Bryce Bennett is a 27-year-old American speed skier, who was inspired by racers such as Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves. The 2018/19 season was definitely Bryce’s best season so far, as he was able to achieve career-best results at every classic downhill event on the World Cup tour, culminating with a fourth place at his favorite venue in Val Gardena. Now we are again about to race on the Saslong in Groeden and we caught up with the American skier to get to know him better.
What does being an American downhiller mean to you? And what does being a World Cup downhiller mean? Are there any differences?
They both mean not going slow that’s for sure. Honestly, there aren’t many differences; the interesting thing about racing downhill is that everyone on the downhill circuit has respect for each other and what we’re actually skiing. Joining the World Cup downhill circuit is like joining a brotherhood – we have respect for the guys that came before us and vice versa and the guys currently racing. Obviously no one wants to get beat and we’re all incredibly competitive, but we still have that common respect for each other. I know there’s a lot of shit talking and laughs that get shared; those are the memories that will last a lifetime.
You grew up watching Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves going down from the same slopes you are skiing down in the World Cup. Do they inspire you? What did you learn from them, and how do you feel to be in the same position as they were a few years ago?
I haven’t really thought about it like that, but it’s pretty crazy to think my dad recorded Kitzbühel on VHS so we could watch Daron win. I can clearly remember where I was sitting and the image of his run is still in my head. Those guys inspired me to ski race. I think every boy my age growing up started skiing late and straight because of Bode. So to think that I could have that impact is something to take seriously.
Is sporting mustaches part of a ritual or has it become a lifestyle?
I didn’t choose the mustache life, it chose me. This past spring Wiley Maple’s serviceman and our close friend, Sam Coffey, passed away. So we will be rocking mustaches in his honor all season long.
Val Gardena looks like one of your favorite slopes-- you always get good results in Saslong. What’s your secret when you are skiing here? Is it your favourite slope or do you have others?
Val Gardena has a soft spot in my heart. I enjoy Italy, especially that part of Italy, and the course itself fits my skiing style. I've also done well there a number of times so that always helps. My main motivation is classic downhills…downhills with history. Winning a classic downhill would mean more to me than Olympic or World Championship medals. Let’s be honest though, if you’re winning those types of downhills, you’re in contention to do well at “major events” like the Olympics or World Championships.
Which is the toughest downhill track for you, and which is the toughest starting gate?
Kitzbühel is the hardest downhill for me – it doesn’t suit my skiing style and it’s pretty intimidating to actually try and be competitive in that race. Bormio last season was the most mentally challenging start to push out of all of last season for me. About a minute before I stepped up to the starting gate I wanted to call it a day and take the gondola down the mountain instead.
You are the tallest skier in the circuit. Has it been a tough journey to find the right technique and equipment set-up?
It has taken me years to figure out how to use my size to my advantage and I’m constantly working to overcome the difficulties associated with being tall. Lucky for me, Fischer spent a lot of time and effort to dial my step-up in to become more competitive and I cannot thank them enough.
You and your team live constantly on the road during the winter period. What are the ups and downs of it?We’re all brothers; we share everything all the time, meals, training in and out of our ski boots, hotel rooms, travel, and our experiences – negative or positive. We fight and argue 99% of the time, and always absolutely about nothing important, for fun. We really enjoy making fun of each other and everyone else for no reason, for fun. We’re always trying to help each other during training and racing so the team will succeed. We aren’t provided the opportunity to drive home after the finish line and go unwind with our families and girlfriends. We go back to the hotel and usually make fun of someone, listen to someone tell bad jokes and their unbacked political views.
What do you miss most when you are on tour? Are you able to stay in touch with friends and family once you cross the ocean?
I miss my family, girlfriend, dog, and friends the most…of course they would argue and say it’s the boat, truck, and Mexican food that I miss the most, but I would disagree. Luckily, it’s 2019 and I was the generation blessed with the iPhone and WiFi, so communicating can be easy (though my girlfriend would say I don’t make it easy, ha ha). Once I get to Europe I kind of fall into my own little circle. I have two lives: my home life, and skiing life.
How important has your family been for your career so far?
I mean this is the classic response, but I would not be where I am today without the help and support of my family. They sacrificed so much to provide me an opportunity to become competitive in athletics. I will always be grateful for that, and the trust they gave me.
What do your American and European lives look like? Are you able to fish, even when you are in Europe?European life vs. American life are the complete opposites. At home, I almost never think about ski racing, where in Europe it’s all I think about. I'm obviously always training but when I’m back squatting I’m not thinking about the bottom of Wengen. I back squat because I enjoy back squatting, I would train regardless – with or without ski racing in my life. I take my time at home in the summer and my time away from the sport very seriously. I’m all in for being professional and taking my job very seriously because I do, but when I get the chance to step away I enjoy stepping away and becoming a “normal person”. There are experiences in this life outside of ski racing and I try and take advantage of those as much as possible within reason. I have not fished in Europe, but if anyone wants to take me hit me up on Instagram.
Your team and teammates are always pretty active in terms of communication and you always have creative ideas and opinions. How do you think the Ski World Cup can improve in terms of communication?I mean, I ski around plastic poles for a living so my insight is a bit limited on this subject, but as far as communication goes growing the audience and interest in the sport will be key. Example, Red Bull did that documentary series on YouTube last season and as someone in the sport I really enjoyed watching that. The images they captured and storytelling behind the images were entertaining. Creating content that appeals to people, because the athletic feats that are taking place on those downhill courses is actually insane, mentally and physically, and being able to actually showcase our sport and the details of it would be interesting to the outside. It just needs to be done in a different manner, rather than the same old same old.