Catching up with USST Head Coach Chris Grover in West Yellowstone

Lander KarathDecember 3, 201419
U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover with his wife Svea and one of his daughters at the Rendezvous Ski Trails last week in West Yellowstone, Mont.
U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover with his wife Svea and one of their daughters at the Rendezvous Ski Trails last week in West Yellowstone, Mont.

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. – There were several double takes in West Yellowstone, Mont., as racers and spectators realized that U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover was in attendance last week.

Grover, who usually starts his season on the World Cup in Europe, hadn’t been in West Yellowstone for Thanksgiving in nine years before he and his family drove up from their home in Hailey, Idaho, a week ago on Nov. 26.

While standing between the start and finish zones of last Friday’s freestyle sprint, Grover spoke to FasterSkier between quarterfinals. FasterSkier caught up with the USST coach again on the trails and once more at the finish of the men’s distance race on Saturday.

On Friday, Nov. 28:

FasterSkier: What is it like to be in West Yellowstone after being in Europe for so many years during this time?

Chris Grover: It’s really cool. It’s always fun to see so many U.S. cross country skiers out on the track of all ages. It’s awesome to be here and I’m really looking forward to watching these races. And I’ve seen a lot of these folks, a lot of these young athletes training in the summertime, but I haven’t gotten to see every one of them race in the wintertime, so this is my first time actually seeing the younger athletes in particular, so it’s exciting to see who’s coming up.

FS: The athletes who compete here are a lot of up-and-coming athletes as you said, so what are you looking for in these races?

CG: What’s most interesting for us in a sprint competition are qualifications because that kind of gives us a feeling in terms of who’s able to put together a qualifier that then could go on to be a fast World Junior qualifier, a fast U23 World Championship qualifier, a fast potential World Championship qualifier. So that’s the most interesting thing.

It’s fun to watch the tactics and endurance develop through the day, but the qualifier is definitely the most interesting to look at from kind of a development perspective.

[Saturday’s 10 and 15 k] will just be fun to watch, see how the races stack up. You know, endurance race, interval start, it’s the race of truth, we get to kind of see who’s bringing the form into the season. There’s always so much speculation — time-trial results and that sort of thing that happens in the fall — and once you get to this time of year, you actually get to see if people can put it together. That’s fun to watch, to see who’s able to pull in the technique refinements, who’s able to bring the fitness to the start of the season.

No one puts a ton of stock into results these first couple of weeks as everyone’s getting their feet underneath them. But it’s interesting to see how things have come together for people.

“No one puts a ton of stock into results these first couple of weeks as everyone’s getting their feet underneath them. But it’s interesting to see how things have come together for people.” — U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover on Nov. 28 in West Yellowstone

FS: Have there been any standouts in the results so far today, based on the qualifiers?

CG: I’ve just had a short look. It’s nice to see a young athlete like a Ben Saxton to be able to lead the men’s group. Of course we always are looking at who are the up-and-coming young athletes. Who are the athletes that could potentially go to World Juniors and U23s and have a big event? Who are the athletes that can ski with the more mature athletes like Dakota [Blackhorse-von Jess], for example? So that’s always fun to watch. I’m just looking forward to seeing how things develop.

After the sprint:

FS: What’s your take on the timing issue in the sprint?

CG: Whenever there is a situation where there are challenges with the timing, if they have to slow down a little bit to have accurate results throughout the progression of the day, I think that’s the absolute key. I understand we’re talking about people who don’t host a race everyday. A sprint race is a challenge from a timing perspective. It’s unlike any other athletic event, with the lucky loser format. I recognize that…

At the freestyle-distance race finish:

FS: From your perspective, how did the distance races play out and what are your thoughts on the day?

CR: It was really fun to be out on the course. I was impressed by some of the good pacing we saw out there and some of the people who put together, especially this early in the season, a really solid 10 k and were able to move up on the second lap or to put together a really good 15 k for the men.

Obviously on the women’s side, it was cool to see Rosie Brennan take the victory. She’s been fit all year. She looked fit this summer when we did our women’s camp in Alaska. It’s great for her to go out and demonstrate that fitness.

It was super exciting to have Katharine Ogden in second place, eight seconds back, and to see her ski such a mature race. That was another highlight of the women’s race.

On the guy’s side, it was fun to see some of the veterans charging and some of the young guys challenging. It’s super exciting to see Tad [Elliott] come back into some form and being able to go out there and put together a race. His bout of mono took him out for over a year so that was super exciting to see him ski with some energy. It’s great to see Patrick Caldwell out there too. Ben was just out of the top ten. It’s really great to have him in there and its fun to see some guys challenging the old guard.

Lander Karath

Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.

Loading Facebook Comments ...


  • xcq

    December 3, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Real questions for Grover:
    1. Why are you at West Yellowstone? Is this related to the findings in the McKinsey report, the fact that it’s a post-Olympic year, cost-cutting, laziness, or what?
    2. You are the head coach and Brian Fish is the development coach – but you are here in West Yellowstone with the development athletes and he is in Europe on the WC with the A team. Why? Follow up: is winter the appropriate time to be doing experiments?
    3. Are you going back to the WC? When?

