Rob Kiesel, the founder of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s cross country program and former head coach of the U.S. Ski Team, has passed away at the age of 65, according to a report in Ski Trax magazine.

Kiesel’s body was found Monday at his home in Joseph, Oregon. An official cause of death has not been determined.

An avid outdoors man in many facets, Kiesel was remembered by his peers as a pioneer of the sport.

SVSEF Nordic Director Rick Kapala remarked, “It is on the shoulders of Rob Kiesel that cross-country skiing was built here in Sun Valley. Rob was the driving force and he was a mentor to me as a coach. It was never his style to offer unsolicited opinion, but I was always thankful for his insights and encouragements. We were all fortunate to have him in our community.”

Kiesel was honored with the SVSEF’s Jack Simpson Dedicated Coaches Award in 2007 and was inducted into the Sun Valley Ski Hall of Fame last winter, in a group that included Leif Odmark, Kevin Swigert and Phil Puchner. To be nominated, each athlete had to excel at his sport but also have contributed to the community.

Bob Rosso, owner of the Elephant’s Perch, said, “He was a huge part of my life. Everything that I have done is because of Rob. He was involved in everything from climbing to backcountry skiing to alpine racing to cross country skiing. He was very instrumental in the development of the sport of cross country skiing and in on the record books in Norway. It was Rob’s idea to start the Boulder Mountain Tour and the Thanksgiving ski camps at West Yellowstone. He was always planning or looking for ways to improve what we were doing or the way we were doing it.”

Kiesel was hired by the U.S. Ski Team as an assistant coach in 1975, rising through the ranks as head coach in 1979. He took the team to the Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid in 1980.

Former U.S.S.T. head coach Marty Hall recalled Kiesel’s contributions to the team.

“He was a real part of a very exciting time in our sport then and he played a major role,” Hall said. “There was just this explosion of technology, during that period and Rob was at the forefront of glide waxing, testing multiple pairs of skis and finding the right glide wax. I liked his knowledge and I think we made a good team.”

Kiesel is immediately survived by his two children, Jess and Kaelin. Services have not been announced.

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Hank McKee
Senior Editor
In memoriam: The veteran of the staff, McKee started with Ski Racing in 1980. Over the seasons, he covered virtually every aspect of the sport, from the pro tours to junior racing, freestyle and World Cup alpine competition. He wrote the first national stories for many U.S. team stars, and was still around to report on their retirements. “Longevity has its rewards,” he said, “but it’s a slow process.”



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