Katie Ronsse was born in Anchorage, Alaska and spent many years as a child in remote Eskimo villages where her parents were teachers. She learned to ski at age five as a Polar Cub in Anchorage’s Junior Nordic Program. By ten, she was practicing with the Alaska Winter Stars, and at twelve, she raced in the Arctic Winter Games.
Although Ronsse’s ski idol is Nina Kempell, a four-time Olympian from Alaska, she credits the “unconditional support and encouragement” of her parents as the primary factor in shaping her ski career. After being a five-time Junior National Champion, Ronsse raced for the University of Denver, graduating in 2008 with a B.S. in Biology. In 2008 Ronsse also podiumed twice at Supertour races.
Currently, Ronsse is living in Anchorage, training with her teammates including Laura Valaas, with the long-term goals of qualifying for World Championships and competing in the Olympics. She also complements her training by tutoring high school AP Chemistry students, coaching part-time for APU’s Master and Junior Prorams, and volunteering at the Alaska Native Medical Center.
“I think that spending this chapter of my life toward sport, devoted to being as fit and healthy as I can be, is a worthwhile endeavor,” believes Ronsse. When she does retire from skiing, Ronsse hopes to attend graduate school as well as work and travel abroad.
Hometown: Anchorage, AK
Current Residence: Anchorage, AK
Ski Club: APUNSC
Best Results: 2x Supertour Podium in 2008, 5x Junior National Champion, 15th World Junior Championships
Sponsors: Atomic, Swix, Hammer Nutrition
When did you start ski racing, and what were some highlights of your young skiing career?
I learned to ski at age five, as a Polar Cub in Anchorage’s Junior Nordic program. By age ten I began practicing with Jan Buron and the Alaska Winter Stars. When I was twelve, I got to travel and race at the Arctic Winter Games, where I became convinced that Nordic skiing is the best sport out there.
Who has been the most influential person for you, whether as a skier or a person?
As a young girl my ski idol was Nina Kempell, a four-time Olympic skier from Alaska. I would write her letters and keep every newspaper article and picture of her that I could find. One of my most memorable days in sixth grade was when she agreed to come speak to my class—I thought she was the most amazing woman.
Nina may have been my childhood hero, but my parents have undoubtedly been the most influential people in my life. Without their unconditional support and encouragement I would not be where I am today, nor would I be in a position to chase down my current goals and dreams for the future.
Where is your favorite place to ski, where is your favorite place to race, what is your favorite part of the season, what are your favorite ski conditions?
Favorite place to ski: The Snow Farm in New Zealand.
Favorite place to race: Anchorage, AK (either Kincaid Park or at Hillside).
Favorite part of the season: Spring time, in the last several weeks of racing.
Favorite ski conditions: fast, hard track conditions.
What drives you to succeed at the highest possible level, and what are your long-term goals as a skier?
One of my favorite quotes—which I found on a sticky-tab note in Nat and Kristina Anglem’s home in New Zealand—is, “I enjoy the sense of excellence I feel, when I conduct myself as an Olympian would”. This statement resonates with my current attitude towards athletics and drives me to become a better athlete and person. I get satisfaction out of figuring out how to reach my personal best. I think spending this chapter of my life toward sport, devoted to being as fit and healthy as I can be, is a worthwhile endeavor. I have long-term goals of competing in the Olympics and being competitive on the World Cup circuit.
What are your favorite race formats/distances, and do you try to specialize for these events?
My favorite race format is definitely sprint races, and classic sprints are probably my specialty. My favorite type of distance race is a 15k classic.
I have learned that with my body type and training background, I respond better to training when I focus more on L5 intervals and L3 pace workouts, rather than massive amounts of distance training and L4 intervals. Now that I am finished with collegiate racing, I will be able to put more effort into preparing for sprint events.
What are your overall goals for this season?
This season I have goals of winning a Supertour sprint race, medaling at US Nationals in the sprint or sprint relay, and racing well in World Cup sprint races. My dream goal for the year is to qualify for World Championships.
Do you have any consistent training partners? Do you prefer training alone or with others?
I enjoy training with others most of the time. Luckily, I am on a team with a group of talented women, where I can enjoy their company and learn from their individual strengths. When we don’t have team practice or when I’m not training on my own, Laura Valaas is usually my training companion.
