from the depths of my heart, for respecting my family’s privacy as we grieve during this unimaginable and devastating time.”

In a news release, U.S. Ski & Snowboard CEO Tiger Shaw said Jeff Shiffrin was a good friend who will be terribly missed.

“Our — and the entire ski world’s — thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this incredibly difficult time,” Shaw said.

Jeff Shiffrin was an anesthesiologist with Vail Health and Anesthesia Partners of Colorado, treating and helping many injured skiers and riders. He was raised in Dover, New Jersey, where he learned to ski as a youth.

A 2014 Sports Illustrated profile of Mikaela said during his childhood, Jeff spent weekends skiing with his family at Stratton or Sugarbush in southern Vermont. 

“At 13 he joined the race team at what was then called Great Gorge Ski Resort (now Mountain Creek) in northwestern New Jersey, and on his first day of training he was greeted by an Austrian coach whose only instruction before pushing off the top of the hill was, ‘Follow me,’” the article states. “It was a teaching tactic that Jeff would remember. He later raced on the ski team at Dartmouth and stayed active in the sport after taking up anesthesiology.”

Avid photographer

Jeff Shiffrin is remembered by journalists and the U.S. Ski Team as an avid photographer, often having traveled to Mikaela’s World Cup races photographing her and other U.S. Ski Team athletes. During Mikaela’s rise to the top of the sport, Jeff often shared his photos of Mikaela with the Vail Daily and other media outlets covering her success.

Extremely proud of his daughter, Jeff was rarely in a team picture on the podium because he was always behind the camera capturing the moment.

And while he was often on the sidelines during her races, he was not known as a parent who coaches had to worry about getting in the way.

“Basically, this is a job for her, and I try not to interfere,” Jeff Shiffrin told the Vail Daily from Russia, in 2014, during Mikaela’s first Olympic appearance. “If she were to come visit me at work, I wouldn’t change my routine just because she was there.”

Mikaela was quick to wish her father a happy birthday or happy Father’s Day, or recognize him when he went out of his way to do something special for her. In 2016, she used the “lovemydad” hashtag in a tweet about Jeff bringing a memory foam mattress pad to Europe so Mikaela could sleep more comfortably. 

Mikaela and Eileen returned from Europe on Sunday afternoon, and Jeff was surrounded by family and close friends during his final hours. 

— This story contains material from a U.S. Ski & Snowboard press release

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