Jones remembered as coach, mentor and friend
December 21, 2005
Mark Jones died on Dec. 12 in Frisco after a career as a competitive skier, ski coach, architect and untiring friend. About 150 friends and former team members held a memorial gathering for Jones at the A-Basin Lodge Sunday evening.Jones was mentor to hundreds of young skiers, and holder of hands for hundreds of sets of parents. He left a permanent impression on all the youngsters he coached – whether they raced for just a single season or decided to invest a major portion of their lives in competitive skiing. Jones was a coach and leader of the Summit Race Team between 1978 and 2001, and although the name of the team and the structure of the organization changed greatly over the years, he was a consistent positive influence on the character of each of the skiers who joined the program.Jones was born in Pennsylvania on June 13, 1952.
He graduated from high school in Tupper Lake, N.Y., and skied at the old Big Tupper Ski Area. Jones was a state champion skier while in high school and became a freestyle skier in the early 1970’s when freestyle skiing was just becoming popular. He came to Summit County in 1973 after skiing and studying at Western State College in Gunnison. Jones was the first freestyle skier at Copper Mountain, and he was part of the crew that built the first ski lift at Copper Mountain.Shortly after moving to Summit County, Jones teamed up with Gene Gillis, who was already coaching young skiers at Keystone and A Basin. The skiers loved Gene, and Jones loved Gene too. Jones married Kathy in 1975, and together they had two children: Trent,18, and Katie, 12. His children brought him joy and pride every day. Jones’ brothers are Eddie Jones of Frisco and Dean Jones of Maui. His mother, Calla, formerly of Frisco, also lives on Maui. Jones’ life outside of skiing included being a residential architect and draftsman in Summit County. He and Kathy bought a vacant lot on the west side of Frisco in 1979, where they built their family home. He loved fly-fishing and hunting almost as much as he loved skiing.
As an aggressive skier, Jones had an attraction for injuries and it wasn’t uncommon to see him in a cast or a brace or limping, but he rarely let his injuries keep him away from his team. During the last few years, Jones had many surgeries on his knees and legs, and he hobbled around with a cane and a smile. Jones ended most sentences with “You know what I mean?”, and most of his team members had a pretty good idea of what he meant. He had the charisma and leadership skills that drew the most out of young skiers and their parents. In the early 1970’s, Vail installed a huge pile of snow up at mid-Vail and at the bottom of a steep slope so that adventuresome skiers could try something called the Gelandesprung. The idea was to speed down the hill and lift off the pile of snow and get as much distance as possible. Jones had done this unusual sport in high school. In fact, the Jones brothers are rumored to have all taken a shot at the Gelandesprung, with varying results. Mark, however, set the world record in Gelandesprung of 213.5 feet, which stood for ten years. He drove away with a new Porsche, which lasted about nine years less than the world Gelandesprung record. In college, Jones was a member of both the Nordic and alpine teams and he skied freestyle professionally in the early 1970’s.
Also in college and shortly thereafter, Jones was sponsored by Head Skis and he tested a new Head ski called the Yahoo, which was one of the first shaped skis ever to be manufactured. He was the poster child for Head Skis back then and appeared in their film clips and ads.Warren Miller included Mark Jones in at least one of his early ski films.Jones’ exploits on skis landed him a role in a 1973 movie filmed at Vail called “The Ultimate Thrill” starring Britt Eklund. He also appeared as a skier in Walt Disney’s “Snowball Express.” The cover photo for the 1978 US Ski Team calendar was a photo of Jones racing down a ski slope. He appeared in Ski Magazine and Sports Illustrated seven times.Contributions for Jones’ children’s education are being accepted at Bank of the West in Frisco.