Website Manager

Lakeland Nordic Ski Team


Meet Our Coaches!


Head Coach
: J. Erich Kern
USSA Level 100 and 200 Certified Cross Country Coach

Bio: I was born and raised in Southeast WI with 6 brothers and sisters, and minimal Nordic skiing experience as a youth. I began bike racing post High School and cross trained by learning to Nordic ski, with a passion to ski the Birkie. After meeting and marrying my wife, Christel (MS Coach), who also had nordic skiing interests, we eventually settled in Northern MN. This is where our children, Grace (HS team) and Jennings (MS team) were born. As the kids grew, it was natural to progress into coaching. Relocating to Minocqua in 2017, we immediately became involved with the LNST and I became Head Coach in 2018. I am honored to be working with a group of dedicated parents and coaches in a very involved Nordic ski community.  I also enjoy spending time in many other outdoor activities that the Northwoods offer.

Assistant Coach:  Azael Meza

Credentials: USSA Level 100 Certified Cross Country Coach, Wilderness First Responder, 15+ years of facilitating outdoor education programming for youth and adults, former Elementary and Middle School head coach with the LNST program, currently serving as President with the LNST Board.

Bio: Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, I loved to bike, ice-skate, and explore. In college spent a year at Montana State University and met my wife of 21 years, Lisa (a WI Native), while learning to XC ski in Yellowstone…and I have been XC skiing recreationally ever since! Lisa and I have two kids: Sylvia and Stella who have grown as young skiers along with the LNST program. This will be my first year as the LNST HS Assistant Coach, and I am looking forward to it! Outside of coaching and family life, I work for the non-profit sector and own a photography business. I love to travel, play drums, take nature pictures, and explore the world by foot, paddleboard, canoe, motorcycle, and backcountry skis.

(photo coming)
Assistant Coach:  Dan Clausen
Credentials: USSA Level 100 and 200 Certified Cross Country Coach; PSIA National Team, Cross Country and Telemark Level 3

I have been devoted to the ski industry for over 45 years. I have been coaching at Minocqua Winter Park for over 4 decades and was associated with the Lakeland ski team from the start. In the 1980s, I was a Senior USSA ski coach when skating first came on the scene and developed some of the first skating progressions and skate videos. I went on to coach the JR Alexandra Victorian team for nine summers at Lake Mt Ski School in Australia and for U.S. skiers at JR Nationals in Anchorage Ak and Rumford ME. I was a member of the PSIA National Demo team for 16 years and had the honor to represent US skiing at Interski in Beitostolen  Norway, Crans Montana Switzerland, and Japan. Working with the Lakeland team has aided in forming the coach I am today  Thank you! I also enjoy summer sports!!

Assistant Coach: Stephanie Balas

Credentials: USSA L100 Certified Cross Country Coach

Bio: I started skiing competitively in high school with the Lakeland Nordic Ski Team (2013-2017). At college, I skied with the St. Olaf team (2018-2020) and was All-American at USCSA Nationals. I majored in philosophy with a concentration in neuroscience. When I studied abroad in New Zealand (2020-2021), I founded the Dunedin Nordic Ski Club and held dry-land sessions and organized trips up to Snow Farm. I’ve been involved with the Lakeland team ever since high school, helping out at training clinics and camps whenever on break from college, and am very excited to now help out as an Assistant Coach this winter season! Outside of skiing, I work as an orthopedic technologist, and enjoy rock climbing, running and painting.

Assistant Coach: Jake Van Hefty

Bio: Born and raised in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I have been skiing since I could walk and have been a part of the Lakeland Nordic Ski programs throughout my childhood, graduating from the High school team in 2020. Since graduation, I started my online college studies through Mid State Tech, which has allowed me to move back home and start a job in sales at Stengl Marine. The Lakeland Nordic Ski Team and their coaches gave me a platform to compete at the Midwestern JNQ level, and eventually the national level. With those opportunities, I met some of my best friends and saw some beautiful places. I am honored and excited to be assisting the ski team, and I hope to aid in providing the same opportunities that were presented to me when I was on the team. Outside of skiing, I enjoy just about every activity the Northwoods has to offer, with wakesurfing, dirt biking, camping, hunting and fishing being some of my favorites.

Team Manager: Heather Van Hefty

Bio: I have been a part of the Lakeland Nordic Ski Team since 2009 when my oldest son graduated from Winter Park's Wolves & Pups program and into LNST Elementary School program and I was on-snow parent helper. In 2011, I transitioned to the LNST Board. In 2014, I happily accepted the newly-created Ski Team Manager position and continue in that position today. My son Jake (age 19) is now helping as a LNST HS Assistant Coach, while continuing his college education on-line. My other son, Casey (age 16), is in the LNST HS program and also competes at the Junior National level. When I'm on snow now, I assist my daughter, Sylvia (age 12), to adaptive ski so she can ski like her brothers. I feel very fortunate that we have such a wonderful and respectfully recognized program like ours in our community and that our family is part of it.


Head Coach:
Christel Kern

Credentials: USSA Level 100 and 200 Certified Cross Country Coach

Bio: I was raised in Shawano skiing recreationally with my family.  When I was in college, my dad discovered the Birkie and he asked me to ski it with him. So, I skied it on my waxless classic skis and poles from 8th grade!  After that, I got into citizen ski racing for fun across the region with my family and then-boyfriend, now husband Erich - who is LNST HS Head Coach.  When our kids were elementary school-aged, I started coaching nordic ski through the Minnesota Youth Ski League.  When we moved to Minocqua in 2017, I assisted with LNST ES and was later Head Coach in 2020-21. The 2021-22 season will be my first year as LNST MS Head Coach and I’m looking forward to it!  Outside of coaching and family life, I work in forestry research and I enjoy golf, yoga, painting, and traveling.

Assistant Coach: Zeke Fashingbauer
Credentials: PSIA National Team, Cross Country L3, Childrens Specialist 2, USSA Level 100 Certified Cross Country Coach, YMCA Youth Development Specialist
Bio: Born in Minocqua (1988) and learned to ski at Minocqua Winter Park in the Bill Koch League. Skied with LNST through high school (2007). Attended University of Minnesota-Duluth, studied History and German Studies, taught alpine and snowboarding at Spirit Mt in Duluth. Returned to Minocqua (2012) to pursue cross country skiing and began coaching and teaching skiing full-time. Hired by PSIA Central as an examiner (2015) and named to the PSIA National team in 2021. Married to Stacey Fashingbauer (PA); two kids: Finn 6 Leo 2.  “Skiing and education have provided many opportunities for growth and travel, but I still like it here in Minocqua. When I’m not at Winter Park, I'm water skiing, tele skiing, fishing, hunting, motorcycling, or playing in the band. In the summer, I have a carpentry business and gig with 22 Off.”


Head Coach
: Sara Keuler
Credentials: USSA L100 Certified Cross Country Coach
Bio: Raised in Wisconsin, I spent my outdoor winter hours ice skating and occasionally cross country skiing with my family. I may be the only ski coach who hopes the snow holds out for the lakes to freeze so the perfect ice rink can take shape! I began skiing consistently in my mid 20’s, backcountry nordic and downhill, due to the accessibility in the locations I lived. Since calling Minocqua my home, both skate and classic skiing have become regular winter activities. My husband, Andrew and I ran the Nordic Pups youth program for 4 years and I have assisted with the elementary ski team for the past 2 years. Outside of working as a physical therapist and spending time with Andrew and our children, Brayden and Cooper, I enjoy cooking, music, road trips to the mountains, and playing on the lake in the summer.