Meet the Dean of the Downhillers
Talk about a blended family. Last summer, five local youth ski and snowboard teams—the Park City Ski Team, the Summit Ski Team, Team Park City United, Fly Freestyle, and the Park City Nordic Club—merged under the umbrella of what’s now known as the Park City Ski & Snowboard Club. Longtime Park City Ski Team Director Jesse Hunt was chosen as the collaboration’s patriarch, not a small job considering the teams’ widely divergent cultures. Here Hunt talks about what prompted the merger, his own competitive skiing coming of age, and how he plans to get snow sliders from such different points of view (as well as their parents) to peacefully share the same sandbox.
What prompted the merger?
There was a lot of competition and duplication of effort between clubs. We realized we could do a better job for the community of athletes if we came together as one. Multisport programming is happening everywhere. We were one of the few resort towns that didn’t offer it. Bottom line, uniting the clubs will provide much better service and programming for our kids.
What are the objectives of the newly formed PCSSC?
Create a long-term, stable environment for all the programs; reap the benefits of cross-pollination; provide clarity within the community; improve and grow athlete services; and help develop facilities.
How did you get into helping kids develop into competitive skiers?
I grew up in Vermont, learned to ski at age three, and raced for the University of Vermont. I moved to Park City in 1990, following my now-wife Anne Kari Aas, a Norwegian Nordic skier who raced for the University of Utah. I coached kids at the Park City Ski Team (PCST) for 3 years and then spent 16 years working for the United States Ski & Snowboard Association as European Cup coach, head coach for the World Cup tech team, and, eventually, Alpine director. After Anne and I had three kids, I returned to PCST in 2009 as program director and general manager. It was a nice opportunity for me to stop traveling so much and spend more time with my family.
What made you want to head up the newly merged PCSSC?
It’s an incredible opportunity to bring these teams together in a positive way. I’m also competitive, so I want to succeed. I went from serving 200 athletes at PCST to about 1,000 at PCSSC. But I’ve moved from on-hill coaching to management as I’ve grown in my career, so that’s prepared me for what we’re taking on now.
How are you melding the diverse cultures of the five different groups?
Our team cultures have more in common than we have differences, which is key. The goal is to keep the authenticity of each sport—the fashion side—if you will, and improve on the function side. We’re streamlining fundraising efforts to support the athletes collectively instead of each team soliciting its own donations. We’re building a consistent structure. We had families with kids in three different clubs trying to navigate different administrations and communications; it had gotten tough. And we’ll leverage partnerships in the community. Different clubs had different agreements with local resorts for training space and time and such. Now we can streamline all of that for the good of the athletes.
What’s PCSSC’s mission statement?
Be the best you can be. Have a good attitude and put in the effort, whether you’re an entry-level athlete participating for the social aspects of the sport or a high-level competitor striving to make a national team. We’ll balance a broad range of needs, but deliver to all.
What are you most excited about?
This winter will be a year of transition, for sure, but the merger is being really well received. The positive energy is definitely contagious.