Recently I took a trip up to Anchorage, Alaska with the intention to help kick start their Nordic Combined program. What I didn’t realize before heading up there is the sport is already flourishing in Anchorage. It’s not your traditional program that you would see in Steamboat or Park City. To be totally honest they don’t have a program, but they have 40 kids who are extremely enthusiastic and committed to the sport. The kids all belong to various cross-country programs in the area, yet they some how find the time to throw a few practice jumps off before their next homework session. Parent volunteers and big-hearted coaches do most of the hill maintenance, logistics, fundraising and coaching. They don’t work for cash but simply smiles on the kid’s faces. I had the pleasure of stepping in as a guest coach for an afternoon, I can confidently say there were moments of pure joy on every single kids face after each jump!
It is no surprise that the cross-country programs in Alaska are world-renowned. Just in Anchorage alone there are thousands upon thousands of kids participating in Nordic. So much so that even have trouble finding places for all of them to go, and that’s where we are hoping Nordic Combined will come in. Alaska, simply put, has talent and potential. They have produced one the USA’s best ski jumpers, Alan Alborn, as well as several of the best XC skiers the USA has ever known. Clearly all the ingredients are there. However finding the recipe has been the challenge. Through the years the program has risen and fallen, however this time I think it’s here to stay. Several of the parents have taken it among themselves to find the funds to modernize the Carl Eid Ski Jump Complex. They have taken the battle to the legislators and with some luck they will find out this week whether or not they will have the money to put new lighting on the hills, plastic on all three jumps, and hopefully will some leftover to hire a full time coach to continue to recruit young guns as well as run the program. The hope is that with a full time coach, they can work together with the XC programs to start producing some young talent on all fronts including special jumping. After my short time up there, I truly believe Alaska could be a strong feeder program to USA NC in just a few years time.
So what did I do while I was up there? Great question… I spent most of my time meeting the locals involved in Nordic, listening to their stories and answering any questions they had the best that Greg and I could. There is a wonderful community of people up there and I had a great time hanging with them. I hope I get the chance to come back and visit in the future. They were wonderful hosts to Greg and I making our trip “all work and no play, wait flip that and reverse it… all play and no work.” Some how Greg and I were encouraged to ski for 2 hours a day on the awesome XC trails both at Kincaid park and up at Hillside. Even more concerning is that they would feed us delicious seafood right after like it was going out of style. I don’t see that happening anytime soon because every bite was better then the last. So basically that left us with about half a day to actually do some work up there…
In addition to trying to answer the questions of the directly involved Nordic community, we wanted to get the word out to the public as well. The best way for us to do that was to go on air with Charles at the local radio station! We announced we would have a public forum at REI with the hope that there would be some strange faces in the audience. Much to our surprise the room was full with curious individuals interested in joining the program next winter. Greg and I also visited a local elementary school and took over a few gym classes. I tried as hard as I could to convince Greg that we could just do my gym workout with the kids, however ultimately I lost… I think Greg and the rest of the staff knew it might scare them away. Instead we let them watch a short film and gave them some basic ski jumping drills. Needless to say they had fun…I must apologize to the teachers who had to try to calm them down and get them back to work right after, I am sure it was no easy chore…
Needless to say, the trip was a blast and I hope we were able to help out in whatever way we could. I left Alaska inspired, motivated, and enthusiastic about the future. Oh and of course with seafood in hand… They even made me take the crab out of my pockets in security… Ridiculous… Anyways, big thanks to everyone who came out to attend our presentations, those who showed us around and gave us rides to and from everywhere. Big thanks to NSAA and the parents who volunteered to get the jumps ready for us. You all know who you are and I wont mention any names so I don’t blow up your spot, or leave anyone out! Please come visit us this summer in the lower 48!