U.S. Ski Team member Kikkan Randall made history as the first American woman to win the FIS Cross Country Skiing World Cup sprint title. The 29-yearold native of Anchorage, Alaska, clinched the title in mid-March with an 11th place finish in Drammen, Norway. XCSkiResorts.com spoke with Randall to find out more about the woman who reached this pinnacle. See the photos from Aimee Berg and the US Olympic Committee at Kikkan Randall takes Manhattan.
Kikkan is the first American male or female to win a World Cup season title in xc skiing in 30 years. Bill Koch was the last American to reach such heights in the sport in 1982. Randall maintained consistency all season in sprint events, scoring several podium finishes and two victories.
As a 15-time US National Champion and a 3-time Olympian, Randall validated a major milestone in her career, hoisting the hard-earned Joska crystal globe she was awarded as the FIS Cross Country World Cup sprint champion at the season finale in Falun, Sweden.
Sprint races have time trials where each contestant skis the course in interval starts. The fastest sixteen skiers advance to elimination rounds. The first two skiers in each of the eliminations move on to the semi-final races, which consist of two heats of four athletes each. The medal sprint is one race with the top two skiers from each semi-final heat.
Randall opened the season with two straight wins and clinched the title with one race remaining. She commented, “It's been an incredible season. It has been really fun and challenging. I feel like this is the perfect cap to end it.”
Actually her tour in Europe ended after receiving the award. She had a 4th place finish in the Red Bull NordiX competition where she raced a skiercross course with jumps, banked turns, and uphills against other Nordic ski racers vying for the finish line.” Kikkan proclaimed the NordiX “really cool” and thought that it could attract young people to xc skiing in the US because of the high intensity level of action in the race.
Chris Grover, US Cross Country Team Head Coach, said, “It’s been a long road leading to a crystal globe for Kikkan. She has been part of the U.S. Ski Team since 2000. During this time, she has been systematic and incredibly professional in her approach to training, racing, and living. She is now reaping the benefits of many years of hard work and her success should serve as a model for what can be accomplished with a bit of talent, a ton of hard work, and a positive outlook. We are all so proud of her.”
So who is Kikkan Randall? She’s the niece of two former Olympians and she was nicknamed “Kikkanimal” by her high school running teammates in Anchorage because she was always pushing them to do more and try harder. For some of the financial support needed to compete, Kikkan secured some Alaskan-based sponsors including Subway, an automobile dealership group, and various health businesses.
As a role model Kikkan visits elementary schools to talk with kids about working to attain their dreams and being active everyday. Proclaimed as a “Get Activist” she inspires kids to lead a healthy lifestyle in the “Healthy Futures” program. She also encourages female athletes in the “Fast and Female” programs. And now when she speaks to groups, she has the World Cup globe for show-and-tell, too.
Randall is dedicated to expand the popularity of cross country skiing in the US. After winning the World Cup title, she spoke with USA Today, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and other major media about her accomplishment and to spread the gospel that cross country skiing can be enjoyed at any level.
Randall’s record of American firsts in xc skiing includes first World Cup women’s podium, first World Cup women’s victory, first World Championship women’s medal, first Olympic women’s top ten and first World Cup Overall women’s discipline leader. In the 2010 Winter Olympics she placed eighth in the women’s sprint, the best ever American women’s finish and is now looking to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Congratulations - we salute you!
2012-13 Update: Kikkan Randall's great results continued with a third place in the overall women's world cup standings individually and the 6 x 1.2 kilometer team sprint world champion with Jessica Diggins at Val Di Fiemme in Italy on Feb 24; a 3rd in a relay team race in late November; a 2nd place in 5 km freestyle in Kuusamo, Finland; 1st place in freestyle team sprint in Quebec on Dec 8; a 6th place in 10 km classic race in Canmore on Dec 13; a 2nd in freestyle sprint on Dec 15 and two stage wins in the Tour de Ski in early January 2013, which had her 2nd in Tour sprint standings. For an example of Kikkan Randall in sprint race action (with outtakes of both men's and women's races) click SuperTour Sprint at Tahoe Donner on April 6th.
More than 10 million Europeans of all ages and fitness levels are Nordic Walking (also known as Ski Walking) with special Nordic Walking Poles. This new fitness activity turbo charges the normal walking regimen burning as much as 40% more calories compared to regular walking.
Nordic Walking poles help individuals with balance issues, knee issues or new knees, hip issues or new hips, back issues (including those with rods in their back), weight issues, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's Disease, neuropathy, arthritis, bursitis, scoliosis, lumbar stenosis, fibromyalgia, post polio, osteoporosis, stroke recovery, cancer recovery, and other limitations to walking. Nordic Walking is helping thousands of people get off the couch, get outside, start walking safely, and effectively launching much needed walking campaigns.
