This article was originally published by August Teague in the Aspen Times as part of our column, Clubhouse Chronicles.
As snow starts to pile up and our community gears up for winter, I want to take a moment to celebrate a coach who is retiring after having spent 25 impactful, fun and successful years with Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. During his coaching tenure at AVSC, Ben Dodge has shared his knowledge, passion and excitement for Nordic skiing with countless athletes.
Whether he was building a snow cave on Grand Mesa for our first tracks camp, sculpting
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a jump on Richmond Ridge, or playing NORD-cross (think Lacrosse sticks, Nordic skis and Tiehack), Ben always brought fun and a lifelong love to the sport. As we reflect on the many ways he has contributed to our local ski community, we wanted to give a handful of Ben’s former athletes and colleagues the chance to share their thoughts and memories.
Thank you, Ben! As you can see, you have made a long-lasting impact on so many of us, both on and off the snow:
“I always respected Ben as a coach, mentor, and person in general. Ben was there with me since day one — fifth grade at the Grand Mesa team camp where I learned to skate ski for the first time. His patience and coaching style were key factors in my development as a young skier. Ben helped keep skiing fun, but also let me push my limits when the time was right and I was itching to go hard. He always shared his expertise and let me in on advice that helped him get to a high level of both skiing and enjoyment of the outdoors. I still remember the time that Ben told me, in his kind but effective style, that it looked like my arms were stuck in molasses while doing skate intervals up Clubhouse Hill … I must say, he was completely right! I like to think my arm speed has improved a little bit since then, but I still give Ben all the credit for lighting that fire within me to never have molasses-arms again! Thank you, Ben, for impacting so many young lives, and for teaching us the ropes on and off the ski trails.”
— Hailey Swirbul, current U.S. ski team member and AVSC alumna
“Ben has been an inspiration to more than two decades’ worth of Nordic skiers at AVSC, providing them with the tools to not only be better skiers, but better human beings as well. Having coached with him all these years, I couldn’t have asked for a more awesome coworker, role model for younger athletes, and friend. He has always been a source of reason, knowledge, creativity and motivation, and I will definitely miss him around the wax bench this winter!”
— Travis Moore, Aspen High School Nordic coach
“Ben Dodge was extremely supportive and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He was incredibly invested in every athlete’s success, regardless of their ability.”
— Eva McDonough, AVSC athlete
“Ben absolutely had a significant and positive influence on me as a ski racer and as a kid growing up in the valley. He did it in a way that was genuine and straight-to-the-point; when Ben had coaching suggestions or any advice at all, you listened when he spoke because you could bet that whatever he was going to tell you, it was important, and it was not to be taken lightly. We’re all better off because as a coach, Ben chose to share what he, himself, had learned over the years when he was an athlete in the ski racing world. Our outdoor community in the Roaring Fork Valley is incredibly lucky that he is a part of it, and I have no doubt that even though he is retiring from coaching he will continue to have a huge impact on the kids in our valley and the people who are lucky enough to call him a friend.”
— Simi Hamilton, U.S. ski team member, AVSC alumnus
“Ben Dodge’s impact on AVSC athletes goes beyond just results of the kids he coached. He has been a figure I always looked up to and respected. He was attentive to everyone and would take detailed time to help and support athletes with whatever they may need on and off the track. He taught me to never ever give up when times are tough and to keep my head up. I carry that with me daily. I’ll miss hearing him yelling “tempo, tempo” along the sidelines in a race and knowing to pick up my speed. Even on bad race days he was still proud of everyone’s effort — Nordic isn’t easy! He was a fantastic coach and AVSC will miss him dearly.”
— Hannah Dodge, AVSC alumna