Originally from California and Nevada, Dr. Brad Cruz came to Alaska in 1992 with his California-born wife and two daughters. He and his family discovered Nordic skiing here, and soon it replaced running as his primary sport. Dr. Cruz wants every Alaskan to have the chance to enjoy Nordic skiing and the many health benefits of quiet outdoor physical activity in our state’s beautiful landscape. He also enjoys learning about the people and life in rural Alaska. Dr. Cruz has been a volunteer Skiku coach each year in Gambell and Savoonga since 2015.
Dr. Cruz worked as a Radiologist at Alaska Regional Hospital and Mat-Su Regional Hospital, serving on various committees and a few terms as the Chairman of the Radiology/Pathology Department, and 11 years as a Officer and Board Member of Anchorage Project Access. Over those years, he was also active in competitive running, skiing, and biking and volunteered at various sports events in Anchorage, including the Run For Women, Lost Lake Race, and the Gold Nugget Triathlon. Now retired from his Radiology group, he volunteers his time teaching Anatomy and Medical Imaging in the WWAMI Medical School system and working for Skiku as a Board member and President, volunteer ski coach, and working on fundraising, recruitment of coaches, and the development of a Cross Country Ski Coaching Manual and on-line resources for ski instruction for use by the physical education teachers and ski team coaches in rural Alaskan Villages.
Paul Lincoln has contributed to Skiku for several years, first as a volunteer coach in Ambler, then as an advocate for the value of skiing for rural Alaskans. Lincoln is Iñupiaq from White Mountain, a 200-person village located 60 miles from Nome, Alaska. Skiing for Lincoln begin in the early 1970s when a teacher/coach, John Miles, came to the village and measured each child for his own pair of cross country skis. Lincoln became a champion in the Bering Strait region and was also competitive against urban-based skiers, qualifying to represent Alaska at Arctic Winter Games and Junior Nationals. Lincoln skied for two years on the Dartmouth College varsity team and then became a member of the US Biathlon Team. In 1988, he joined the National Guard. He had a 20-year biathlon career with the Guard, training and competing all over the world—Bulgaria, Argentina, Minnesota, West Yellowstone, Scandinavian countries.
Lincoln now lives in Anchorage and owns Jade Electric, an electrical contracting company. He works with the Bering Straits School District in the fall and winter, flying from school to school making sure the schools and coaches are ready for the ski season. Lincoln is a community leader for White Mountain and sits on the Traditional Council Board of Directors.
Dirk Sisson moved to Anchorage with his family in 1966 and has been an avid Nordic skier ever since. A graduate of West Anchorage High School, he returned to Alaska as an engineer in 1983. From 1986-1991, he coached for the Anchorage Junior Nordic League, then served as AJNL’s Director from 1991-1996. As Director, he implemented a coaching curriculum and expanded the program from its original Kincaid Park location to the Hillside. After founding the Anchorage Great Harvest Bread Co. in 1994, he inaugurated AJNL’s annual “Cookie Tour,” which continues to this day. From 1996-1998, he served as president of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage. Over the years, Sisson has been an enthusiastic advocate for trails, parks and open space.
Sisson joined the Skiku board in 2017. He has coached with Skiku in Aniak (2017, 2018), Chuathbaluk (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), Dillingham (2018), Buckland (2018), Manokotak (2019), and Atqasuk (2019). Dirk has found spending time in nature with energetic kids on skis to be joy. Skiku has introduced him to vibrant communities and cultures, fostered enriching friendships, and given him an opportunity to serve Alaska’s youth through a sport that he loves.
Vice President, Director
Valli Peterson grew up subsistence and commercial fishing in the Bristol Bay village of South Naknek. She lives in Anchorage and is employed at ConocoPhillips as a Village Outreach Liaison. In her role, she regularly travels to North Slope communities, especially Nuiqsut, which is like a second home to her. Peterson developed a passion for cross country skiing while attending UAF in Fairbanks and is so happy to support Skiku as she would have loved to begin skiing as a child in her home village.
Peterson enjoys the Anchorage trail system and has instructed cross country skiing to children and adults for over 15 years. She loves being outdoors and traveling around Alaska with her husband Tyler, son William, and daughter Alice. Other interests include spending time with elders listening to stories of the “olden days” in Alaska.
Aaron Tooyak grew up in the North Slope village of Point Hope and moved to Eagle River, Alaska in his teens. Of Iñupiaq descent, he is an Arctic Slope Regional Corporation shareholder, a Tikigaq Corporation shareholder and member of the Native Village of Point Hope. He grew up participating on the Tooyak whaling crew. Aaron learned to ski so that he could participate as a Skiku coach in his home village. He has been coaching with Skiku since 2016 and documented his experience in a blog story for Alaska Pacific University. Tooyak believes that through Skiku, he can positively influence the athletic interest, health and wellness of Alaska’s youth.
