Cross-country skiing with Jackson Hole’s Luna Wasson

15 Mar 2023

Jackson native returns home as assistant coach of the Jackson Hole Ski Club Nordic program

Winter/Spring 22-23

Written By: Emmie Gocke | Images: Keegan Rice and courtesy Luna Wasson

In a mountain town largely dominated by big mountain and backcountry skiing, the meditative motion of gliding skis along flat snow often takes a backseat.

Luna Wasson, alumna and now assistant coach of the Jackson Hole Ski Club (JHSC) Nordic program, says that’s one of her favorite things about Nordic skiing. Whether she’s training at Trail Creek Nordic Center, or simply out for a joy ride in the park, she loves the rhythmic peace and quiet of the sport — how “everyone’s enjoying it at their own speed.” Luna relishes that with Nordic “you’re not waiting in line, you’re not trying to find a space in a parking lot. It’s a very individual outing that you can make entirely your own thing.”

Although she enjoys the mellow atmosphere, Luna’s no stranger to the competitive side of the sport. The Jackson native first discovered Nordic through the Wilson Elementary School winter sports program, during which students spend five sessions learning the basics of one of Jackson’s winter sports — Alpine skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, hockey, or cross-country skiing. This introduction set in motion a lifelong love of the sport.

Luna joined the JHSC competitive Nordic team in middle school and continued to race throughout high school, ultimately landing a spot to compete at the NCAA Division 1 level for Middlebury College. Four years of racing later and a geology degree to boot, Luna returned to her hometown and her home ski club, this time as a coach.

Since returning to JHSC two years ago, Luna has witnessed significant increased interest in Nordic skiing, both in the club and larger Jackson community.

Following the onset of the pandemic, parents were looking for outdoor activities for their kids and Luna says the JHSC Nordic programs for younger athletes quickly reached maximum capacity. Additionally, there’s twice as many high school athletes who “show up and work hard and support each other” at ski club practice from May until March than when she skied for the club. The motivated, supportive culture is one of her favorite parts about the sport. She enjoys working at the club level where she’s “not making cuts or picking varsity — anyone can get good if they want to put the time and effort in.”

In addition to the growth of the ski club, Luna has noticed a significant uptick in the number of skiers cruising around Trail Creek and the other groomed pathways in Jackson Hole. She cites the accessibility — no lift tickets required and gear is significantly more affordable than an Alpine or AT set up — and the allure of “going out and spending a lot of hours moving overland.”

Luna compares the draw of Nordic skiing to trail running or enduro mountain biking, two sports that are also becoming increasingly popular in Jackson. Especially when “the conditions maybe aren’t the most inspiring to go any other type of skiing,” the groomed trails against the stunning backdrop of the Tetons provide the ideal setting to delve into motion until “it feels like you can go forever.”

Luna says her favorite place and condition to ski is “crust cruising” in Grand Teton National Park — when the spring sun forms a smooth crust on the snow, allowing skate skiers to leave the groomed trails and traverse the sprawling valley for hours. Amidst the hard-charging, high-consequence atmosphere of Jackson winters, the “endurance culture of Nordic is a breath of fresh air from the extreme sports.”

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