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Faces of Alaska: Holly Brooks

January 25, 2011

Holly Brooks has an Uncle Dennis who fell in love with genealogy and traced her family roots back to the Mayflower. For 20-something Holly, family from the 1600′s is hard to contemplate! But we’ll also talk about the joy of her recent wedding, and the chance to share favorite family recipes, via the Internet. Join host Kathleen McCoy, in conversation with Olympic skier Holly Brooks on Faces of Alaska, Thursday at 8:00 and Saturday 9:00 pm on KSKA, Anchorage.

Olympic Skier, Holly Brooks

  • Born and raised in Snoqualmie Pass near Seattle, WA
  • Grew up in a ski-loving family with emphasis on recreation, not competition
  • Uneventful college ski career; never qualifies for NCAA championships while at Whitman
  • Best college finish, 2004 U.S. Cross-Country Ski Championships: 49th
  • 2004 graduates Whitman in sociology and environmental science
  • Moves to Anchorage and coaches West High ski team and works for an environmental firm doing post-Katrina water quality assessment and leftover military contamination inventory throughout Alaska
  • 2006 moves to fulltime ski coaching position at Alaska Pacific University, coaching youth, masters and women’s programs
  • March 2008 wins Tour of Anchorage 50K freestyle
  • Spring 2009 places 4th in U.S. Distance Cross-Country Championships in the 15k
  • Running second place in the women’s Mount Marathon run, collapses just blocks before finish line during July 4, 2009 race
  • In Seward ER on July 4, 2009,, vows to attempt the U.S. Olympic team
  • Marries Rob Whitney July 11, 2009
  • November 2009 wins 10K freestyle at Super Tour races in West Yellowstone, Montana, places 2nd in 5k classic
  • Makes 2010 Olympic team, competes in 5 events, best finish is 35th in 30k classic
  • January 2011: wins and places high in races at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Rumford, Maine
  • February, 2011, headed to Oslo, Norway to compete in FIS World Championships along with Kikkan Randall, two other Alaska skiers

Family Inheritance

“My family has a huge influence on who I am today. I grew up just 15 miles from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins; they were a big part of my upbringing. From them, I got my love of the outdoors, my internal curiosity, and my eternal optimism. Growing up I’ve always been encouraged to pursue my passions. My parents never put pressure on me to “get the right job” or “make x amount of money” or even “win” races for that matter. My parents, and my whole family have been supportive of each decision and dream I’ve ever had, even when they’ve flopped. I am very thankful for this type of unconditional love and support.

My mother taught me to work hard, and give back; be it to a teacher, coach, or a community. At Christmas we had to write thank you notes before we were allowed to play with any new toys. When I was 15 years old, she helped me sell 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to go to summer camp for free. She taught me that limits are a figment of one’s own imagination and to reach for the stars. She brought us up with a culture of volunteerism and strong moral principles and values.

My dad invoked a strong love of the outdoors, and sports into my childhood. He is truly a mountain man, complete with long beard and all! When I was in high school, he skied 24 hours straight by himself, in the rain – just to see if he could do it. We’ve had a number of adventures and long days in the mountains together. To me (and to him) hardship, whether a workout, or life circumstance is relative. Once you’ve skied for 24 hours, four doesn’t seem like that many! My dad has an eternal optimism that he carries with him into the mountains and in his daily life. I don’t ever recall hearing him complain about anything. I think that my ability to see the good in every situation comes from his influence.”

Family Recipes

“My favorite food memories center around meals that my family shared at our cabin growing up. Sunday mornings were characterized by fresh sourdough pancakes (made to rise the night before) with local, hand-picked blueberries cooked into them. There would often be a dozen mouths to feed so it would take two hours for everyone to get their fill, one pancake at a time….

Perhaps my favorite unique family recipe is the marzipan that my Swedish grandmother, Farmor, makes. In essence, marzipan is almond paste and sugar that has a play-dough like consistency. Once made, the marzipan is traditionally shaped into animals or in my family, a marzipan pig, complete with a red-dyed apple in its mouth! There are certain, unspoken rules with the pig when it comes to consumption. The pig must be eaten tail to head, and pieces must be cut evenly and symmetrically. The pig is one of the best parts of Christmas!

This past January I was in Rumford, Maine competing in US Cross Country Skiing Nationals. A package (that I had not expected) arrived at the door of our rental house with my name on it. It was a marzipan pig sent by my mother! The pig was made by my grandmother, my mother, and my cousin – three generations! Until this pig, no one except for my grandmother had every made it before. The three-generation pig that traveled thousands of miles to my door step in Maine never tasted so good with a hot cup of coffee…”


Anchorage has a number of good starting places for those interested in digging into their family histories.

Get started on your own story here:

Watch Holly Brooks talk about her family roots on Faces of Alaska Thursday Jan. 27 at 8:00 pm and Saturday Jan. 29 at 9:00 pm on KAKM, Channel 7 TV.

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