PARK CITY, Utah. — As the end of this winter season nears, so does Gordon ‘Gordo’ Lange’s retirement as a long-time cross country ski coach here.
Lange’s most-mentionable list is so long that, for space-saving sake, the following is highly truncated:
As a competitor:
- University of Colorado’s NCAA Championship team three times
- University of Colorado 1976 championship winning team
As a coach:
- Lillehammer Olympic men’s relay race
- A favorite Nordic Combined athlete of Lange’s was Skylar Keat, teammate of the Olympic Camerota family
- Rosie Brennan, currently a standout on the US team representing at Worlds
- Lange’s daughter Leah in her first away race. She raced up into the U14 class with low expectations. After she was announced the winner, there was an audible, joyful collective gasp in the crowd
- 2012 Sr Nationals in Houghton MI. Rosie Brennan and Elizabeth Guiney were together on the podium in the sprint
- University of Wyoming NCAA title in 1985
- Championship teams at Colorado University, men and women, who were separated in those days
Reflecting on all those experiences, Lange said, “For every American I could name there would be a Norwegian who I was either a teammate of or I coached. These guys gave me a wonderful insight as to how to compete, train and race. Along with a ton of culture.”
He has coached the Park City Nordic Ski Team and the Park City Nordic Combined Teams through all their iterations. “I moved to Park City in 1990 and worked with the National Team from 1990 to 98,” Lange said. Somewhere around 2003 I started with the Park City program as a nordic combined coach. Then called National Sports Foundation. Over the last 18 years there has been a lot of growth, change, climate change, trail development, and gray hair.”
Regarding the current season, “COVID was a challenge for race structure and format,” he said. “We are unable to travel as a team. Separate housing, so not much team contact as there used to be. We still maintained good buy-in from the kids and they remain dedicated and enthusiastic.”
Quick to laughter, with an ease of spirit (except when hup, hup, hupping his racers up a herringbone hill), Lange always offered a ready shoulder on which dejected athletes could watch teammates step onto a podium.
With self-deprecation, he wrote in a bittersweet emailed letter to his athletes and their parents, “It is 100% my choice. The club has been super supportive. I’m sure some are surprised, some saddened and some are thinking, it’s about time. I know in my heart, Cross Country skiing will be in your blood for life. And that’s what I strive for. It’s a lifestyle.”
Park City has been Lange’s home away from home; this summer he’ll move back home, where, he said, “I will end up in Jackson, WY and live and play in the town where I grew up with some kind of skis on my feet every day from the time I could walk.”
An avid fly fisherman, Lange will finally get to spend his summer at the tail waters on the snake river, trying to match the hatch.