An American woman has won the FIS Cross Country World Cup sprint title for the first time. It is also the first time that any American has stood on that podium since 1982. U.S. Ski Team member Kikkan Randall, a 29-year-old native of Anchorage, Alaska, earned enough points to clinch the title of the winter-long World Cup series in a race on March 7 in Drammen, Norway. We caught up with Randall to ask her about the gear she relied on for the win, including a sports watch, ski poles with triangular shafts, a special stuffed cat, and many, many pairs of skis waxed up and ready to go. —Sean McCoy
Skis. Randall is sponsored by Fischer and said she keeps a quiver of about 30 pairs of the company’s skis on hand for varying conditions. She used the RCS Carbonlight Classic Plus ski during her recent win. “It was pouring rain and really windy,” Randall said of the Drammen, Norway, race. “The snow was trucked onto the city streets. A lot of it was man-made snow with a lot of dirt and ice.” She praised Fischer for “the most consistently well-made skis” she has used.
Boots. The second most important piece of gear, after skis, is boots, Randall said. She races in Salomon S-lab Vitane Classic boots, which have a carbon sole, ultra-light weight for speed, and a fit specialized for women.
Poles. The Swix Triac poles have a triangular shape to the shaft for more power with less weight. “They also have a nifty system for baskets that are easy to switch out,” Randall said.
Eyewear. Interchangeable-lens sunglasses by Rudy Project are essential, Randall said. She switches out lenses as per the course and lighting conditions. “I almost never remember they are on my face.” The model she prefers is called the Ability, which are made for women and weigh a scant 25 grams.
Sports Watch. The Polar RCX 5 heart-rate watch uses a GPS pod to track speed, distance traveled, elevation, and other essential stats.
Extras. Beyond the expected gear, Randall has a few creature comforts that help her during long months competing on the road. “My husband and I have two cats,” she said. “He gave me a stuffed cat that reminds me of them — little things like that, when on road, make you feel a little better.”
Randall carries a travel pillow by Therm-a-Rest on the World Cup circuit. “It packs up nice and small and goes everywhere I go.”
With just five more races left in the World Cup series, all within the next week, Randall said she is proud of her season and the hard work of her team. She said the recent win will help shine more light on a sport that is less popular in the United States.
”Since I won my first World Cup [race] in 2007, I’ve seen a big change in what results can do for the sport,” Randall said. “Our women’s team last year had two girls score World Cup points. This year we’ve had six [points] and the best ever relay performances. The door is open.”
—Sean McCoy is a writer based in Colorado.