5 Things You Should Know About…BEN THOMSEN
By Michael Mastarciyan
Ben Thomsen is a man’s man.
Strong. Tough. Honest. Hardworking. Fearless. A relentless competitor with a “never-back-down” attitude. Handy with tools (he used to be a bricklayer). Loves a nice, cold beer on a hot summer day. Loves to grill meat. All, great, manly, qualities, and perfect when you’re a downhiller with a Clint Eastwood-vibe about you, on squad of racers who coincidentally call themselves the Canadian Cowboys.
Thomsen’s life story even has a certain Man-With-No-Name/Spaghetti Western feel to it.
Lone wolf ski racer trying to make it big, bouncing from race to race, town to town. No money, sleeping in cars - or couches if lady luck’s on his side. Working sweaty summer jobs, tons of heavy lifting on construction sites, lots of muddy landscaping work, all to save money for his winter racing dreams.
Then, finally a break - a fellow racer (Manny Osborne-Paradis) with a little bit of extra cash helps pay for a race camp. Success on the slopes ensues. Not long after, a World Cup spot is earned. More promising results follow, and so does an invitation to race with Canada’s national team. Then in February 2012 – PAYDIRT! A second place at a World Cup downhill in Sochi, Russia – home of the next Olympic Winter Games. Hollywood couldn’t dream up a better story.
Why am I telling you all this? Painting the picture of a gritty tough guy, a veritable alpine macho man?
I’m telling you this because I’m still in reeling in shock over a confession Mr. Thomsen made to me during our interview.
Wanna hear it? I’m guessing you do if you’re still reading this far…okay, wait for it, here it comes…Ben Thomsen’s secret hobby is…CROCHET!
Yes, crochet, as in using a crochet hook (kind of like a knitting needle) to knit wool hats and sweaters – the kind of activity you would imagine his grey-haired granny is up time while watching him race from her rocking chair. Not the kind of macho, manly hobby you’d think a tough guy like Ben Thomsen would ever admit to enjoying.
So for more on Mr. Thomsen’s passion for crochet, and four other things you may have not known about him…please keep reading…
1. Ben used to be a bricklayer and built his family home from top to bottom with his father...
“I’d need a little bit more practice if I’d wanna take down Hermann Maier in the bricklaying department, but I think I could take him if I was still in my prime. I’ve got a lot of experience behind a wheel barrel, mixing mud. I’ve worked a lot of construction jobs. I had a tough upbringing through ski racing, and had to do a lot of construction jobs to pay my way, to pay rent, pay bills.
I also like machine work. I like to work excavators, Bobcats, stuff like that. I’m definitely a handyman. Glenn (his dad) and I built our house together, pretty much the whole entire thing. Plaster, drywall, some electric, because I don’t like to dabble to much with that one, plumbing, tile, that stuffs all easy. Shingling I hate, but we did it. The house was 3500 sqaure feet. It was tough, Glenn was coaching the BC Team at the time and I was an athlete on the team. It was about five years ago. The house is on the west side of Lake Windermere, about ten kilometeres out of Inveremere. It’s a beautiful place, five acres of lakefront, it’s amazing. We’d go skiing all day and then come home and work on the house til dark, even past that, eat dinner, then go to bed, wake up and do it all over again.
Most of the guys on the team aren’t very handy with tools, but I can really relate to Manny (Osborne-Paradis) because he’s handy too, and we’re really good friends. We did some jobs in Invermere together. Back when he was on the BC team, and I was about 13 or so, he was working with a local contractor in Invermere. In those days I was doing some rock work with Glenn, and Manny was working on the same project, a house. Manny was doing apprentice carpentry. We’d always fool around during breaks, shoot pop cans with the nail gun and stuff like that. Manny has really been a good friend and helped me out in the past when I was strapped for cash a couple of years ago. He wanted to build a second driveway for his house and I told him I’d do it. So I rented a Bobcat from my uncle, and he came with a paver and some gravel. We built a tie wall, I filled it up, and levelled it all out and he paid me a bit of cash to get me going. Manny also likes to get his hands dirty. He built his dining room table, and it’s amazing, great craftsmanship. It’s great to have that relationship with him.”
2. Ben’s favourite hobby is CROCHET!
“I’m not to proud to say it, but I can actually crochet, and knit, and I know that’s super sweet, hahaha! I usually knit my own hats because my head is freakishly small. I wear a youth size hat and a lot of the team hats we get are too big, so I crochet my own hats, and put the logos on myself. It’s a good way of spending time, instead of watching TV or a movie I’ve seen a million times. I just get the crochet hook out, and get going on a hat or something. It’s actually very relaxing, it clears my mind and can put me to sleep really quickly, which is a good thing sometimes.”
3. Ben’s loves to race motorcycles...
Something I’m passionate about outside of skiing is Moto GP, I love Moto GP. I’ve got a street bike myself, a Suzuki GSX-R600. I race that thing like crazy, it’s kinda bad news, I need to just keep it on the track, it’s kinda out there, and I’m kinda passionate about it. Me and Jan (Hudec) share this passion for Moto GP, he’s got a street bike as well, and we’ve done quite a few track days together. Motorcycling on a track is an amazing form of cross-training, and it works out well because we’re both into it. We’re going to do some trips down to Salt Lake City and stuff like that at some point. I would love to compete. If I wasn’t a ski racer I think I’d be buried in it, racing motor bikes. Unfortunately I am good at skiing, hahaha! So I am going to stick to skiing instead of motorcycle racing! Jan and I used to race on a track in Calgary, but unfortunately it’s torn down now. It was pretty competitive. He had a bigger bike with more power, but I kinda took him in the turns.”
4. Ben loves watersports and hopes to visit the Carribean someday...
“One thing I would really love to do is actually travel after ski racing. People are always coming up to me and saying, ‘Ski racing must be so amazing, you get to travel and see the world!’ True in a sense, but untrue in the sense that we see airports and ski hills mostly, and we don’t see much else or experience much else in the beautiful places we go to as a tourist would. I’d like to go down to the Carribean some day and rent a sailboat and tour around. I’ve grown up on a lake, so I love to sail, windsurf and kiteboard, and I love the water. A place like the Carribean would be a great place for me as a tourist!”
5. Ben is a master in the art of barbeque...and is willing to share BBQ tips - just don’t ask him for his secret rib recipe!
“I’m an excellent barbeque chef. The key to cooking on a BBQ is temperature. You can’t get it too hot, too quick. You can’t have it too cold either. A lot of mistakes are made when you leave steaks and walk away. You can do that, that’s an amateur move. You’ve gotta put yourself behind that barbeque, get ready for it, finish it, once that’s done you go onto the next thing. Steak, ribs, chicken, I’m good at it all. I can’t tell you my secret rib recipe, but I can describe it, hahaha! My ribs are sweet, a little bit spicy, tangy. I’m not a dry rib guy, I like a lot BBQ sauce, very tender, fall off the bone. You’ve gotta boil the ribs first, of course, I’ll give you small things like this, but I won’t give up any more detail on my secret BBQ sauce recipe. I don’t want Johnny (Kucera) or Robbie (Dixon) to find out. I went to a cookout at their place and they made amazing ribs, probably the best homemade ribs I’ve ever had, so hopefully we can have a rib-off competition one day, hahaha! I’d also love to get a smoker one day and make beef jerky too. Beef jerky, by the way, is the best thing on the planet!
I’m not a fancy guy when it comes to BBQ grills either. The one I use is like a Plain Jane, I think we paid $20 for it off Kijiji (a Craigslist type website in Canada), so it’s not the grill that counts most, the grill chef is the key to success when barbequing!”