Nordic Nation: Calling John Caldwell

Nordic Nation: Calling John Caldwell

John Caldwell with his three sons. (From left to right) Sverre Caldwell, Tim Caldwell, John Caldwell, and Peter Caldwell. (Photo: Sophie Caldwell)


Flashback to 1964. That’s six years after the mega-fad of hula hooping, and five years before the psychedelic haze of Woodstock. A time when the country teetered towards war protest and Tricky Dick … (as in, “I am not a crook.” — Richard Nixon).


What could possibly supplant hula hoops and pending cultural disruption? You guessed it, cross-country skiing.


In 1964, John Caldwell wrote the first edition, of eight editions in total, what’s now considered a classic, The Cross-Country Ski Book.


While not quite on the scale of hula hooping, Caldwell’s book spawned a cross-country ski boom. The book popularized the sport that offered skiing as a path to enjoying the outdoors in silent-sport mode.


John Caldwell and the art of flexing skis. Here, he’s helping his granddaughter Sophie Caldwell, a U.S. Ski Team member, pick skis. (Photo: Sophie Caldwell)


That’s not to say Caldwell doesn’t come with serious racing street cred. He was a 1952 Olympian and coached the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team from 1965 to 1972 and was an Olympic coach in ’68, ’72, ’80, and ’84. He’s coached hallmark U.S. cross-country skiers like Martha Rockwell and Bill Koch.


At 88 years old, Caldwell lives in Putney, Vt., his hometown since 1941. He’s looked to for sage advice or a spicy quote on how the power brokers at the elite levels of U.S. skiing need to change and up their game.


One of Caldwell’s rules of engagement for the following “Nordic Nation” interview was no discussion of his grandkids. That brings us to the fact that his grandkids are still in the World Cup ski game. Granddaughter Sophie Caldwell and grandson Paddy Caldwell are current U.S. Ski Team members. (Note to listeners: Like any good grandparent, Caldwell did indeed mention his grandkids during the interview.)


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