Bernt Østerkløft was raised on a farm in Valnesfjord in the municipality of Fauske, north of the Arctic circle. He started his skiing career as a youth, and won many prizes in local events in the early 1930s. In 1935, aged 28, he went to Holmenkollen for the first time, and surprised by coming second in the Nordic Combined, only beaten by double World Champion Oddbjørn Hagen. He was then selected to compete in the international competition at Lahti, Finland, and surprised once more by winning ahead of a strong international field. On his return from the 1936 Olympics, he competed in Holmenkollen for the last time in his career, placing third behind the top two from the Olympic Games, Hagen and Olaf Hoffsbakken. After the 1936 season he disappeared from the national scene, but continued to compete locally. He worked as a lumberjack in his younger years, and later ran his family farm until his retirement.