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Dave Hanscom Retires After 30 Years of Organizing Wasatch Citizens Series

Courtesy of Carolyn Sterrett

After 30 years in the field, Dave Hanscom organized his final race on behalf of the Wasatch Citizen Series on Saturday – and he’s leaving big ski boots to fill after his retirement.


In 1992, Dave Hanscom, a Park City resident and longtime Nordic skier stepped up and agreed to take on the role of race director for the popular winter Nordic ski races held locally. 


Although only a half dozen races would be held each winter, he says it’s a year-round job going after race sponsors, securing race swag, and juggling the schedule, especially when there were weather-related issues.


“I'm going to be 80 years old in April, and I've been doing this for 30 years,” Hanscom said. “You add that together, you get 110, and that's plenty too much.”


Hanscom was a Nordic Combined competitor at Middlebury College in the 1960s. He moved to Utah in 1970 when he learned to ski the Wasatch backcountry on his skinny skis.


“I joined up with the Wasatch Mountain Club not knowing anything about backcountry skiing or powder or anything like that, being an Eastern guy,” he said. “No skins, I just skied on my old racing skis, and soon bought a pair of wooden, bowknot, 1800s, and backcountry skied on those. I put wax on the bottom and hiked up the mountains and skied down. I learned how to ski the powder on really narrow skis. I tease my friends these days on their big fat skis and their AT bindings, ‘hey you guys, you need to learn how to ski! Come on, get those skinny ones out there.”


Park City’s first operators of White Pine Touring were Jim Miller and Steve Erickson in the 1970s. They sold Nordic equipment and offered lessons on the municipal golf course. Hanscom remembers that it was only what’s known today as classic skiing. And the operators, he says, were pretty creative with getting the track groomed.


“Some of the first races, Steven, Jim, you know they were just grooming with a snowmobile and a little track setter,” Hanscom said. “And, in fact, in order to smooth things out a little bit, they would go around - they had an old bed spring that they dragged behind their snowmobile with a little weight on it, and then a track setter after that because everything was classic skiing back then. And they had a few little races. You know, way back in the early to mid-70s. So yeah, that's where it all started in Park City.”


Credit Alf Engen Ski Museum

As the equipment improved, the sport, he says, continued to expand.


“Early ’80s, we started doing a little skating on our classic skis just, you know, the marathon skate where you keep one ski in the track, and you push off with the other ski,” Hanscom said. “But then skating really took over and they started grooming things wider and wider and equipment became very specialized, you know, fancy skating skis that were fairly flat, all the way from tip to tail with no camber in them and with sticky wax to the end of the foot. And now even sticky wax is starting to go with, with the waxless skis that have little pieces of mohair or some other material under the foot. And skating boots are you know come way up over the ankle they look. They're sturdier than some of the old boots I used to backcountry ski in.” 


A video and photo retrospective of Hanscom's career and the races he organized can be viewed at The Utah Nordic Alliance's (TUNA) website.


Hansom went on to publish a series of books called Wasatch Tours. The first book came out in 1975 before he released a trilogy of guides in the early ’90s.


The books detail tours from not only the canyons of Salt Lake County but north to Ben Lomond and south to Mt. Nebo.


Hanscom also authored more than 100 pieces for the TUNA News as well as The Park Record. 


He continues to ski, bike, hike and even run. It’s not hard for him to win his age group since there are only just a few of them still competing. Still, he says it’s never been about the competition.


“Winning isn't the issue is, as we get older, it's just getting out there and enjoying one another's company and getting the exercise,” he said.


In an online card to Hanscom, dozens of participants in the series thanked the organizer for his work over the last three decades.


Elizabeth Guiney wrote her first ski race was likely on the 1K loop at White Pine and says she cut her Nordic racing teeth at the series. She took her love of ski racing to the Junior National Championships as well as competing in college. She thanked Hanscom for providing a fun and welcoming space for racers of all skill.


Others complimented Hanscom for promoting a healthy lifestyle for entire families.


Paul Smith wrote Hansom has been a significant catalyst in forming a wonderful community of friends that spans multiple generations.


Hanscom is now looking forward to his free time to spend more time watching birds and getting out on the trails. 

Tough but fair, Leslie is the woman most of Park City wakes up with every weekday morning. Leslie has been at KPCW since 1990 and her years at KPCW have given her depth and insight, guiding her as she asks local leaders and citizens the questions on everyone’s minds during the live interviews of the Local News Hour.
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