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13 to be enshrined Thursday in Alaska Cross Country Ski Hall of Fame

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published April 22, 2015

Sixteen years after selecting the inaugural class for the Alaska Cross Country Ski Hall of Fame, inductees and organizers are ready to party like it's 1999.

The induction ceremony for the hall of fame's first class will be Thursday at Kincaid Park.

Being honored are 13 skiers, coaches and trail builders who shaped the sport in Alaska -- a group that ranges from Sven Johanson, a pioneering Anchorage coach and competitor in the 1950s and 60s, to Kikkan Randall, a current World Cup and U.S. Ski Team star.

It was 1999 when Fairbanks ski coaches John Estle and Paul Beberg came up with the idea for a hall of fame. They established selection criteria, solicited nominations and sent ballots to 30 members of the state's ski community, whose votes were used to select 12 people for the inaugural class.

But nothing happened after that, largely because the people most closely involved were also organizing races, coaching teams and otherwise busy with various aspects of the sport. Estle, for instance, was soon wrapped up with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where he was chief of stadium for the Nordic competitions at Soldier Hollow.

"It went on the back burner," said Lauri Bassett, the executive administrator for Cross Country Alaska.

The hall of fame simmered for years. This winter, Cross Country Alaska, a statewide nonprofit involved with ski racing, decided it was time to recognize its inaugural class of inductees, Bassett said.

During the 16-year delay, a 13th person earned a spot in the inaugural class -- Randall, whose medals at the 2009 and 2013 World Championships met the guidelines for automatic induction. She was 16 years old when the original 12 members were selected in 1999.

This week's induction ceremony will be a real-life Throwback Thursday, complete with a vintage fashion show featuring high school skiers modeling vintage ski wear.

Seven of the 10 living inductees are expected to be at the event, Bassett said. Three members will be inducted posthumously -- Johansson, Tom Besh and Jim Whisenhant.

Other inductees include Randall, Estle, Jim Burkholder, Audun Endestad, Lin Hinderman, Jim Mahaffey, Dick Mize, Judy Rabinowitz, Bill Spencer and Lynn Spencer.

Bassett said that now that the 1999 hall of fame class is getting its due, future hall of famers will be selected and honored annually.

Thursday's event begins at 6 p.m. Dinner, drinks and a silent auction will proceed the induction ceremony, scheduled to begin at 7:50 p.m. Tickets, available at the chalet, are $30 for adults and include two drink tickets; tickets for those under 21 are $20.

Tom Besh

Tom Besh was a quiet man with a competitive, adventurous spirit. He was an expert cross-country skier, a three-time Mount Marathon winner and an outdoorsman who made his living sharing his expertise with others.

Besh spent 13 years as UAA's head coach, and during that time the program turned out 19 All-America performances while maintaining one of the athletic department's highest GPAs. He also coached at the high school level at East, Bartlett and Service and was an assistant cross-country coach at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Besh skied on Alaska's first Junior National team and was an All-American skier at Western State College in Colorado. He died in a 1993 plane crash at the age of 42, but his name remains familiar -- the Besh Cup race series is named for him, as is a Hillside trail.

Jim Burkholder

Jim Burkholder practically lives across the street from Kincaid Park, which is convenient given how much time he has spent there, as a trailbuilder, coach and race official.

Burkholder helped put Anchorage skiing on the map by helping to create a number of ski trails, including the Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood and several at Kincaid.

In the late 1960s, he was the coach of a Mears Junior High team that boasted 92 skiers. He went on to become a coach for UAA and a regional coach for the U.S. Ski Team.

Burkholder has worked as an official at the NCAA Championships, as chief of course for the U.S. National Championships and as the starter for countless local races.

Audun Endestad

Auden Endestad of Fairbanks was American's marathon man in the 1980s and 1990s, with six of his then-record 13 national men's titles coming at 50 kilometers, which is ski racing's marathon distance.

In 1990, when Kincaid Park hosted the U.S. Nationals, Endestad won every race -- a rarity then and now.

He was born in Norway and moved to Alaska in the early 80s, becoming a U.S. citizen on the eve of the 1984 Winter Olympics, just in time to qualify for the U.S. team.

His career was as long as it was successful. He won his last national championship in 1993, just before his 40th birthday.

John Estle

John Estle made his mark as a coach and official and remains Alaska's go-to guy when it comes to making sure an event goes off as planned.

He was UAF's head coach from 1982-90 and was a coach for U.S. Ski Team from 1990-94, a period in which he became one of the first coaches in the United States to use computer technology to plan, record and evaluate training programs.

A passionate advocate for skiing in Fairbanks, Estle helped upgrade the Birch Hill trail system and has made the city a reliable host for national-level races.

