This is a weekly column highlighting our ski coaches from around the country…..including elite coaches, college coaches, high school coaches, volunteer coaches, and learn-to-ski coaches. This is an effort to sample a diverse group of coaches and recognize the people who are the backbone of today's skiers. If you would like to nominate a coach for an interview, please email firstname.lastname@example.org . Please give coaches name, email, phone, and a small paragraph describing the nominee. The more diverse, the better.
Name, age, background?
Eli Brown. 33 yrs old
I grew up in urban Minneapolis. I raced on golf courses and lakes. I was always excited to head up north to get on some real trails and see real snow. I have fond memories of skiing in the UP of Michigan and Giants Ridge as a high schooler.
I ran and skied at Northern Michigan University under some great coaches: Sten Fjeldhiem, Trond Nystad, and Miles Minson. These guys had a big impact on my skiing/life and why I do what I do today. College teammates and roommate Pete Vordenberg, Kurt Wulff, and Frosty Whitworth also had an impact on me.
After the 1998 trials when Pete V hug up his boards for coaching, I thought I should try it as well. I started as assistant coach under Kevin Sweeney at Utah and had a blast.
I went on to coach running, xc skiing, and track at Whitman College. Great kids, nice cabin in the woods to live in, wood-fired hot tub, good times. The program was in flux during this time: we were dominating the USCSA circuit, and working to jump into NCAA. (The program is now full-on NCAA)
Then I was recruited by the Maine Winter Sports Center. I spent 2.5 years in â€œThe Countryâ€ working with developing athletes, and launching a post-college program which included athletes like Dave Chamberlain and Dave Stewart, among others. My strategy was to add to the support that these athletes were getting from industry teams and elsewhere to give them the most support possible to make a strong push to the next level. The weather was cold up there in Caribou but man, the people are warm!
After MWSC, I moved into a position at Fischer Skis as national xc race director. Working under Peter Ashley was great; probably the best boss I’ve ever had. It was cool working on the cutting edge of technology with the Austrians. Supporting athletes from Kikkan Randall, to young juniors, to crazed masters was interesting. Getting to know all the corners and personalities of the US xc ski world was also a wonderful experience.
It’s the best way to give back to the sport that I love.
Best/coolest coaching moment?
I have many. Celebrating with the Whitman (when coaching there) ski team athletes after they placed 1st thru 6th in a race at USCSA Nationals. Every time I go back to Caribou….. great friends up there! Helping skiers at the finish of the Birkie, get out out their skis and through the finish, especially my dad.
What is your ultimate goal with the University of Utah ski team and helping your athletes?
Be an integral part of the athlete development pipeline. Help my athletes improve as ski racers and as people. Be good ambassadors for the sport. And, most importantly, have fun!
At what point do you think you can do something VERY special with US nordic skiing?
I am into it. I am very motivated to help improve the conditions for the sport here in the US. I truly believe we are improving as a ski nation and I am happy to be a part of it.
What’s your view on the rapidly changing sport of skiing .ie, specialized races, short loops, duathlons?
It’s tough to keep up with. We all need to work hard to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit towards the end goal. Junior races, college races, , etc . we should be working towards these new formats. Training, development, and talent ID should be projecting ahead as well.
What will XC ski racing be in 5/19/20 years?
Not sure, but it will for sure be fast. Let’s get ready!
If $50,000 fell out of the sky, and it could only be put towards XC skiing, what would you do with it?
I’d give it to Pete Vordenberg for the Team Today project. He would put it to good use for sure.
Any picks for the big winners this winter at World Championships in Japan?
Andy Newell. I look forward to seeing him race.
Eli with son Leland