Every year, Ermine Skate sponsors a small group of skaters who contribute to the sport and culture of Nordic skating.
Hailey Swirbul came to Alaska six years ago to Nordic ski race for UAA and now calls Alaska home. Currently, Hailey trains with the APU Nordic Ski Center and races internationally on the World Cup with the US Ski Team. Hailey attended her first Olympic Games in 2022 in Bejing. She has 15 years of experience skating on snow and a background of playing hockey with her family in Colorado, and is excited to further her joy of exploring Alaska by tackling lots of wild ice on Nordic skates this year. Hailey thinks Alaska’s trails, lakes and rivers are the best places to train to be an Olympian, especially as a person who loves skating of all types!
Elias is a Nordic Combined athlete raised in Anchorage, Alaska. Nordic skating has been a family endeavor for Elias for as long as he can remember, and he joined the Alaska Speed Skating Club when he was nine. Elias says, “The sheer amount of distance you can cover so quickly on Nordic skates, and the views you get to take in along the way are completely unparalleled.” Today, Elias is a member of the US National Development Team for Nordic Combined, and loves to get onto wild ice for “the world’s greatest distance training.”
Dana Kerr is a born and raised Alaskan who played ice hockey through the collegiate level. Since retiring from hockey, she has discovered Nordic skating and has enjoyed exploring wild ice throughout Southcentral Alaska and Kodiak Island. She enjoys combining her love of skating with outdoors landscapes. When not on the ice, she enjoys hiking, skiing, biking, packrafting, baking and photography.
Josephine “Jojo” Qimagar Leonard
Jojo is a speed and wild-ice skater born in Bethel, Alaska and now living in Anchorage. She is of Alaska Native (Yup’ik Cup’iq) Italian and Polish descent and has been skating since she could walk. As a member of both the Alaska Speed Skating Club and the Anchorage Skate Club she is honing her competitive speedskating short and long-track skills under the tutelage of Coaches John Monroe and Peter Haeussler. Jojo says, “What excites me the most about skating is that it gets you outside and is great exercise. I also like the competitiveness on the track.”
Kristin is based in Palmer, Alaska, where she spends her time playing outdoors with her three children and writing for “Tales of a Mountain Mama.” Kristin’s article “Wild Ice Play with Kids” is an exceptional resource for those seeking guidance and tips for recreating on wild ice with children. In Kristin’s words, “I have been spending years out on wild ice with my children, and through them have recently discovered a love for skating. Finding Nordic skating just last year has changed the way I get to explore one of my favorite ephemeral wonders.”
Ryan is a wildlife biologist based out of southern coastal Maine. Ryan has done an excellent job putting together long trips on New England lakes and sharing them with the growing New England Nordic skating community. In Ryan’s words, “I am deeply passionate about wildness, wilderness, and adventuring. I am in love with frozen enchanted landscapes and feel most alive while on Nordic skates chasing ethereal sunsets and unique ice formations.”
Bronté is an Outdoor Studies student at Alaska Pacific University (APU) with concentrations in Snow Science and Public Land Management. Bronté says, “I was drawn to study in Alaska to get back to my roots, and to seek out adventure in winter landscapes through backcountry skiing, ice climbing, and ice skating. Getting joy from a place you wouldn’t normally find yourself, like the middle of a frozen lake, is always magical.”
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