Tribute to Honour Jon Engen
Nordic Skiing Loses a True Champion of the Sport
On April 26, Jon Engen passed away peacefully after an extraordinarily courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Throughout the fight, he never gave up hope or his spirit.
Engen was born in Norway and came to Bozeman, Mont., where he settled after graduating from Montana State University with a degree in engineering in 1983. Having a strong background in Nordic skiing and a true love of the outdoors, Bozeman became a perfect setting to pursue his interests and a career in engineering.
In Winter 1988, Engen went to the U.S. Olympic tryouts in biathlon, and when he narrowly missed making the team, he turned his efforts to cross-country and succeeded in being named to the 1988 U.S. Olympic cross-country team. He went on to make two more Olympic teams in 1992 and 1996 as a biathlete. Engen was a fierce competitor and well known on the ski circuit, whether it was biathlon, marathon skiing or the U.S. cross-country National circuit.
In his later years, he competed as a Masters racer and achieved World Masters champion status multiple times in his age group. As a competitor, Engen was wellliked on the ski circuit, but also feared by his competitors. However, his humble demeanour outside of competition attributed to his popularity off the ski course.
After his Olympic years, Engen moved to Sun Valley, where he married Darlene Young. Both Engen and Young competed on the marathon circuit with Team Rossignol for many years. During this time period, Engen created his own coaching group in the Sun Valley area. He coached racers of all levels, but particularly enjoyed working with Masters skiers. Being an engineer, Engen had a very analytical mind, which contributed to his success as a coach. While skiing for Team Rossignol, his teammates often looked up to Engen for his expertise in training and technique. Many of those racers still credit Engen’s coaching as a contributing factor in their success.
Ski racing was not Engen’s only passion. During the summer months, he would take to road cycling and compete with much success in statewide and national timetrial competition. He developed many friends in the cycling world, and was well respected for his riding strengths and technical knowledge.
Engen made time to give back to the sport of Nordic skiing after his most competitive years. He served as U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s Cross Country Sport Committee chair from 2006 to 2014, and was involved in almost every aspect of the sport. As an athlete, coach and industry representative, Engen was regarded as one of the committee’s most impactful leaders. He was inducted into the Sun Valley Hall of Fame in 2014, and was honoured this year at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Chairman’s Awards dinner with the Al Merrill Award for his service to Nordic skiing in America.
Engen touched many people over the years, and will surely be missed as a force in the Nordic sports.
Legendary American ski legend and former Olympian, Jon Rein Engen
Jon Engen at the 1992 Biathlon Worlds in Albertville, France
Darlene Young and Jon Engen