By Gregory Zeigler
The editorial board at JHNordic.com, after much discussion, has come up with this definition of a Nordic luminary—a local Nordic skier who has both accomplished great things in Nordic skiing as well as contributed to the local Nordic community. Jim Roscoe is one such person.
“Tone it down,” Jim said at our recent lunch at Nora’s (Well, breakfast really, the newly reopened Nora’s was only serving breakfast at lunchtime.) “I just stumbled into this. Don’t make me out to be anything special.”
Well, okay Jim, I thought, I’ll just lump you in with all the other pikers I know who have skied across Finland.
Yup. You read that right, in the early 80s Jim Roscoe, (72) was invited by a friend and her husband from Holland to join them on a classic Nordic tour across Finland. The route over rolling terrain with a few mountains traversed Lapland at approximately the Artic Circle and was marked with flags from the Russian to the Swedish border. This government sponsored epic took all of a week and covered several hundred miles. Nights were spent in hotels, hunting camps, isolated schools and shelters.
Jim remembers the Russian soldiers at the start in fuzzy hats and carrying rifles. He says the European skiers who made up the vast majority of participants were hardcore winter athletes. A great sense of accomplishment was felt by all when they completed the tour at the Swedish border.
When Jim first came to Jackson in 1970, he decided to try his luck at a few citizen races such as the 30K Boulder Mountain Tour and 50K West Yellowstone Rendezvous. He found it be a great winter substitute for distance running. He loved the community of mountaineering people who pursued winter sport in Jackson. The camaraderie and discussions about the primitive gear are still vivid memories.
Years after his ski across Finland, Jim envisioned a similar ski touring scenario with friends in his own backyard. The tour involved skiing from Togwotee Pass to Lander by-way-of Cora, Boulder, Sweet Water Gap and South Pass. It was a massive logistical undertaking involving several ranches—including The Darwin Ranch west of Union Pass and the White Acorn Ranch close to Sweetwater Gap. Jim’s timing was perfect. He managed to bribe the trail groomers with beer each night resulting in preparation of the next section of the Continental Divide trail awaiting the skiers the next morning. Halfway through he remembers thinking “We better make it because I don’t have a plan B.” It turned out the group of intrepid skiers had great weather throughout the four-day tour.
Jim feels it would be great if someone tackled a similar project today.
Jim has fond memories of his many winters in Jackson Hole and reminisced about his sons Wyatt and Will who as kids would sled down the hill from his subdivision to meet the school bus on Fall Creek Road.
Jim recently sold his construction company, Roscoe Co. and has completed eight years in state politics. He is ready for a winter of solid skate and classic.
I asked Jim what he would suggest to people just getting into cross country. He recommends just getting out there and trying some of the excellent groomed Nordic tracks in the valley and supporting their grooming efforts. Coaching for kids and good lessons for grownups new to the sport are good ideas also.
I enjoyed getting to know Jim Roscoe better. He is an interesting and modest guy. And—don’t listen to him—he truly is one of Jackson Hole’s Nordic luminaries.