While hosting Nordic Walking clinics in Traverse City, MI, Pete Edwards of www.SkiWalking.com was introduced to Michelle Honer, who had signed up for a Ski Walking class. When she walked up the handicap access ramp prior to the class with her cane it was apparent to Pete Edwards that she had some balance issues. She informed her classmates that she had MS. The first Ski Walk was only a few blocks out and back but within several weeks, Michelle was covering about two miles in an hour.
For seven years Michelle had ridden an electric scooter in the Traverse City MS Walk but since taking the Nordic Walking class, she has used the Nordic Walking Poles for the 5 km (3.1 miles). Local newspapers and TV stations have covered her remarkable story. "My special Nordic Walking poles have allowed me to walk taller, faster, further, and with much more stability than with my cane. Their one-piece design is so much better than my old adjustable poles, which broke unexpectedly at an extremely inconvenient time," commented Michelle.
Michelle Honer is now an official Ski Walking Ambassador for www.SkiWalking.com, who assists in many of the Nordic Walking clinics. Her success with the poles encouraged Edwards to host Nordic Walking clinics at MS Support Group meetings and he has worked with the Jimmie Huega Center in Colorado, which is dedicated to helping those with MS to lead healthier and more active lives.
Last summer, www.SkiWalking.com also donated Nordic Walking poles and hosted free clinics at Fort Carson in Colorado for the Wounded Warriors program. Many of the American soldiers at the clinics were using canes and walkers and one had recently been released from his wheel chair. All of the soldiers found that using the correct length poles really did radically improve their balance, stability, and gait. And at the International Finnish Festival (FinnFest 2013) held in June 18-23 2013 in Hancock/Haughton region in MI, Pete Edwards will help supply poles to break the world record for mass Nordic Walking. Good luck!
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The North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA) presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Thom Perkins of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation (JSTF) in a ceremony held at The Wentworth in Jackson, NH. The ceremony was held at the Eastern Ski Writers Association Annual Meeting in April 2011.
"I would like to thank the writers for their kind and generous recognition," said Perkins. "There are so many amazing people in this industry that have been or could be recognized. I am truly humbled and honored to have been selected for this award."
From a small village in New Hampshire that has been transformed into the Mecca of North American cross country skiing, Perkins has been and continues to be a leader in Nordic ski marketing. With the inception of the Internet, Perkins was an early adoptor who embraced email marketing as a communications tool and developed a website to spread the Nordic ski gospel.
Perkins was a founding member of the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and served as president from 1981 to 1983. He is presently Board Member Emeritus for the organization and he is a long time advisory board member of the Friends of New Hampshire Skiing. He remains one of the few xc ski area operators members of Eastern Ski Writers Association and over the years, he has hosted the eastern writers three times in Jackson, NH. He realized how effective it would be to invite ESWA journalists to his town to cover Nordic skiing and Jackson's amenities.
"There are many people who enjoy both Alpine and cross country skiing in addition to the purists," said Perkins. "Recognition of that fact in the media is good for not only the sport but the writers themselves. It's a message I've been working on for years. Cross country skiing is such a vital sport - good in so many ways. I don't see it as Alpine vs. cross country skiing. I see it as us against the other options that the public has for their time."
After seeing a video commercial about the Jackson Ski Touring Center, XCSkiResorts.com spoke with Perkins about some of the things he is doing to market JSTF. He had the commercial professionally produced in a 2-minute ad with video and voice over that is airing on the Jackson website, in ski columns, and on Facebook and YouTube. He wrote copy, developed a shot list, and made it work. JSTF is also regularly on Resort Network TV for live interviews and ski conditions.
There was a billboard on Route 16 in NH, which was claimed to be the first ever billboard dedicated to xc skiing. It was underwritten by Swix Sprots and Fischer Skis but touted JSTF. Jackson did not contribute funding for the billboard but it helped get it done.
Perkins raves about the JSTF activity on Facebook, which gets thousands of views. The JSTF staff really has Facebook cooking for the area and Perkins recommends using the fan-based rather than the social pages on Facebook. He uses MailChimp for an outreach email distribution service, which he says can be segmented many different ways to contact up to 5,000 people on his lists. It provides detailed info about who is opening the mail and it also automatically feeds Facebook and Twitter.
That stuff is great and many more xc ski areas will be moving toward these marketing methods. But a favorite Thom Perkins idea last year was the offer to Alpine skiers to come to Jackson on Sundays, the "get away day." Many Alpine skiers, who visit the high country for the weekend like to leave early on Sunday to return home and they feel that they can't get their money's worth at the Alpine ski area for only a couple of hours of skiing on Sunday. JSTF offers anyone who shows a Saturday Alpine lift pass, a 33% discount on a Jackson trail pass, lesson, rental, or package. It has been advertised in the newspaper, on the website, and on Facebook and it is bringing incremental income to Jackson.
Perkins touts that the most important factor to xc skiing many NOT be snow...it's land! As the director of the JSTF, he has helped to secure the 150 kilometers of trails in the village that connect the village with lodges, nature, and area destinations by working with 82 private landowners for the privilege of crossing their properties. The development of the nonprofit JSTF as an organization of landowners, businesses, and a local ski club has been duplicated in many other states across the nation.
