During his 40-plus years in Park City, Dar Hendrickson has become a household name for dozens, if not hundreds, of families.
The prolific ski coach came to Park City in 1979 from his home state of Michigan, where he was a Northern Michigan University ski team member. “I moved here to be on the Park City Ski Team as a 21-year-old, and I’m 63 now and I’m still with the ski team,” he says. “I just wanted the opportunity to ski mountains and to see how good I could become and advance myself.”
Following his first winter in Park City, Dar returned to Michigan to complete his degree. He had plans to join the Marines as a pilot, but a failed eye exam changed everything. After 11 days as a Marine, he returned to Park City.
“One day [the ski team] came to me and said, ‘We’re starting a new little program; we’re going to call it the Devo. Would you like to be the coach?’ It sounded like a good thing because I got to ski with young kids, and I could still race a little bit. On my first day, I just said, ‘Oh my God, this is awesome!’ So, I’ve been doing that since.”
Dar has been the 9- and 10-year-old development coach for over 30 years and has had a hand in training many Olympians. What sets his coaching apart is his focus on self-responsibility, accountability, confidence, and positivity. While these are great ideologies for the sport, they are also valuable life lessons.
“You’ve got to be a sturdy person to become an Alpine ski racer. You’ve got to have this can-do attitude. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself … How about you just figure out how to do the best you can every day, every turn, run by run, day by day? That’s how you get better at the sport. No matter how much money your family has or doesn’t have, it’s still the fastest one wins. I say five things about every ski race: left turns, right turns, a start, a finish, and the fastest one always wins.”
Dar’s cache of positive phrases like “Livin’ the dream,” “On top of the world, baby!” and “Best day ever!” give each day a positive anchor, both on and off the mountain. As a coach to many youngsters, Dar has the arduous task of balancing mentorship, authority, and fun, but doesn’t shy away from tough love and stays true to his rules and guidelines.
It’s a gig that runs through the winter season, where the Devo coach can be found on-piste Friday through Sunday. During the ski team’s off-season, which is much of the year, Dar’s other businesses — yes, plural businesses — keep him busy. In addition to coaching, he works as a house painter, caterer, and professional cook.
His signature dish? Bacon-wrapped shrimp with a creamy Cajun sauce. He accredits his cooking skills to his own enjoyment of food and his years of experience working in restaurants like Adolph’s, Philippe’s, and Alex’s in his early years.
Although Dar coaches a skier for just one, maybe two seasons, the connection doesn’t end once the snow melts. He recently catered a 40th birthday party for one of his former skiers and paints houses for many ski team members and their families. “Former skiers, they need their house painted too,” he says. Even his dentist was one of his trainees once upon a time.
“I just feel lucky to have been able to get to know these kids. I have oodles of thank you notes that kids have made me that I keep. But you know, it’s just fun to be me sometimes.”