Alaska is many things and the view from most of the world is of mountains, whales, glaciers, float planes…you know Alaska stuff, the reason people get on cruise ships to come up here. As impressive and beautiful as all that is, the most impressive thing about this place is the people. I know that's a bit of a cliché, but seriously, it's not uncommon to be at a party and bump into average-looking people who spend their free time making first ascents of remote mountains or raise musk oxen or surf Cook Inlet in winter. And for a town of more than a quarter million people, Anchorage is small—you are always bumping into these people. Humility becomes a state of being: if you aren't climbing out of crevasses or an olympic hopeful, you feel downright lazy.To be a local hero here then is a particularly noteworthy achievement.
Kikkan Randall, a true local hero and a name that just about everyone in Anchorage knows, has been front-page material for the past few days. She just swept the National Ski Championships here in Anchorage and although there has been little doubt that she will be going to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics, her recent performance is creating an excitement about a real chance of medaling in women's cross-country skiing. I shot a story on her a few weeks ago for a New York Times. It was a relaxed shoot up on the hillside above Anchorage and she radiated focus and commitment—Alaska girls really do kick ass. One of the sad facts, however, of publishing in an outlet like the New York Times is that they edit your work. You shoot like a madman, send them dozens of shots and they run a few; one of the great injustices of my life is that the New York Times doesn't have room to show everything I send them. I guess that's what blogs are for. I'll take this chance to ride on the coattails of one of Anchorage's favorite local heros, wish her the best in the upcoming Olympics, and post a few outtakes. If you are on Facebook and want to show your support, here is her fan page.
With her first pair of skis:
At Flattop trailhead: