In what is considered to be a Nordic coup for Anchorage, Kincaid Park has been selected to host two high-profile Nordic ski races in the coming years.
Kincaid will be the 2018 location for the U.S. Nationals Cross-Country Ski Championships, as well as Junior Nationals championships. U.S. nationals will be held Jan. 3-10, 2018, and will be an Olympic Trial for the ultimate selection of the 2018 U.S. Ski Team that will compete in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The Junior Nationals championships, which were held in Lake Placid, N.Y., this year, will be held in early March 2019 in Anchorage. Joey Caterinichio, president of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage and a member of the organizing committees for both U.S. Nationals and JNs, said both competitions will give spectators a chance to see elite-level Nordic skiing at its best.
“We will have the nation’s top cross country skiers in Alaska,” she said. “This is a large community event that brings in athletes, coaches and parents from all over the country. Both events have a larger effect on the community, utilizing hotels, restaurants, touring anchorage and surrounding areas.”
U.S. Nationals were last held in Anchorage in 2009 and 2010, with unseasonably cold temperatures that canceled some of the racing in 2009. The 2010 races were more successful with all four qualifying races being held.
Junior Nationals were last held at Kincaid in 2008 and in Fairbanks in 2013. Caterinichio said Anchorage hosts JNs about once every 10 years. Having the races here should be a boost for local skiers.
“It’s always good when a skier can be on their home courses,” she said. “The familiarity, the known favors of weather, staying in their own homes … but there are many really good skiers that will adapt and the competition will be fierce.”
Since then, Kincaid has also vastly improved its facilities. With new snowmaking equipment and a vast selection of trails, Caterinichio said NSAA and the municipality of Anchorage are working together to make sure both national events showcase the fact that Anchorage truly is the heart of Nordic skiing.
“We have our snow making up and running and will have a plan to make sure we have enough snow stockpiled in the case of warm weather,” Caterinichio said. “In the case of cold like 2009 U.S. Nationals, you just hope it won’t be that cold. That was an anomaly.”
To be prepared, there also will be backup courses ready, such as up on the Anchorage Hillside or in Girdwood to make sure races are a go. No matter, she said, the races will happen.
“These races are a big deal to the community,” she said. “It allows our young skiers to watch the highest national level of competition, and gets new volunteers to come out to help.”
— Melissa DeVaughn