Nelson looks forward to carrying SHS Nordic torch |

Nelson looks forward to carrying SHS Nordic torch

SUMMIT COUNTY – Filling big shoes is hard enough, and filling the fast Nordic boots of the Summit High School legacy is a whole new challenge. But Richard Nelson, the new head coach of the Summit High School Nordic team, is up for it, and he has the coaching and racing experience to back him up.

Nelson, who moved to Fairplay with his wife and two children two years ago, comes from a racing background. He was appointed SHS Nordic coach last week, succeeding Marty Gervais, who led the SHS boys team to the state championship last year and the girls team to second place. The SHS team has been one of the best teams in the state throughout the 24-year coaching era of Gervais’ and Gary Giberson.

Nelson, 42, is a self-proclaimed recovering software engineer, having sacrificed his old profession for a variety of active new ones. He is the coach of the Park County High School track and field team as well as an independent cycling coach. He also worked as a ski instructor last year at the Gold Run Nordic Center and at the Frisco Nordic Center the year before with center operator and SHS Nordic assistant coach Gene Dayton.

“I know a lot of the history behind the Nordic scene up here,” Nelson said. “I know the challenge in front of me. The expectations are always high in terms of the ski team. I’m hoping, with the tools I have, I can keep up what’s been started.”

Nelson has qualified to compete in the second wave of the notorious Birkebeiner race in Hayward, Wis. It is America’s largest and most competitive Nordic event. However, because the Feb. 22 event will coincide with the Colorado State High School Ski Championships next year, Nelson will opt to miss it.

“I will definitely stick with the state championship. It’s worth the sacrifice,” he said. “I’ve met some of the (SHS) team, and I’ve been really impressed. The character of those kids is incredible. You have to be motivated to go into sports like Nordic racing, and it shows with them.”

Nelson has been a competitive athlete most of his life, starting out as a runner when he was young and moving into Nordic skiing and cycling. In college, he started, coached and competed on the Arizona State Cycling Team.

He is very much looking forward to coaching the SHS team and feels he has what it takes to continue the dedication and hard work of his predecessors and the team.

“I was excited just to have the interview,” he said. “Knowing the history of some of the guys involved can be a little intimidating, but I’ve worked with a few of them. When I got the position, I was incredibly excited. I think it’s going to work out really well.”

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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