Solving Puzzles: Ski Coach John Estle


As regular listeners will know, I fell in love with cross country skiing late in life. Over the last six years I’ve made steady progress, but I have unique, if dubious, distinction. Not many skiers of my caliber can say they’ve made an impression on the celebrated former Nanooks ski coach John Estle. In my first 20K race I was approaching the stadium and the finish line when I saw a friend. I stopped and chatted with them for a few minutes. Then they asked if I was in the race and hadn’t I better finish. Well, when I actually crossed the finish line, dead last, I looked over to find dour-faced John Estle gazing out at me from the timing hut. He had been waiting to wrap things up and I’m sure he saw me chatting away. I’ve never had the courage to ask him what he was thinking at that moment.

From that unpromising start, I have gotten to know and become friends with John. And the more I learned about him, the more I knew I wanted to have him on the show. He was inducted into the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks Hall of Fame five years ago. During his time as head cross country and skiing coach at UAF, he mentored two skiers to a combined three All-America honors. Also, much of our trail system in Fairbanks has seen his touch. He oversaw improvements to the UAF trails as well as creation of new trails. After UAF, John became the Cross Country Head Coach of the US Ski Team from 1990-93, which included the 1992 Olympics in France, and also served as the Chief of Stadium for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. John continues to play a role locally, nationally and internationally in races and with skiers.

As you’ll hear from our discussion, John approaches his skiers as individuals and as puzzles to be solved.

I want to point out, for any skiers in Fairbanks, there is still time to sign up for the Sonot Kkaazoot. Nifty hats are promised to the first 300 skiers who sign up. More information is at

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