American skier Bryce Bennett, of Squaw Valley, charging into 2015-16 season
U.S. Ski Team
At 6-foot-7, Squaw Valley ski racer Bryce Bennett towers over his competition. In fact, he’s the tallest guy on the circuit, and looks a little bit like a yeti when charging down mountains at 90 mph.
But don’t let that height fool you — he’s not good at basketball (self-proclaimed) and he is a gentle giant with a great attitude, a strong sense of fearlessness and serious love for the sport.
Throwing your body down a gnarly track in crazy wind at a Chile training camp is no problem for Bennett. In fact, he’s one of the few American downhillers who ran the downhill track from top to bottom in a recent training session at Corralco on a windy day.
Head Men’s Coach Sasha Rearick is constantly impressed with Bennett’s will to learn and charge.
“Bennett was one of the only guys who wanted to ski the downhill track from the top the other day at Corralco,” Rearick said. “I like his courage and I like his focus.”
With this unconventional approach, it’s no surprise Bennett calls out Bode Miller as one of his role models. He digs that Bode style.
The best advice Bennett has encountered in his career is to listen — pay attention to details and figure things out for himself. It’s about intrinsic motivation for the big guy.
“If you were dropped off in the middle of the woods with nothing,” Bennett asked, “would you wait for coach to save you, or would you do something about your situation?”
At 23, Bennett might be young, but he knows when to step back and put it all into perspective — and laugh a little bit.
When Bennett is looking for motivation, he looks deep within himself.
“I try and step away from the current situation and ask myself deep questions about what my goals are, and why I’m here,” he said. “I also find some appreciation for everything I have in my life.”
If you’re wondering whether Bennett was born this way or if it was a product of his environment, it’s both.
His mom and dad both worked in the Squaw Valley parking lot — guiding cars into “perfect parking spots,” which is where they met and fell in love. His mother worked for Alpine before moving over to Powder Corp. for 30 years managing the books.
His father went to work in construction. That hard work ethic trickled down to Bennett. He also credits his coach, Konrad Richenback, for teaching him a thing or two. Or, as Bennett says, “He saved me from myself. He brought me to a point where I believed in myself to become a better person.”
What is most intriguing about this gigantic yeti is his philosophy on the sport itself.
“I feel my journey is a bit different than most: I’m not in this sport with the end goal to win World Cup medals or globes or Olympic medals. I’m in this sport because it’s incredibly challenging with numerous variables to master, with little to no support from others to help you put down fast skiing,” Bennett said.
“No one truly understands every aspect of this sport. That’s what drives me — to understand the ins and outs through self mastery and trial and error, and one day inspire kids to go after fulfillment and passion in their work, instead of just doing whatever it takes to get to the top.”
The U.S. Ski Team spent some time chatting with Bennett. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: In your words, what makes a champion?
A: “Champion defined: A person who has defeated all opponents in a competition or series of competitions, as to hold first place.
“Think about it for a second: You put just the right amount of effort towards achieving a final destination to be better than everyone. Cool, congratulations. You won a medal. Here’s your cookie. High five. Do you feel good about yourself now?
“I envision a ‘champion’ more like a master craftsman. A craftsman gets a great deal of satisfaction from building his product. He works tirelessly, figuring out ways to make his products more effective, how to make them more efficiently, while never overlooking the even tiniest of details. He’s never focused on the end result; he’s always present and in the moment. He learns himself and his craft at the same time while gaining knowledge, wisdom and honing his skills to overcome any problem that may arise. He thinks outside the box and problem solves for himself. He’ll take criticism with a positive attitude. He’s never scared to fail, because failure is a chance to learn, grow and become better at his craft. That is a ‘champion’ to me. Find your inner master boat builder.”
Q: Do you remember the first time you felt like a champion?
A: “I’m not a champion, nor have I ever felt like one. I am a ski racer; the habits I create for myself today will take care of any external results. Results are a byproduct of the work you do; I just enjoy the work more than the results.”
Q: What is the biggest piece of advice you have for aspiring kids who want to be sitting where you are today?
A: “Find your own path.”