He has served as a technical delegate at numerous national and junior national championships, and his expertise made him an easy choice for Chief of Stadium at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Lin Hinderman

Lin Hinderman was still in college when she was hired to coach her old high school team in Montana. It was the start of a coaching career that lasted 35 years.

Two years after that first job, in 1969, Hinderman came to Alaska to teach and coach with the Anchorage School District and the Alaska Division.

She was one of the first -- and often the only -- woman to coach at the Junior National level. Her work at U.S. Ski Team camps and clinics paved the way for other women in coaching.

Hinderman spent 14 years coaching at Dimond High, helped develop a cross-country program in Girdwood and spent nearly a decade running a Christmas camp for high school skiers. Most recently she has served as an FIS technical delegate.

Sven Johanson

Sven Johanson was born in Sweden but spent most of his adult life in Anchorage, where from 1951 until his death in 1976 he excelled as a coach and competitor.

He coached Anchorage high school skiers and Fort Richardson biathletes, won a record six straight Mount Marathons from 1954 to 1959 and was a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team.

According to a biography written by Cross Country Alaska, one day he was coaching Fort Rich biathletes at Hatcher Pass when a snowmachiner wiped out the ski tracks he had put in that day. When Johanson asked the snowmachiner to ride elsewhere, the snowmachiner balked.

At that point, the story goes, Johanson got a rifle from one of his biathletes and emptied a five-round clip of ammunition into the snowmachine.

Each year on his birthday, Johanson skied his age in kilometers. He died at age 51 in a construction accident.

Jim Mahaffey

Jim Mahaffey's impact is widespread. He helped create the Tuesday Night Race Series and he helped bring skiing to the Bering Strait, Northwest Arctic and Lake & Peninsula school districts.

In 1964, he coached Alaska's first Junior National teams -- both nordic and alpine - and as the ski coach at Alaska Methodist University (now Alaska Pacific University) he built a team that was nationally dominant in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1972, four of his AMU athletes were members of the U.S. team at the Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.

Dick Mize

Dick Mize has many claims to fame -- 1960 Olympic biathlete, world-class masters ski racer, instrumental figure in the early day of Anchorage high school racing.

And of course there's the Mize Loop, the popular Kincaid Park trail that is one of many Mize has designed and built over the years. He put in some of the first trails in Anchorage, including ones there at Russian Jack, the Hillside and Girdwood.

Mize's most recent contribution to Anchorage skiing is the snow-making system at Kincaid Park, which he helped implement in the last couple of winters.

Judy Rabinowitz

A member of the 1984 Olympic team and an alternate on the 1980 team, Judy Rabinowitz of Fairbanks was one of the nation's top skiers in the early 1980s.

In 1983, Rabinowitz chalked up a ninth-place finish in a World Cup race and scored points in several others -- some of the best international results by an American woman during that era.

Kikkan Randall

Kikkan Randall has had a longer, more successful ski-racing career than any other American,

The Anchorage woman has skied in four Olympics, is a three-time World Cup sprint season champion and owns more than 20 medals from World Cup and World Championship competition.

At 32, she remains on of the top athletes on the U.S. Ski Team.

Bill Spencer

Before Eagle Glacier became a true training center and before Hatcher Pass was a hub of early-season skiing, Bill Spencer was part of a group of skiers who pioneered the use of those places as training centers.

He was a member of the 1988 Olympic ski team and a coach at Vermont, Montana State and UAA, where he built a reputation as an expert wax technician. In the late 1980s, as skate skiing became popular, he invented Bill Boards, one of the first skate-specific roller skis to be produced.

Spencer's athletic prowess extended to mountain and wilderness running, and he remains an Alaska legend for his record-setting performances at Mount Marathon and Crow Pass.

Lynn Spencer

Lynn Spencer was a three-time Olympian who was a U.S. Ski Team member from 1976-84.

After she retired from World Cup racing, Spencer returned home to Anchorage and was a co-founder of the Junior Nordic program. She spent a decade coaching kids in that program.

From 1990-2003 she worked as a trail-groomer for the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage.

Jim Whisenhant

Jim Whisenhant is the father of cross-country skiing in Fairbanks.

Whisenhant came to Fairbanks in the mid-1950s and went on to start the ski program at Lathrop High. His search for places to ski took him and member of the Lathrop team to the top of Birch Hill, where they cleared brush and cut trails for what has become one of Alaska's premier ski venues.

Whisenhant spent years as an official and organizer, including 14 years as a board member for the Arctic Winter Games. In 1973, he opened Beaver Sports in Fairbanks.

Alaska Ski Hall of Fame induction ceremony

Thursday at Kincaid Park chalet

6 p.m. – Dinner and silent auction

7:15 – Vintage fashion show

7:50 p.m. – Induction ceremony

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