The Long Distance Ski Championship

Nordic Nation: The Standing Ovation Episode with Alison Owen-Bradley

Jason Albert

Now 65, Alison Owen-Bradley was once the American skier to chase to the top of the podium in North America and on the highest tier of international cross-country ski racing. Long before Kikkan Randall, Jessie Diggins, Sophie Caldwell, and Sadie Bjornsen attracted a wave of attention to high-performance skiing with regular World Cup podiums and ultimately an Olympic gold, Owen-Bradley made the U.S. women’s nordic team relevant when considering podium and medal potential. (You may also remember her as Alison Kiesel, as she was married to the late U.S. Ski Team coach Rob Kiesel at one time.)

Heading out in bib #1: Alison Owen-Bradley at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. (Courtesy photo)

In this episode of Nordic Nation, in light of all the success of the U.S. Ski Team’s women’s side over the last eight years or so, and of course the icing on the cake with the Randall-Diggins PyeongChang gold, we wanted to take a step back and reflect on one of the original U.S. Ski Team’s building blocks: Owen-Bradley. We connected with her on June 4 while she was at home in Bozeman, Montana. And although you won’t find it in the International Ski Federation’s (FIS) database, Owen-Bradley won what many considered to be the first-ever women’s World Cup cross-country ski race. Her career highlights include a seventh overall on the World Cup and second place at Holmenkollen in Oslo, Norway.

Alison Owen-Bradley racing to first in the inaugural women’s World Cup event in 1978 in in Telemark, Wisconsin. (Courtesy photo)

For about an hour here on Nordic Nation, we’ll get the privilege of learning more about the early years of women’s cross-country ski racing in the U.S. and about one of the sport’s real pioneers.  

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