Even though much of his lifetime’s work with young nordic skiers happened in Alaska, Jim Burkholder’s reach of influence stretched all over the country.
It started in Gunnison, Colorado, where he left in 1961 his hometown of Anchorage for Western State College. He was a team manager and varsity skier and later an assistant coach.
Burkholder wound up coming back home to Alaska, where he went on to become a prominent high school, college and national coach. But the people of Western State never forgot him and in October they will honor Burkholder with the school’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I am honored and pleased to be receiving the award, but it may be a bit early for a lifetime award,” Burkholder told me. “I’m only 73.”
Burkholder, of West High fame, received his bachelor’s degree from Western State in 1966. Shortly after that he got into coaching and that’s when the real education began.
He was the Alaska Junior National coach in 1969 and 1971, was the first head ski and cross country running coach at UAA from 1972-76, was a coach of the U.S. Ski Team during their Swedish Tour in 1978, was an assistant coach on the U.S. Ski Team during the Falun and Homenkollin Games in 1980, was an assistant division coach for the U.S. National Team at Mt. St. Anne, Quebec in 1980 and was a team leader for the U.S. at the World Junior Ski Championships at Omskoldvik, Sweden in 1980.
While Burkholder has left an imprint on skiing in the coaching world, and his various ski officiating accomplishments, his work on the world-renowned nordic trails in Anchorage have made him a legend.
“I want to let you know that behind the titles and race results is a man who has spent and continues to spend thousands upon thousands of hours doing the little things that need to be done on a weekly or monthly basis to continue to build Anchorage into the skiing destination that it is today,” former Olympian Adam Verrier of Anchorage said in his nomination letter. “Western State Colorado University Department of Athletics should be very proud of graduates such as Jim Burkholder, for it is people like Mr. Burkholder who pass on the love of sport to younger generations and create opportunities for younger athletes to pursue their own goals and dreams.”
Burkholder was inducted into ASAA’s Alaska High School Hall of Fame in 2012.
He remains involved today. When he’s not volunteering at local races, working to repair a damaged trail or attending a meeting for some ski-related cause, you will find him skiing.