After 30 years, Dave Hanscom steps away from Wasatch Citizen Series
Tenure as race director saw significant growth, diversification
When the Wasatch Citizens Series Nordic ski racing events began in 1979, the scene was modest. Dave Hanscom, who volunteered as race director for the series beginning in 1992, said there were usually 40 to 50 racers, with a few junior racers among them. Now there are several hundred participants at every race, with about one-third of them juniors.
“It used to be a few kids would tag along with their parents who were racing,” Hanscom said. “Now, so many of these kids are part of Nordic skiing programs in the area, we’re seeing them bring their parents. It’s a total reversal of how it began.”
That growth speaks to Hanscom’s dedication and passion for the sport, and he said it’s why he is now comfortable stepping away. Hanscom recently announced that this winter is his last leading the popular race series. The final race of this season, held Feb. 20, was dedicated to Hanscom in gratitude for his years of service.
“I’m going to be 80 in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been doing it for 30 years,” he said. “That’s plenty. It’s time for someone else to put their stamp on the Citizens Series.”
Hanscom’s contributions to the skiing scene in Park City are well known. The “Wasatch Tours” backcountry skiing books Hanscom co-authored in the 1970s were invaluable, according to Charlie Sturgis, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation and a longtime friend of Hanscom.
“Those books were the bible we lived by back in those days,” Sturgis said. “Back in those days you almost never saw anyone in the backcountry. Dave’s books were my introduction to it.”
Hanscom was inducted into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame in 2015.
The Citizens Series, hosted by the Utah Nordic Alliance, consists of five races at locations around the Wasatch Back and Front, with two classic-technique and three free-technique races. It’s a lot of work to organize the events, Hanscom said, but he gave much of the credit to the race crew he’s worked with for so long.
“Some of them have been with us 15, even 25 years,” Hanscom said. “It’s a very loyal, very hardworking group. They know exactly what needs to be done and they make it very easy for whoever is running the show.”
It wasn’t always the smoothest operation, though. Sturgis said he not-so-fondly remembers the early days when Hanscom would “harangue” him into helping set up races.
“I just remember getting up at 6:30 in the morning to go help Dave get everything together and just thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ It was fun but I still had to race after all that,” he said. “I remember I would just tell myself all the set-up counted as my pre-race warm-up.”
Sturgis said he credits the Citizens Series’ growth during Hanscom’s tenure as race director to that dedication and tenacity.
“There is no question Dave was paramount in keeping the series going,” Sturgis said. “He was such an advocate all along, and put incredible time and energy into it. Dave is the king of Nordic skiing, both backcountry and racing, for the entire Wasatch.”
Hanscom said he remembers the early days of his tenure, when the timers used stopwatches and the results were filed on paper.
“I would write down everyone’s name and then I would go race myself,” he said. “And when I got back the timers would tell me the times and I would go through them by hand to see who finished first, second, third. It was small enough then that I could do that. Not anymore.”
Hanscom said more than the growth of the event, what he’s proud of most is the diversity. He said the Citizens Series crew has worked hard over the years to make the events more inclusive.
“We worked really hard to encourage families to participate, and we’ve done a lot to make it fun for the little kids,” he said. “In recent years we’ve included race classes for sit skiers and Special Olympians. We’ve tried to make it inviting for people who are differently abled and I think we’ve really succeeded.”
Hanscom said they’ve also done their best to keep the entry fees low so that cost would not be a barrier to participating.
“I’ve never been paid, first of all,” he said. “And we actually lose money on the kids races. But that’s not the point. The goal is to get everyone out there (who wants to be).”
Hanscom laughed when asked what he’ll do with his newfound free time. When he retired from work 15 years ago, he said, he didn’t notice much extra free time. But he does plan to continue to enjoy the outdoors.
“I’ll keep skiing, I’ll get out on the trails for running and hiking,” he said. “I’ve gotten into bird watching recently, so I’ll have more time for that.”
Hanscom said he plans to help with the transition as the new race director takes over, but only behind the scenes. And he’s confident the Wasatch Citizens Series will continue to grow.
“I hope the philosophy I brought to the Citizens Series will carry over and continue on,” he said. “I’d like to think that will be my legacy.”
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