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Q&A With Benji Alexander: Jamaica’s First Alpine Ski Racer Is Going to the Olympics

Benji Alexander in a baselayer and cap standing in an Atomic Ski studio
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Benji Alexander is doing big things. But it’s not just about Alexander — it’s about the bigger picture of increasing representation for minority skiers everywhere.

The 2022 Winter Olympics will see several big firsts. But maybe none as interesting as what Team Jamaica is bringing to the table. Jamaica has its fair share of famous Olympians — Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell — though most of its athletes compete in sports like track and field. When it comes to winter, Jamaica is at the back of the pack.

In 1988, Jamaica competed at its first Olympic Winter Games — and since then only in the bobsledding category. This year, it will have a four-man bobsled team competing, the first time since 1998. And in addition to its monobob, two-man, and four-man bobsleds, Jamaica will be sending an athlete to compete in an entirely new winter sport.

Enter Benjamin Alexander, an athlete who is upping the ante as Jamaica’s first alpine ski racer.

10 Questions with Benji Alexander

A week before Alexander jetted off to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Games, we got him on the phone to chat all things skiing: what it’s like to be the first alpine skier to represent his country, how he got into the sport, his favorite skis, and more.

Jamaican skier Benji Alexander skiing downhill below small gondola tramway
(Photo/Noah Wallace)

GearJunkie: How many years have you been skiing? And how many years have you been competing?

Benjamin Alexander: I began skiing a little under 6 years ago. Actually, as I stand in the start gate in Beijing, it will be about 5 days shy of my 6th anniversary. And I started competing exactly 2 years ago. My first races were in Big Sky, Montana, at the beginning of January 2020.

GearJunkie: What first attracted you to alpine ski racing?

BA: In one word: speed. I love going fast. It’s the one thing my friends said, “Hey, you have this penchant for speed. Maybe you have a chance at being a good ski racer. You don’t seem to have any fear.”

So, in terms of alpine skiing, there are four main categories: slalom, giant slalom, Super-G (which stands for super-giant-slalom), and downhill. I compete in giant slalom, which is one of the technical disciplines. So it’s judged on technicality, whereas downhill and Super-G are judged on speed.

GearJunkie: Tell me a little about how you train. Where do you ski when you train?

BA: Over the past 6 months, I’ve been training predominantly in Austria. I found an incredible race training program there. You asked how I train: it’s about being in gates as much as possible. I’m playing a huge game of catch-up with these incredible athletes who have been skiing since they were 2.

So, for me, it’s about time on mountain, time on skis, time in gates. It’s like trying to cram for an exam.

skier Benjamin Alexander competing in a downhill alpine slalom
(Photo/Noah Wallace)

GearJunkie: What are you most looking forward to at the 2022 Olympics?

BA: Two things. I’m looking forward to racing on the same slope as the world’s best. To watch these guys at the top of their game, carve down a double-injected, icy racecourse — to watch them do that is an art form. And it will be such an honor to share a course with them.

Secondly, I’m really looking forward to the opening ceremony. And at the opening ceremony, hopefully holding the flag; it looks like I’ll be the flag bearer, which will be really cool.

GearJunkie: Jamaica has had athletes at the Winter Olympics, most notably in bobsled. Being on the team, but representing in a new discipline, what is this moment like for you?

BA: What those guys did in 1988 started a legacy. We’ve had a team at every single Games apart for one [in 2010]. What I’m doing here will hopefully be very similar to that 1988 moment: setting up an alpine team forever forward. I’m super excited to also take a role within the Jamaican Ski Federation, and help this next generation. This is not about me, you know, Benji going to the Olympics to party; it’s about setting the platform and the foundation.

There are 85 countries in alpine skiing this year, which is a huge uptick. But at the end of the day, even if I have no chance of medaling, there will be several tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans that will tune in to the Olympics just knowing a Jamaican is competing. If we can get 85 countries watching, then eventually there will be more people in our sport, more sponsorships, more opportunity.

GearJunkie: Which athletes from Jamaica do you look up to?