While accepting the award, Perkins quipped that even though it was a lifetime achievement award, he was not quite finished at Jackson Ski touring just yet. XCSkiResorts.com and the Nordic ski industry were glad to hear that!
The Winter Olympics were first held in 1924 and 86 years passed before the US had a gold medalist cross country skier standing on a podium at the famous quadrennial competition. Bill Demong of Vermontville, NY was the man to attain the gold amongst a team destined to gather hardware in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In past games, American cross country skiers have had as much promise, but they have not delivered as expected, until the 2010 US Nordic Combined Team stepped up to the podium with individual gold and silver medals and a team silver medal. Johnny Spillane, Bill Demong, and Todd Lodwick had previously won world championships (Demong in 2009) and were internationally ranked 8th, 10th, and 13th respectively in the Nordic Combined World Cup standings last February.
Johnny Spillane broke the ice with a silver medal in the first competition for the team at the new facility built for the games outside of Whistler, British Columbia. He appeared to have the gold in hand but he was caught from behind by a Frenchman with only 4 tenths of one second remaining to the finish line. The French guy was born in the USA and lives in Missoula, MT. It was also tough luck for American Todd Lodwick, who led that race for 95 percent of the time and then ended up in 4th. His comment, "Fourth place sucks." American Bill Demong, who started in 24th position after his jump, made it back to finish in sixth place. Add it all up and the Americans had three finishers in the top six and things bode well for the team competition in Nordic Combined later in the week. Spillane commented, "I spent too much energy catching the racer ahead, who it turned out was already dead on his skis." Spillane said that he was so spent that he didn't even remember entering the stadium or being passed. "Obviously, you want to win the gold, but what counted was that I was satisfied with my performance." He also spoke about "added pressure in the team competition compared to the individual races because it is more for country and your teammates."
Spillane and his wife had a baby girl last July and he also had a knee operation in the summer. The baby and the rehabilitation will slow his getting back into the competitive fray until late January. He realizes that with a baby that "it will be tougher to be on the road so much and hard to keep motivated this year."
Bill Demong is a goal and plan oriented fellow and after the Olympics he took a couple of weeks reflecting and decided to "enjoy and continue success with the team and individually and try to defend my championships."
Demong's story is made for TV. After winning the gold in Vancouver in the Nordic Combined big jump, he proposed marriage to his girlfriend and then was selected by the US Olympic Team athletes to carry the flag in the closing ceremonies. "It was a whirlwind of a few days but a perfect ending to a perfect Olympics," commented Demong about the "pretty hectic and exciting" time immediately following his triumphs. But why no Wheaties box cover? Demong said "those things are predetermined before the games even start."
A few years back his career was hanging in the balance after a serious accident in a swimming pool. "Fracturing my skull was the turning point in my career as it gave me a year off to recuperate and redefine why I wanted to ski and what I wanted to get out of it. I like to get my angry out and chase people." And then in the 2009 World Championships in the team competition, Demong made headlines for misplacing his racing bib amidst his racing outfit. The US team was disqualified in that competition but his teammates were quick to forgive him. After the incident, he not only went out and won the big jump world championship, but later in the month he took gold at the King's Cup in Vikersund, Norway, which is considered one of the highest honors in Nordic Combined competition.
Do Olympic Athletes Turn those Medals into Cash?
The Nordic Combined Olympic medal winners have been very busy since the Vancouver games. Both Spillane and Demong spoke of their trip to army bases in Iraq and they've done plenty of fund raisers to help various causes and ski programs. Spillane said, "It was so busy for 3-4 months and now it is calming down. For sure you make money, but it is not six figures." He commented that "it is a small window and there are not as many opportunities as I thought. The ski team helps with training but does not line much up financially" for these athletes and it sounds like there was very little lined up in advance.
Demong also said there were more opportunities after winning Olympic gold but he pointed to the nonfinancial opportunities that are very meaningful such as supporting a renovation of Dewey Mountain where he grew up skiing, and developing a new company. He wants to take advantage of "new venues that were opened up so he can build something long term and make a difference." Both skiers spoke of their development work with younger skiers as "giving back to the sport."
There was some sniping at the Olympics about the weather advantage for some of the jumpers in Nordic Combined events and upon being asked about it Demong commented, "It seems that at every event the weather causes whining, but it evens out. The best skiers usually win." And it also seems that Bill Demong taking an individual gold medal and a team silver medal was indeed the best Nordic Combined skier at the Vancouver games. Congratulations!
Click for the story of Leon Leonwood Bean also known as LL Bean the famous outdoor store in Maine celebrating the 100-year anniversary on SnowshoeMag.com.
Click for the story of Suzy Chaffee, the female ski icon from the 1960's, who speaks about her battle to give opportunities to women, native Americans, and the environment at SkiDiva Conversation.