The Mackenzie family has a storied history helping shape the ski culture of Teton Valley. Now Gary Mackenzie has stepped up to lead the next generation in the pursuit of progression and powder.
Mackenzie’s parents Dana and Deb, along with the Melehes brothers and Terry “Tugboat” Palmer, founded what would become the Teton Valley Ski Education Foundation in 1978. Mackenzie grew up racing in the program under the tutelage of Danny Allred, and after high school he started coaching for Allred.
“That’s when I discovered that I loved jumping off cliffs, skiing pow, doing tricks, and finding other ways to express myself,” Mackenzie said.
He did some freeride coaching for Corey McGrath at the beginning of his tenure as executive director. During that time Mackenzie also competed in Freeride World Tour events and worked masonry jobs to fund his powder fever. He then spent a couple years in Ketchum coaching for Conor Davis in the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s nascent big mountain program, which grew quickly.
Tim Gibbons, recently hired as the new executive director of TVSEF, is restructuring the program to give head coaches more autonomy. Fletcher White is still leading the alpine team, Josh Johnson is the head snowboard coach, Lindsey Love is the head cross country coach, and now Mackenzie is taking on the new position of head freeride coach.
“Gary is going to bring a lot of new energy and enthusiasm,” Gibbons said. “We’ve very lucky to have such experienced coaches.”
Now that he’s back in the Tetons, Mackenzie is looking forward to building a juggernaut of a program.
“I can see how I can help develop the program into something recognized nationally, bring in more money and athletes, and develop a solid foundation of fundamentals for future skiers,” he said.
Grand Targhee offers a great venue for freeriding, Mackenzie said.
“We get good consistent snow and you can jump off a cliff from five inches to 500 feet.”
He said that he has watched freeride competitions evolve through the years—now there’s more communication and a focus on safety, but at the same time, today’s kids are really pushing the bar.
“The stuff the younger generation is doing would have been beyond my comprehension ten years ago,” he said.
He is working on a plan to infuse the 16-week freeride program with more structure. Each week, coaches and athletes will focus on specific skills.
“It’s not a free-for-all,” Mackenzie said. “I want to see our athletes apply their fundamentals to a blank canvas. I want us to have a good season, a safe season, and I want to see growth.”
The TVSEF Fall Gala is on Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Knotty Pine. It’ll be an opportunity to meet Gibbons and Mackenzie (although he’s already a familiar face in the valley). The event is a fundraiser for TVSEF scholarships, and Mackenzie encourages young people who are on the fence about joining to consider pursuing scholarships.
“A little assistance goes a long way,” he said.