BA: Look, you can’t think about Jamaica in the Olympics without mentioning Usain Bolt. The guy is a legend: finishing a yard ahead of other people with a smile on his face, and still setting a world record.

For winter athletes, I’m in contact with two on the bobsled team from 1988, and a bunch on the current team as well. And actually, we had a freestyle skier in 2010: Errol Kerr, who was Jamaican, born and raised in Lake Tahoe, skied his whole life [he competed for the U.S. Ski Team].

I also have to say Linford Christie, who was Jamaican-born but represented England, and one of our best 100m runners in the ’90s — just an incredible athlete.

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GearJunkie: What are you most proud of in your ski career so far?

BA: Hmm. I would say having the opportunity to race on C.B.’s Run in Park City, Utah, where of course the [2002] Salt Lake Olympic Games were hosted. So racing down the exact run where the Olympics were held previously, with a couple of the world’s top athletes. And I did that in March of last year.

GearJunkie: In 2020, you skied over 100 days in the backcountry. What has been your favorite backcountry ski trip this season?

BA: My best-ever backcountry experience, my favorite run, was off of Mt. Taylor on the backside of Teton Pass. And it was like one of those trophy runs — if you had showed me a photo a couple of years earlier and said, “You are going to ski that,” I would’ve said no way. That run was amazing; we did it twice. And that was like a 10,000-vertical-feet day.

I’m really sad I didn’t get to do the Skillet off of Mt. Moran in the Tetons. It’s featured on Cody Townsend’s The Fifty list. The Skillet Glacier involves like 3 hours of bushwhacking, and the better time to do it is when Jackson Lake is frozen over and you can traverse across the lake. All summer long, wakesurfing in Jackson Lake, that thing was just taunting me.

Also, Windows [PC] has this thing where it will scroll through images from around the world, you know, pyramids or something like that, and today — I kid you not — I turn on my computer and the picture was of Jackson Lake, and right up the back was the Skillet of Mt. Moran. It’s totally a sign I have to do that one day.

Benji Alexander in Jackson Hole, Wyo.; (photo/S. Shelesky)

GearJunkie: What skis are you skiing on right now? Dream quiver?

BA: I am now skiing exclusively on Atomic. I said to Noah Wallace, former freestyle skier for the U.S., “Hey bud, if I qualify at the end of this week, I’m coming in to get all of the skis I need for the Olympics. If not, I’m giving these race skis back and you can give me a bunch of Bent Chetlers.”

And I was actually just at the Atomic factory yesterday picking up my Atomic G9 ski — it’s the FIS standard Atomic G9, so 193cm, 30m turning radius — which is a big, big ski. But aside from race skis, I’m excited to maybe try some Bent Chetlers — the 120s, the 100s, maybe something else like the [Redster] X9. That would probably be my perfect quiver after the Olympics: a big, fat Bent Chetler 120, an all-mountain 100, and then a fun, super-carvy ski like the X9.

GearJunkie: In terms of being a person of color, a minority in the sport of skiing, can you speak to what that’s like?

BA: So people always ask me as a non-white representative in a pretty white sport, what are my thoughts? And my belief is that the sport is not racist at all, but there are three things in life that are going to determine whether or not you ski.

So first, exposure: did your parents ski? If so, almost certainly you ski. Second, do your parents have money? Because even if your parents don’t ski, they’ll send you to a nice school with other kids who ski. The third is location: if you grew up somewhere like Tahoe, or Jackson, even if your parents didn’t ski and you don’t have money, at some point, you’ll figure out a way — someone will loan you a pair of skis, or you’ll walk up that mountain.

And another final component is maybe proximity: a lot of minorities live in urban centers, so not near the mountains, and maybe no one in their orbit skis. Just like myself, no one I knew skied. But say, like in college, you might be exposed to the sport. And I think those three, three-and-a-half things really play a factor.

Benji Alexander skier profile

Benji Alexander Bio

  • Profession: ski racer (retired international DJ)
  • Age: 38
  • Started skiing: age 32
  • Competes in: FIS and Olympic alpine skiing giant slalom
  • Years competing: 2 years
  • Fun fact: has traveled to 67+ countries
  • Favorite pastime: backgammon
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