  • xcq

    December 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    4. If you don’t think your personal physical presence on the WC is of paramount importance, if you plan to go there later this winter, what is the reason?

  • Alex Kochon

    December 3, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    To clarify, Grover is joining the team in Lillehammer this week.

  • xcq

    December 3, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for piping up Alex, I’m always relieved to see folks doing Grover’s work for him. But I’m still pretty curious to hear his answers to 1, 2, and 4.

  • Big Joe

    December 3, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Good questions Mr. XcQ. If I recall previous FS comment threads correctly, however, I think USST refuses to engage the proletarian elements in discussion. It might get them off message.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    December 3, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Mr. Xcq, it seems you do not like Mr. Grover’s performance of his duties? Seems like he is doing a good job…probably involves a ton of travel I would guess.

  • Big Joe

    December 3, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    I see TeamEpokeEdsbyn is taking his grampa’s sleepy time cough syrup tonight. That’s all you got?

  • skijumper

    December 3, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    I heard that the real reason Grover was in WY was because he had to drive to Canada to see the top secret seamstress that makes those radical relay socks, therefore stopping by the races was a simple convenience.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    December 3, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Mr. Big, please stay on topic, no need to bring my grandpa’s refreshment into the discourse. Do you too have a problem with Mr. Grover’s execution of his duties? He seems to doing a decent job in my opinion. Certainly not an easy job, requires much time away from family, and if am guessing for not a great amount of pay.
    Mr. Jumper, what the hell are you talking about? The ladies striped socks, which seem to be getting good press in the land of Fast Fred, et al, I presume?

  • T.Eastman

    December 4, 2014 at 12:06 am

    xcq, sack up and sign your rants…

    … thanks.


  • xcq

    December 4, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Todd – do you need to attach a reputation to my comments before you will consider them valid?

    Your off-topic request is a function of the same disease that allows Grover to skip the first WC and not get asked a single question about it. In a sport that a judged with a clock, we still want to hear who’s name is behind something – whether it is a comment, a coaching decision, or a philosophy – to aid in our judgment of whether its a good idea or not. Using this method, Grover can skip a WC and get a plain vanilla interview that a high schooler could have duplicated because he is Grover, and I get criticized for asking why because you don’t know who I am.

    I can tell you this much: if I were the head coach of USST and skipped the first WC, and Grover asked me why I did that – that question would be the beginning of the end of my career.

    Let’s all pledge to use our brains. On second thought – I personally don’t care if anyone wants to use their brains or not. But this sport in this country as covered by this website, I guarantee, will continue to suck until everyone contributes their full brain at all times. That is what competition is. If you don’t try your hardest, you suck.

    Tangent: here is an idea for raising the quality of the discussion on this website that is better than making everyone sign their names – charge money to comment.

  • Big Joe

    December 4, 2014 at 11:29 am

    I fully agree with XCQ. There is, in my opinion, a lack of respect for alternative views in the us xc ski world. If you are not a cheerleader you are a crank or a troll. Good questions and reasoned answer can stand on their own.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    December 4, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    so, Mr. Big, are you a Crank, or a Troll (or trolling a crank)?

  • Big Joe

    December 4, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I prefer to think of myself as a cranking troll…

  • Martin Hall

    December 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    That was pretty useless—-you guys have better things to do. Grover was checking on the fun element—-didn’t you get his drift? I know that I would have a hard time being away from my team—especially as the head coach—but it seems to be the way now days—-the $$$s spent on the extra travel during the year—well , development can use more help.
    The job description sure has changed—check Canada’s rotation—if you want to see how it is really done—JW has a new position so his working time is reduced, so he can spend more time at home. I wonder if he could have stopped the wax blow-up and all the machinations that took place in the spring when Alex was hiring Hetland.
    I think Grove,r along with the other coaches, has done an excellent job getting the team it’s best bang for the bucks they have. I still think the job requires their full attention—especially when they are racing—head home during the breaks—-that’s the most leeway I can give them.

  • observer

    December 4, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    To be fair: Canada rotates coaches on the World Cup. US Biathlon rotates coaches on the World Cup. Biathlon Canada probably would, except they only have 2 coaches so that makes it a little bit hard. Heck, even Norwegian biathlon coaches have said that they wish they *could* rotate on the World Cup. USST is only doing the same thing that everybody else does.

  • Martin Hall

    December 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    observer—-all those teams rotate people because they go home every weekend—-its a Europa Cup not a WC—our kids are over there for 4-5 months—sorry, the coaches like I say have too carry the burden too—-there are breaks that the US coaches can be away from the team like I said.

  • shreddir

    December 7, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I personally have no problem with Grover as long as he was using the opportunity to seriously meet with and gave feed back to those Super Tour athletes who have the talent and drive to qualify for our Falun WC squad coming up…just my opinion.

Leave a Reply