What is your favorite on snow workout and favorite dryland workout?
My favorite on snow workout is exploring new areas by crust cruising in the mountains on sunny spring mornings. My favorite dryland workout is hiking and mountain running through the wilderness to get to beautiful back-country places.
What do you enjoy doing besides skiing?
I love being outside with family and friends—especially when camping, telemark skiing, hunting, or taking our little boat out for fishing trips. I also enjoy trying new things, meeting new people, and creating functional art (which currently happens to be beading earrings).
In terms of employment, are you a 100% full-time athlete, or do you have another job besides training/racing? If so, what do you do?
As of June 2008, I have been fortunate enough to revolve my schedule around training and racing. I have been able to compliment my training this summer and fall by tutoring high school AP Chemistry students, coaching part-time for APU’s Master and Junior programs, and gaining patient contact experience by volunteering and job-shadowing at the Alaska Native Medical Center.
How long do you think you will ski at the elite level? What do you see yourself doing after you finish your ski career?
I plan on skiing at the elite level for as long as training day-in and day-out is fulfilling. When I am finished skiing at the elite level I will focus on my other life pursuits—such as attending a graduate school program to become a Physicians Assistant. Also, I would like to spend time working and traveling abroad.
Do you or did you ever attend college? How did you make that decision?
Yes, I studied and skied at University of Denver and graduated this past spring with a B.S. in biology. I made the decision realizing that the odds of having early success on the international racing scene would be more favorable if I stayed in Alaska, however I took advantage of DU’s scholarship offer because was eager to experience college life out of state. My personal racing results were less than I had hoped for in college, but the education, opportunities, and life experiences that I received in my four years at DU are invaluable to me. I still have a passion for training and racing, so I’m going to see if I can make it on the World Cup scene and pursue my skiing dreams.
Do you enjoy racing/competing in other sports during the offseason? Did you play other sports as a kid? What are some of your favorite non-skiing competitions?
Yes, growing up I bike raced, danced, and played soccer in addition to skiing. I still enjoy competing in other types of races—mainly cycling races and triathlons. I used to race over 50 times a year, but now that ski specific training is my priority I don’t do as many alternative\ competitions.
Spring weekends in college were split between teleskiing trips and racing with the DU Cycling team. My favorite non ski competitions are road bike criteriums—especially when there is a large field of women like what is seen at NCCA Cycling Nationals. I love the tactics involved in cycling and the feel of taking fast corners in a large pack.
What do you do with any spare time at training camps or on race trips?
On training camps and race trips, I enjoy spending time with fellow skiers, knitting, and playing cards.
What does your diet consist of? Do you have a favorite pre-race dinner and breakfast?
My diet is similar to any normal, healthy, diet—but I make sure I eat enough, so I can have fuel for the next training session and recover well. I am not a picky eater and I will enjoy just about any type of food. The night before races, I usually go along with a traditional spaghetti dinner. I used to eat oatmeal and fruit before races religiously, but I have learned that 3 eggs over bread, cheese, ham, and jam will hold me over better, so I prefer the latter for my pre-race breakfast.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
My first word was “Amuq”, which is the Yup’ik Eskimo word for “milk”. My early years were spent in remote Eskimo villages where my parents were village teachers.
How do you spend your weeks off?
If I have the opportunity, I am always in for a good outdoor adventure during my recovery week.
What is the best race or workout you have ever done?
I would have trouble picking the best training session I have ever done, so I will just pick out my favorite workout from the past couple weeks. Our coaches got pretty innovative and created some harnesses for us with climber’s webbing, ropes, and carabiners for a skate skiing workout. My teammates and I took turns dragging each other around the ski trails. In addition to the laughter and accompanying sled-dog noises, I felt the dynamic leg position I need to have for more powerful skating.
What race events are in your plan for this season, and which race are you are looking forward to the most?
In the early season I will race the Supertours, NorAms, and US Nationals. My travel schedule for January and February will depend on my early season results, with the consideration of what will be best for my long-term development. The race I am looking forward to the most is the classic sprint at US Nationals in my home town of Anchorage.
Headshot photo courtesy of Heather Thamm, action shot courtesy of Andy Caniff, Swix US.