The Yellowstone Ski Festival: An Interview with Jack Hart

FasterSkierOctober 19, 2005

The Yellowstone Ski Festival will take place during Thanksgiving Week on November 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26, 2005 in West Yellowstone, Montana. The event’s highlights include a series of one, three and five day Nordic skiing clinics, the NorAm XC Supertour races, the Try It and Buy It Equipment Demo and an Indoor Ski Show.

For over 25 years, West Yellowstone, Montana has played host to cross country skiers during the month of November. There is no better place to start your ski season! To get a feel for everything that the Yellowstone Ski Festival has to offer, I interviewed Jack Hart of Bend, Oregon. Jack is a long-time Festival attendee and he has participated in every aspect of the event. We appreciate the fact that he took the time to answer our questions and offer his insights on the upcoming 2005 Yellowstone Ski Festival. Here’s what Jack had to say:

1. Let’s start with a little background information — where are you from, what is your Nordic background and how are you involved with skiing today?

Born and raised in Vermont, I started skiing my last year of high school which incidentally was the last year of wood skis (1975). I continued to ski at the University of Montana and went to my first Fall Camp in 1976. I continued to race and also completed my Level 3 coaching certificate at West, the following year. In 1978, as a PSIA Instructor / Examiner, I started a ski school in Spokane, WA. I became interested in selling skiing as well and became a Manufactures Sales Representative for SWIX. I moved to Bend, OR and Rossignol was kind enough to have me as part of their Ambassador Program. I continue to ski for Rossignol and I work for Patagonia and SWIX. My wife, Lea, and daughter, Denali, support and join me in all of my ski endeavors.

2. This is your 24th year at the Yellowstone Ski Festival — that’s incredible. You wear a lot of different hats when you come to town now — you coach the clinics, you rep for SWIX , you help raise money for West Yellowstone’s Nordic ski program — what else do you do? And how has the event changed in the 24 years since you started attending?

Skiing is a big part of my life and I think I’m fairly involved because I really love sharing what I have experienced as a skier and teacher. The folks that come to the YSF are some of the nicest folks you can ever meet and they love to learn. Once you take a small group out for a 1.5 hr. lesson and see them smiling and really improving their skills — it inspires you to become a better coach.

Over the years the Ski Festival has, of course, grown significantly and now the town seems more alive and welcoming for all the skiers. During the early 80’s there were maybe 500 folks total all week. Most of us ate at the Three Bear and had a beer at the Stagecoach. We did not have a lot of distractions. I remember in 1978 or 79 we were watching TV and the very first rock video played on MTV!! (Rock the Casbah by the Clash).

3. Let’s talk about the Fall Camp Clinics. The clinics are a really important part of the Ski Festival but why should you register for them? Are they really very helpful? Who are the other coaches? What’s the average day like?

I think the Fall Camp Clinics are the heart of the Ski Festival. The amount of learning and skill improvement over the week can be significant. My fondest memories are of the students who you teach and watch them improve over the week or the day. You don’t have to be an experienced skier to benefit from the clinics. You can sign up for the week or just a day. Because you will get a different instructor each lesson, you as a camper can see many different teaching styles and methods. The Fall Camp Clinics have grown so much over time that I would recommend everyone register soon to make sure they have a spot in the lessons.

We have two sessions per day. The first lesson starts with an intro and warm-up inside and then about 9:30 AM we go ski for 1.5 hours with the first lesson of the day! We break for lunch and then some down time, because at about 2:30 PM we go out for another lesson for 1.5 — 2.0 hours. The evening includes a wonderful dinner with friends talking about what we learned and what we experienced. The evening sessions at the Holiday Inn always showcase some great speakers discussing many different subjects related to skiing. Each evening, the Indoor Ski Show has all the ski-type manufactures, like SWIX, Rossignol, Fischer, Atomic, Salomon and Pro- Ski to answer all your questions and show you the latest gear.

I think we have some of the best coaches in the country. We’ve had many years to work out an effective coaching system. I give a lot of credit to Drew Barney and Dick Hunt for bringing such a quality staff back year after year. I’ve been fortunate to work with everyone from US Ski Team and Olympic athletes to great teachers and coaches like Scott Johnston, Midge Cross, Alan Watson, Torjborn Karlson and John Downing.

4. You bring your family to West Yellowstone — can you offer any insight on the Ski Festival from the perspective of a husband and a dad?

My daughter Denali will be 9 years old this fall and this will be her 10th Ski Festival! I think West is a great place to bring your kids. I really like how my daughter sees hundreds and hundreds of kids, women and men skiing every day! I think it’s a great environment for kids to be a part of. I think it makes it easier for her to see that skiing is really cool and fun. Plus, the Festival offers great educational programs for children and makes it very easy to bring the family.

5. What would you tell a beginner that was thinking about attending the Yellowstone Ski Festival?

I would tell a beginner that the Ski Festival is one of the best opportunities to learn about x-c skiing and its culture. They are able to pick the level of participation that they feel comfortable with and if they don’t want to ski, West Yellowstone offers a variety of interesting diversions. I can guarantee that they will be a better and more informed skier when they head home.

6. Finally, what do you enjoy most about the Yellowstone Ski Festival?

The thing I enjoy most about the YSF are the participants and the culture of skiing that is everywhere during the week. This is a sport that has a long history with roots in Scandinavia. Cross country skiing requires a fair amount of finesse and fitness. I have met and taught hundreds of people over the years and they are some of the warmest and nicest folks that I have ever coached. To be able to teach and share a lifetime sport with such a good group of people is a privilege.

Thanks, Jack!

If you have any questions or if you would like more information about the Yellowstone Ski Festival, please visit , email or call Jamie Greene at 406-646-9427.


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