University of Utah Director of Skiing Eli Brown has resigned, leaving his job at the helm of one of the country’s most storied programs.
In an interview, Brown cited a desire to spend more time with his family combined with changes to the direction of the Utah program as the reasons for his decision. When the University finds a replacement, Brown will be heading to join his wife and two children on the family farm in Traverse City, Michigan—where he hopes to stay involved in the sport at a grassroots level.
“This is my extended family, the ski community,” Brown said. “I definitely want to keep that part of my life going.”
Brown, who coaches Utah’s cross-country team, replaced Kevin Sweeney as the director of skiing at Utah in 2005 after spending time as an elite skier, a coach, and the race director for Fischer Sports USA.
During his five seasons at the university, Brown said that he tried to expand Utah’s program to include as many athletes as possible.
He coached Snorri Einarsson to an individual national title in 2007, but the team—which won six titles in the eighties, and three in the nineties—has not been NCAA champion since 2003.
With Utah joining the Pacific-10 Conference in 2011, Brown said that “it’s getting more and more serious around there.”
“We’re going to move away from my strategy of having a big team, and get elite again,” he said.
In addition to the changes at Utah, Brown said that he has struggled to manage the twin demands of his professional and personal lives. His wife and children spend summers on the family farm, returning just as the ski season picks up in November.
“It’s hard being a ski coach and a dad in the winter,” he said.
The most difficult aspect of the decision, Brown said, was leaving his athletes. But he added that he will remain with the program for as long as is necessary, making the transition “smooth as they allow me—whether that’s a couple of weeks, or a couple of months.”
Brown acknowledged that it will be a tough time of year for Utah to find a new coach, given that most have already signed contracts for the upcoming winter. But the prestige and resources that come with the program should have no trouble attracting suitable candidates.
“I bet there’ll be some big names throwing their hats in,” Brown said.
Once in Michigan, in addition to working at local ski and bike shop Brick Wheels, Brown said that he hopes to help improve the skiing infrastructure in the Great Lakes region, which has consistently placed at the bottom of the standings at Junior Nationals. Brown said he would like to coach at the Junior National or high school level, and added that he would also work closely with the Central Cross-Country Ski Association (CXC)—which oversees the sport in the area, but has yet to develop the same degree of programming that it has in the Midwest.
“I just want to help use their structure, and build stuff up over there,” Brown said. “[The Great Lakes] have everything they need: snow, terrain, race schedule. I’m excited about that.”
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Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.
August 2, 2010 at 7:27 am
Eli, gonna miss you big time out here in the West, but our loss is Central’s gain. Cheers!
August 2, 2010 at 10:36 am
Will be nice to have you back in the Midwest.
August 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm
That’s a really great picture if Eli. No wonder he left. Looks like he’s having a blast.
August 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm
Freeheels, if you’ve ever coached, you know how tired you get with 5am wakeups, wax testing, waxing, applying fluoros, going to coaches meetings, giving splits,etc., No matter how much fun the job is, race days and road trips are tiring, and if you’re doing it right you’re pretty wasted after a few days of it.
Eli, hope to see you at JOs coaching, good luck with GLD, I bet you get those kids stepping up.
August 2, 2010 at 5:42 pm
Favorite memories from a casual observer and Ute fan.
1. The Utes do their best to be involved in the community, whether it was particepating in local TUNA races and or putting on free clinics afterwards.
2. Watching a lot of Ute skiers spread out over many miles riding bikes over some pretty significant mountain passes, i.e. Little Mountain, then Big Mountain then up through East Canyon right by my house as I was doing yard work watching the kids, after hours of riding, grunt up the final hill at Jeremy Ranch on some pretty basic bikes. It appeared that was Eli’s favorite method of torture for a dry land distance work out as I watched this procession of skiers go by with varying cycling capabilities.
3. Running into Eli at the paint store as we both dreaded our painting duties in the summer heat.
4. As the Ute fight song goes…yes Eli was a “Utah Man!”
Happy Trails Eli.
August 3, 2010 at 12:04 pm
Best to you and your family. You accomplished great things at Utah that you and your team should be proud of. Look forward to seeing your farm next summer.
August 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm
There isn’t a more beautiful place then Traverse City. Good luck & enjoy Eli!