Life is Good in Vermont – Interview With GMVS Head Coach Justin Beckwith

FasterSkierSeptember 16, 2008

GMVS Head Coach Justin Beckwith knows how to get kids fired up about skiing. The Middlebury College grad has some personal experience racing at a high level (he skied in a 2001 World Cup, World Junior Champs, and multiple national level races) as well as getting out an enjoying adventure the mountains have to offer: Beckwith is an avid kayaker and teleskier. Middlebury College Head Coach Andrew Gardner catches up with Justin as the school year gets under way.

Andrew Gardner: You came back to skiing in 2006 after a stretch of living a different life. What drew you back in?

Justin Beckwith: Honestly, it was recovering from my first knee surgery. I had taken to the slopes pretty hard for a couple winters and my injury forced me back to the flats. I was so competitive with my racing that when I decided to focus on other desires I really had to step out of the box.

The cool thing about Nordic skiing is that you are so light you can just fly around and play the whole landscape. Racing is an obvious progression from this sensation.

AG: What’s been the best part of being at GMVS?

JB: Having a really supportive administration and working with kids to develop the dream of Nordic ski racing. We get to train in the heart of the mountains, and pick and choose our travel/competition schedule, to maximize training and find the best conditions in the winter.
Our team is growing, we have some incredible talent and everyone involved loves the sport of skiing.

AG: You’re from New York and have stayed in Vermont since your college days, what keeps you in the Green Mountain State?

JB:It’s always easy to come home here. All the mountain and river playgrounds are so accessible and often you’re the only one there. I love to link stretches of the state together; anywhere you see the blue blazes of the Catamount Trail is a good bet.

One of my favorite things to do is ski and kayak on the same day. I think I got to do that at least ten times this spring…in Vermont. Life is good here.

AG: What goals do you have as a coach?

JB:My biggest goal is to infect the kids with my love of skiing.
I aim to give each athlete the best every opportunity to pursue their racing goals and instill a lifelong focus for sport.

AG: Who were your skiing heroes? Who do you look to?

JB:Ulvang, Dahlie, Koch.

There are so many great people involved with Nordic Skiing in New England. The Caldwell family is at the core for me. Sverre, Zach and Amy coached me. I have gotten to ski with Tim a few times and you can just feel the energy coming off the guy…

I had the privilege to work with Jon Arne Enevoldsen for the past two years and get a little insight into the Norwegian system. I learned a lot about training, waxing and competing from him.

Matt Whitcomb and the US Ski Team are doing an amazing job inspiring and educating coaches and athletes alike.

Mike Gallagher lives in Pittsfield, VT. He is the best skiing-story teller I know.

AG: Speaking of stories, you just finished up a stretch of camps, first the Eastern REG in Lake Placid, then your own GMVS camp over in Waitsfield, how’s the camp-season been? Any good stories?

JB:It’s fun and energizing to be a part of young kids working so hard. There isn’t a ton of glory to for cross-country skiers, especially during the long, hot summer of training. With the advent of more sprint oriented races and spectator friendly events the participation seems to be growing. If we can keep making skiing a cool option we can expose more kids to the sport.

Three skiers did have a “navigation error” on a long hike/run. We were headed south from Burnt Rock on the Long Trail, and they missed the turn onto the Catamount Trail that leads back to school. They ended up at App Gap, and eventually got back to school for a solid round of ribbing from the rest of the kids!

AG: What’s the schedule look like for GMVS this year? Early snow plans out west? What races are your main focus?

JB:We have a really cool travel schedule this year. In October we are headed to Lake Placid to train in the Adirondacks and peek at the US Team’s camp there at the same time. For Thanksgiving snow camp we are headed to Silver Star, BC and then the 2010 Olympic venue to do a Nor-Am. Our kids are focused on the eight Eastern Cups in the heart of the season, four of them are at the Trapp Family Lodge, the other two are in Maine and New Hampshire.

The kids who qualify for Junior Nationals will be headed to Truckee, CA in March. We top off the season this spring with a trip to Mals, Italy to compete in Italian Nationals and ski in the South Tyrolean Alps!

AG: You travel a lot- anything you can’t live without on the road?

JB:The winter checklist: skis, boots, and poles. I’m trying to keep a camera with me more and more too.

AG: Thanks, Justin. See more Middlebury skiers at . See more of the GMVS Nordic team at .


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