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.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.