The Johnstones – three generations of commitment to Nordic Skiing
Henry Johnstone soars high on his way to winning a Nordic Combined Junior National competition in Alaska. (Courtesy photo)
Henry Johnstone is a junior at Concord-Carlisle High School. On February 27, he helped lead the Patriots Boys Nordic team to the MIAA State Championship by finishing in first place of the 128 skiers competing. This happened on a Tuesday. The weekend before, Henry had competed in a junior national competition in Alaska, where he won the Nordic combined event (cross country skiing and ski jumping). While a few of the top competitors in the country in this event were not able to compete, this was still a national competition and an impressive win for Henry. He then hopped on the redeye and flew back to Boston to win that Massachusetts state championship. While these are obviously extraordinary accomplishments in their own right, for the Johnstones they are simply a continuation of the family’s commitment to the sport of Nordic skiing over three generations.
Henry’s grandfather, Dusty Johnstone, is a legendary figure in Nordic skiing in New England. Dusty, who now lives on Russell Street in Carlisle, fell in love with cross country skiing in 1951 while in high school. At Dartmouth College he was a prominent member of the Nordic team. After college, he became a navy pilot and flew jets in the Pacific for six years. In 1962 he and his wife moved to Carlisle and Dusty began his career at IBM. They also began to raise a family of skiing enthusiasts. They were to have three sons, Stuart, Hans and Scott and a daughter Grace. The entire family shared a great love for the outdoors and the sport of cross country Nordic skiing.
The junior regional competitive association in New England was originally known as the Torger Tokle League. After Bill Koch from Vermont won a silver medal in Nordic skiing at the 1976 Olympic games, the USA’s first Nordic medal ever, there was a tremendous surge in interest in New England. Dusty played a central role in establishing a new organization, the Bill Koch League, which was to replace the Torger Tokle. This organization grew rapidly and by the late 1970s there were over 100 Carlisle kids competing. Dusty worked hard to take this model to other regions of the country.
Three generations of Nordic skiing enthusiasts. Left to right,
Henry, Stuart and Dusty Johnstone. (Courtesy photo)
At the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid, Dusty worked as a volunteer official. The weather made the conditions for Nordic skiing quite difficult at the games, and Dusty realized the value of artificial snow for cross country skiing in Eastern Massachusetts. In 1982 he established a commercial cross country ski area at Great Brook Farm State Park with machine-groomed trails and snowmaking. It now encompasses over ten miles of trails over gorgeous rolling terrain and is one of the most popular ski touring areas in New England. Dusty considers his work with Great Brook to be one of the most significant accomplishments of his life.
While Dusty continued to be a national leader in cross country skiing with his work as Executive Director of the United States Biathlon Association from 1992-1996, he was also quite a presence locally. He became the Head Coach of the Concord-Carlisle High School Nordic Ski Team and served in that position for nine years. In 2007, when he retired from that position, he was honored as scholastic coach of the year.
Following the path of their father, all of Dusty’s children were involved with Nordic skiing. Hans competed locally in the Bill Koch League and CCHS. He went on to excel in the sport on a national level and compete in the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada in the Nordic combined event. Hans’ wife Nancy was also an Olympic athlete, competing in the 1992 games in the biathlon. Hans and Nancy subsequently established a beautiful ski touring inn named Alpine House in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They now reside in Park City, Utah.
Scott also competed locally in the Bill Koch League, CCHS and junior nationals. He was a member of the 1983 state championship team at CCHS. This was the last time CCHS had won the state championship before this year when Scott’s nephew Henry and his teammates accomplished the feat. Scott has coached teams in various parts of the United States and he served as the Nordic Combined Ski Coach for Canada for several years. He now lives in Quebec.
Stuart still lives in Concord with his wife Catherine and their two children Henry and Hazel. Stuart competed in the Bill Koch League and at CCHS. He then went on to ski at Middlebury College where he was captain of the team. Catherine has been an assistant coach for the CCHS Nordic team for the past three years. For the last 30 years, Stuart has run the Great Brook Ski Touring Center in Carlisle. He is committed to his father’s ideals of providing accessible and enjoyable cross country skiing in a quality venue for as many people as possible. With the changes in weather and climate in southern New England, there are challenges with this work. When there is snow and sunshine, however, there is no better place for a Nordic skier and the Center can be packed with happy and enthusiastic skiers.
And that brings us back to the third generation, Stuart’s son Henry and daughter Hazel, who are both avid skiers and competitors. Henry is looking forward to his senior year at CCHS where most of the team will return and make a spirited run at defending their state championship. He will also continue to compete at the junior national level. A good academic student, he plans to attend a New England college and continue his skiing career both at collegiate and national level competitions. Hazel is currently an eighth grader who shows great promise. I suspect we will hear more about both in the years to come.
This is indeed an extraordinary family whose accomplishments in the world of Nordic skiing are quite remarkable and inspiring. It is also a family who has served the local region extremely well in providing a great venue for enjoying quality cross country skiing. Ski on, Johnstones, thank you and Godspeed! ∆