Nordic skiing has a special place in my heart and always will. I was basically born into the sport and most of my strong memories as a child include two skinny skis under foot. When we moved back to Vermont, we had the pleasure of meeting Ben Ogden. Ben is a professional cross country ski racer who loves to have fun, make others laugh and is damn fast. Last season, he ended the World Cup circuit as the top U23 male skier in the entire world. That, my friends, is remarkable, and it's so fun to watch. Ben pops into the Bivo office to steal some peanut butter or bagels from Sam (Bivo's warehouse and operations coordinator) post workout and to add some laughs to the room. We feel lucky to know him, have him as a product tester and ultimately sponsor him this ski season. Check out his interview we did with him below and follow his adventures along on both his Instagram account and his new YouTube Channel.
Cheers and enjoy the read!
Carina (co-founder of Bivo)
Ben during his training camp in Muonio, Finland (google map that, it's NORTH!) before the World Cup Season Kick-Off in Ruka this past weekend. Always showing some Vermont love. Photo credit for all three pictures: Torsten Brinkema
Personally, I think cross country skiing is the best sport you can do. Can you tell us about how you started skiing and what you love most about the sport?
I started skiing when I was very young in the West River Sports league in Southern Vermont. My father was the coach of the league and all my friends went to practice. That was really where my love for skiing developed. At practice we played lots of games and really just ran around through the woods. It was the highlight of every day growing up. Since then my relationship with the sport has changed but my desire to go out and do it every day that I can has not. The things I love most about skiing these days are how many variables go into success and how you can work on improving so many different things about yourself as a skier each day. One day you can go out and ski extremely slow and focus only on making your technique better. The next day you can go out and forget everything you know about technique and push yourself as hard as you can with the goal of improving your fitness. All of this and more are equally important in the process of becoming a better skier and it's fun to have diversity in your aspirations.
We like to say Fuel More Fun at Bivo because we believe when people are having fun, they perform best. We have gotten to know you over the past 6 months and it’s clear to us that you think the same way! How do you keep training fun? And, why is that important to you?
I am an absolute believer in the concept of fueling more fun. Possibly to a fault… One of the things that is so great about being a cross country skier is that the most proven ways to improve your racing in the off season is to add a lot of very easy training in the summer and fall. This means that good training rarely looks like head down hammering. The vast majority of my off season training is spent chatting with friends by my side mountain biking, running, roller skiing, or any number of other aerobic activities. The process of rallying a group to get out, have some fun and enjoy the world that we live in is the most fun and motivating part of what I do.
Ben doing what he does best - having fun with friends and winning things.
Which is better, skate or classic? You better answer this one correctly.
Classic is way better without a doubt. I, to this day, still find myself wondering if humans were ever really meant to move in the ways that skate skiing demands. I sort it out, but every season it takes some patience…
For those of you wondering, Ben answered this correctly 😂 Classic isn't as popular as skate skiing in the US, but it has always been my favorite.
It has been so fun to see you and other Americans rise in cross country skiing over the past 10+ years. What has changed to allow that to happen?
It has been a real treat to have a small part in the changes that American skiing has experienced in the last 10 or so years. I think that the progress that the United States has seen can really be chalked up to the culture surrounding elite skiing in this country. The national team and all of the elite clubs around the country have largely been built on their relationships with youth and junior clubs in their area. This circle of growing up and focusing on giving back to the next generation, I believe, has really led to positivity and excitement about the sport. This in turn encourages kids to stick with it and see if they have what it takes to make it to the top. This culture also makes it fun to move up through the ranks and stick with the sport because you quickly start to feel like what you are doing has an impact on more people than just yourself. I have many idols in skiing and when they reach out to me it is extremely meaningful. It is fun to in turn think that when I reach out to kids it is the same for them.
Can you tell us about your Thursday evening mountain bike rides you did this fall?
The Thursday night ride this fall was probably the least organized but somehow still the best thing I have ever been a part of. Every Thursday night at 6:00 when the weather wasn't problematic we rallied as many after work friends as we could to get out for an evening ride. We routinely got separated, had horrible mechanicals, or embarked on a ride that was way too long for the remaining daylight, but it never mattered. It just meant that the next time we brought lights or a multitool. It was all about getting out there chatting about life and laughing about the inevitable mishaps. Really just so much fun and what a treat it was that almost every Thursday this fall had decent weather!
Ben's friend Torsten made this amazing video of the Thursday Night Ride, check it out!
What is your first race memory? How did that race make you feel and do you carry that with you today?
My earliest race memory is without a doubt at this race called the Viking night race in Londonderry vermont. I remember it because it also happened to be on my birthday and Friday the 13th. Extremely hyped up day on your local southern Vermont school bus for 2 out of those 3 reasons… Anyhow, I always remember how thrilling it was to sprint through the semi darkness and the cold. It was so exciting and fun, it never felt like I was going that hard even though my uber competitive elementary school self certainly was. I sometimes think about experiences like that today because as you get older it seems to take more and more to channel that little kid excitement and thrill, but when you can, racing becomes effortless. I also remember that after the race my dad gave me some of Andy Newell's custom twin tip “jibskate” nordic skis. We spent the rest of the night building a big jump in the field and none of the kids could have cared less how the race went.
How do you keep busy while not training? I hear you are not a nap taker.
I am certainly not a huge nap taker… In the summers I like to stay busy between training sessions in a variety of ways. I enjoy welding and creating sculptures and metal art. My latest project has been a Land Rover restoration that has really spiraled out of control. It started as a little project that would keep my mind active and me busy while training full time, but turned into a complete nut and bolt restoration that consumes 100% of my non training related mental capacity and money. That said, It is coming together nicely and will be a cool product when it's all finished!
How can we follow you along this winter?
It is always a bit of a challenge to follow cross country skiing closely as the races often happen very early in the morning US time. That being said, usskiandsnowboard.live has all the races with English commentary so that is a good option. In addition to that, there is also always instagram and newly YouTube to catch up with me and the US team’s movements through the winter! @ben.0gden on instagram and YouTube.
This week you will be racing in Gällivare, Sweden. Can you tell us about the different races and what you are excited for?
This week will be a fun one because it is a completely new venue for me and for many of the current US team. There have been world cups there but not for a long time so It will be fun to work through a new course and new set of circumstances with everyone. It is also always fun racing a venue that is not in the common rotation because there is less of an advantage for the athletes who have raced It so many times.
We have been communicating a lot with Ben over the past few weeks since he left for Europe and I wanted to close out this interview with a comment from Ben about Bivo bottles at cold temps, a question we get a lot: