With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it’s a fitting time to say “Thanks Mom,” especially if your mom helped you get started on your way to a World Cup alpine ski racing career.
Long before he was standing on World Cup podiums and blasting down Olympic courses, Ben Thomsen got his beginning on skis with the encouragement of his mom, Shelley, who is a ski racing coach.
“I’m doing my dream and she basically started the whole thing,” said Ben.
Shelley, who coached at Fairmont and then later at Panorama (where she still coaches), recalls Ben starting to ski at about age three and, not long after, tagging along with her as she coached much older racers.
“I remember I used to hide behind the chairs so I could get away from my Nancy Greene group and go ski on my own,” said Ben. “Once I’d done that a few times, my mom said, ‘Well, if you don’t want to ski with them, you’ll have to come ski with us.’ So when most five year olds were doing ‘pizza and french fries,’ I was doing GS (giant slalom) with 15 and 16 year olds.”
Ben’s dad was also a ski coach (although he worked mostly with older kids) and, according to Shelley, skiing makes for a pretty good family sport.
“For a family, it’s something you do together. Everybody participates. It’s fun,” she said. “To me, the most special part is that Ben’s got the same passion for the sport as I do.”
Ben recalls his mom’s approach to coaching fondly.
“With my mom it was, ‘Let’s go have fun and develop ski skills on the way.’ She didn’t care if we did our warm-up runs in gates or by skiing through the trees or somewhere else on the hill. It was about keeping things fun. Nobody else understood that approach, but I still take a lesson out of it, even on the World Cup circuit,” said Ben. “You need to enjoy your passions, and that’s something I learned from my mom.”
Ben says he also adopted a competitive yet humble persona from Shelley.
Shelley for her part, credits the family’s passion for skiing that helped shape not just Ben’s athletic talent, but his personality.
“Skiing as a family means you learn pretty quick about being organized and that things aren’t always going to be easy. Those traits help create who you are as a person,” she said.
These days Ben and Shelley still keep connected, although they are frequently on different continents.
“I do watch every race, even if he’s over in Europe and I have to get up at 3 a.m. here to watch it through Live Timing,” said Shelley.
“It is sometimes tough being on the complete other side of the world, even though there’s Facebook and Skype, but we both get the reality of the situation,” said Ben, adding that he’s been away from home for Christmas or his mom’s birthday for the past six years.
“I do talk to her, and my dad, every race,” he said. “It’s pretty cool knowing your mom gets up in the middle of the night to see how you did.”
When Ben is home, he and Shelley are often on the valley’s slopes skiing or, in the warmer months, out on the golf course.