Dawn Dinwoodie grew up skiing on her own in Fairbanks on the Chena River and onto the Tanana River. She would ski out her back door with her dog to the river alongside passing sled dog teams. In the summertime, Dinwoodie would run long distances and bike around Chena Ridge. She was always interested in endurance sports and the independence of these sports fit her lifestyle and personality.
Growing up in Fairbanks shaped her perspective on how Alaska Native people and her Athabascan family were viewed and their role in the community and the state. The racism, indifference and lack of interest in Alaska First People drove her as a young person to achieve her educational and career goals. Dinwoodie graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a bachelor’s of business with the sole purpose to work in the Alaska Native business community. Her career has been focused on advancing Native issues, causes, and promoting culture and people.
Dinwoodie was the youngest female elected to the Doyon, Limited Board of Directors and served for three terms (nine years) from the 1993 to 2002. She also served on the Doyon Foundation Board of Directors, the educational and cultural non-profit arm of Doyon, Limited, for eleven years. She has raised her family in Anchorage with her husband, Rod Worl, for 24 years now. Dinwoodie says her legacy will be her four children and the family businesses, Trickster Company and HotGlaa, LLC, that they have built together, promoting innovative indigenous art & design. She is the mother to four amazing children: Rico, Crystal, Kyle and Sage Worl.
Dr. Molly Southworth is passionate about promoting active, healthy lifestyles among the youth of Alaska. She has been a recreational cross-country skier since her childhood in northern Minnesota and dreamed of moving to Alaska as a child. Inspired by a medical student rotation in Kotzebue, she spent her first year of medical practice in Utiqiaġvik (then Barrow), eventually transitioning to Alaska Native Medical Center. Dr. Southworth served patients throughout the Alaska Tribal Health System for most of her career and continues to work to improve health and health care for the Alaska Native people. She sees activities such as learning to ski as key to enhancing health and wellness in rural Alaska.
As a faculty member of the University of Washington WWAMI Rural Medical Education Program and UAA/WWAMI, Dr. Southworth has been very involved in teaching Alaskan medical students and encourages them to return to Alaska following their training. She is eager to see more Alaska Native youth choose careers in medical fields, serving their people close to home.
Dr. Southworth’s three children grew up skiing; two attended Alaska Pacific University and have served as Skiku coaches. Through her children’s training with the APU Nordic Ski Team plus a little training of her own, Dr. Southworth has become more familiar with formal cross-country ski technique and continues to love to ski for fun. She and her husband Bret Haering especially enjoy spending time outdoors and hope to visit more remote areas of Alaska in the future. Dr. Southworth is delighted to be part of the Skiku team!
Originally from the Upper Midwest, skiing is what brought Calisa Kastning and her husband Andrew to Alaska for jobs with the ski teams at the University of Alaska and Alaska Pacific University.
She is the parent of 3 young energetic daughters who have all been on skis soon after they learned to walk. Calisa’s oldest, Sylvie, joined on a NANANordic trip to Kiana when she was 19 months old. Not only did they all experience the already thrilling adventure of teaching Kiana students to ski, the Kastning family decided to ski down the Kobuk river the 23 miles or so to Noorvik to begin the 2nd week of coaching there rather than hopping a flight. Calisa found it life-changing to see the excitement on the kids faces, whether from experiencing the thrill of skiing for the first time or for the veteran skiers, mastering the technique a bit more from the previous season.
Calisa has worked professionally in the ski industry as an Exercise Physiologist and as a Collegiate Ski Coach at various Universities. While at APU, she was a Coach for the community programs and the Fundraising and Communications Officer for the APU Nordic Ski Team.
Calisa has always found great joy in sharing skiing with those around her and is thrilled to join the Skiku team and work towards the mission of All Alaska on Skis!
Before joining the staff of Skiku, Brian Kirchner served as a Skiku program coach for two weeks in Barrow (now Utqiaġvik) and one week in Point Lay, two communities in the North Slope Borough of Alaska, in 2016. Since joining the staff of Skiku, Brian has been fortunate enough to coach with the program in eight other rural communities throughout the state. Brian enjoys skiing, trail running, and orienteering. Working for Skiku, Brian has appreciated the opportunity to learn about rural Alaskan communities and Native Alaskan culture.
In addition to his role with Skiku, Brian is a cross country ski coach for the Anchorage Junior Nordic League. He was an assistant coach for the South Anchorage High School ski team for three years. He is a former wilderness therapy behavioral health field guide with Alaska Crossings and a Match Corps: Lawrence fellow for math education.