BEND, Oregon — In this von Ballcap episode, we sit down with newly retired pro-skier Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess in his hometown of Bend. At 32, Dakota, or “Dak” as he’s most often called, had been on the scene for over a decade. In that time, Blackhorse-von Jess won the support of his peers and fans as a skier’s skier. The man is nothing but energy and intellect wound into a 5-foot-9-inch body that ultimately became a sprinting force.

Andy Newell (near) and Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess during official training at the 2016 Ski Tour Canada in Gatineau, Quebec. (Photo: John Lazenby/

His story resonates because Blackhorse-von Jess’s story is the one you might want to tell the kids: stick to your goals, stay true to your values, and although you might achieve some of your dreams, some will be left unfulfilled. He raced at the 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden, he won skate-sprint national titles in 2013 and 2015, and a classic sprint title in 2015, too. Beyond the titles, he landed on the national sprint podium four times: placing second twice and third twice. However, an Olympic birth eluded him.


Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess in bib 1 (as the day’s top qualifier) leads Bend Endurance Academy teammate Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (10) in the classic sprint at the 2016 Auburn Ski Club SuperTour in Truckee, California.

We’re talking about a person who gave up a full ride to the University of Washington, that brought with it a postgraduate job/internship at the “JPL”, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in favor of the ski-racing chase. Never look back and work for what you earn. Blackhorse-von Jess took a gap year, landed at Dartmouth where he skied for four years, and the rest is sifted through in the podcast. Not all of it, of course, but we sift through a whole bunch.

Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess (30) off to a quick start in the quarterfinals at 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden.

Jason Albert

Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.

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