If you’re passionate about any pursuit in life and strive to be the best you can at it, the best way to achieve your goal is through practise. Practise, practise, practise. Which is exactly what fifteen year old Jersey born St Clement resident and Team GB slalom skier Alex Ogden has been focusing on.
So much so, in fact, that he made the decision to move to Switzerland, attending Aiglon College where, during the winter season, he can step straight out of the back of the school and onto the gondola – transitioning from study to skiing in just ten minutes.
What’s more, Aiglon College has an ‘Advanced Development Squad’ for Elite skiers, allowing students like Alex to train more often and attend races throughout Europe during term time. There’s still a strong focus on academic achievements though, with all students required to stay up-to-date with their studies no matter where they’re competing by accessing their class work and homework online.
Alex explained that, during an average autumn term, he’ll train for 25 days in total, but as winter sets in this increases to four times per week, as well as attending races too. Not to mention completing all of his schoolwork to keep his teachers happy, as well. It’s a wonder he finds time to eat or sleep! Due to the dry slopes at the Norfolk Snowsports Club in the UK where he first cut his teeth in the sport being comparatively shorter than their snow-covered equivalents, Alex was originally restricted to honing his Slalom skills, but since training in the Alps, he’s had the opportunity to train and compete in the Giant Slalom and Super G disciplines.
The differences are a little more involved, but in short, the gates that competitors ski between in Giant Slalom are positioned at a greater distance from each other than they are in Slalom, and these two disciplines fall into the realms of ‘technical’ events. Then in Super G, classed as a speed event more akin to Downhill ski racing, the gates are further apart still.
Skiing is, of course, a seasonal sport unless you have the luxury of the means to flit between the hemispheres or can work within the constraints of what dry slopes are able to offer, and I wanted to get an insight into how Alex manages to keep on top of his game during the off-season.
During the summer months, it’s all about maintaining and improving both his core and aerobic fitness. Alex has always been the sporty kind, enjoying football, rugby, tennis, running and shooting during his school days prior to moving to Switzerland, but this year’s lockdown spent in Jersey introduced him to a new passion to complement his skiing – cycling.
From road cycling around Jersey to stay fit and stay sane, to mountain biking in Switzerland and even a trip to the UCI Velodrome in Aigle – just a short distance down the mountain from where he lives – it’s clear that going fast on two wheels has fast become a complementary passion to going fast on two skis.
Alex was fortunate enough to arrange a couple of weeks of ski training in Italy on the Stelvio glacier the moment that ferry links between Jersey and France were reinstated, but you may not be surprised to read that he’d packed his trusty road bike, maintaining momentum by climbing the Passo Gavia and Passo Mortirolo, amongst other routes, but since his return to school the new restrictions have been noticeable. Annual training camps in Zermatt and a slalom training camp in France – commonly held indoors to avoid the questionable weather in the Alps during September and October – have been cancelled and the ski areas surrounding Villars, where Alex lives, not scheduled to open until mid-December his only current training option is the Glacier 3000 area in a neighbouring village, which he’s very thankful to have just a short train ride away.
With almost everything being up in the air at the moment, Alex has just been taking things day-by-day, commenting that ‘it is so difficult to plan what you will be doing next week never mind two or three months down the line.’ Rather than the typical racing season of two sets of British races in Austria at the start of January, followed by the British school boys’ competition in Wengen, an International race for Team GB and then the English Alpine Champs in Bormio, Italy, Alex will be looking to compete closer to home this season, having recently begun working towards attaining his Swiss license. I wanted to know if Alex had any kooky pre-race rituals, but the only thing that sprang to mind was a particular coach – a former World Cup skier who understands how it feels when you’re awaiting your turn – who he prefers to have alongside him at the start gate. “She is very calm and makes no fuss which really helps with nerves and concentration”, he explains.
Having found success in a number of different events in the past – from topping the under-8 UK Eastern Region Ski Association group to achieving podium results throughout the years and being selected to race in the Czech Republic and Folgaria for Team GB, reaching the podium again while representing Great Britain in the FIS Children’s Cup – Alex’s downhill skiing trajectory is most certainly still going steadily uphill.
Even an injury sustained in April 2019 during the slalom event at the British Championships in Tignes, France, is showing no signs of holding him back. What he’d suspected was just a bruised hip turned out to be a fractured vertebrae, and after a long and frustrating rest period he damaged the cartilage in his knee, causing a few issues as his training intensified. With last season being cut short by the pandemic and a summer spent cycling Alex is confident that he’s now fighting fit for the upcoming season, presuming at least some of it manages to go ahead. He tells me that he’s constantly striving to improve his technical and physical capabilities and plans to begin cycling competitively too, such is his newfound love for the sport. With a move to FIS level (that’s the International Ski Federation for non-Francophones) next year Alex is looking forward to competing against a wider range of athletes. He says that “the competition will be very tough, but I also hope to head to University in a couple of years time, but combine my studies with my ski racing and training.”
When asked if he has a favourite expression or mantra, he quotes Robert F Kennedy in saying “Only those who take the risk of failing spectacularly will succeed brilliantly”. Or as they’d say in his ares, “Seuls ceux qui prennent le risque d’échouer de façon spectaculaire réussiront brillamment”.
With great risk comes great rewards, and Alex certainly seems on-track to reap them.