On our latest Elements Series, we caught up with Ben Barclay, an incredible pro freestyle skier from New Zealand and all round legend.
Let’s start at the beginning, where did you grow up, and where are you based now?
Originally, I grew up in Auckland and would spend the winters down in Wanaka so I could ski and train as much as possible. Now that I’ve finished school I live in Wanaka anytime I’m back in NZ and spend most of the Northern Hemisphere winters travelling between North America & Europe training, filming and competing in Skiing.
When did you first start Skiing?
I was first introduced to skiing at an indoor snow dome in Auckland called SnowPlanet. From there my brothers and I would convince my Mum to take us to Mt Ruapehu for a weekend each ski season, then it just snowballed from there.
Tell us about your first trip to Breckenridge when you were 10. Was this the moment you knew you wanted to become pro skier?
My first ski holiday overseas definitely cemented my love for skiing and solidified my dream of doing it for a living. Breckenridge at that time was somewhat the International ‘Home of Freeskiing’. All the professional skiers of that era were there, and it was featured in almost every ski movie I watched growing up. Seeing it in person when I was a little grom certainly opened my eyes set me on the path to pursue this sport.
When did you realise you could make career out of Skiing?
I’m not too sure, still trying to piece the puzzle together now. I still think I’ve got a long way in my journey to achieving what I dreamed of as a little kid, but I reckon I’m on the right path and the stoke has never been higher so we’ll just play it as it comes.
You just won silver at the World Cup, firstly congrats! Tell us about the preparation that goes into planning for this type of competition against the world best? & Tell us about the day?
Cheers mate! This result was a product of many years of skiing, lots of competitions and plenty of mistakes along the way. The preparation for this event wasn’t anything too crazy, we we’re just skiing a bunch and doing a handful of competitions in the lead-up. I was feeling good on my skis and just went out and had some fun. It ended up being the most memorable day of my career so far. I got to stand alongside some of the best skiers in the world in the start gate and many of which I had looked up to for years, and still do to this day.
What are some of your favourite books and podcasts that have inspired you along with way?
My go to podcast recently has been the ‘Ascension Podcast’ By Simon Dumont, a former professional skier who absolutely dominated the sport for many years and led the sport in the direction it’s at now. He interviews all sorts of professional sport people and picks their brains about everything to do with life. I resonated with this podcast as there lots of little snippets that have helped me out along the way and plenty of moments that motivate me to keep pursuing this sport.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m all over the show when it comes to listening to music. I have one big playlist with basically every genre of music in it, ranging from some Elton John, to Lynyrd Skynyrd, to A$AP Rocky. But my current go-to song that I drop into every comp listening to is ‘Fade to Black’ by Metallica, never fails to fire me up.
Did growing up skiing in the north Island of NZ have any limitations to your progression?
When I was younger and training with mates that grew up in Wanaka & Queenstown and had been skiing NZ’s best resorts since they were little kid’s, I thought I was disadvantaged and had a late start to the sport. However, over the past couple years I’ve realised that it didn’t really affect me too much and hasn’t limited my current abilities at all. I was lucky enough to have a home stay family in Wanaka that I spent winter with since I was 13 and got to experience a lot of skiing in the South Island. So, overall I didn’t miss out on too much, but I am itching to head back up North and cruise around the old stomping grounds.
Freestyle skiing is extremely hard on your body, have you had many injuries?
In our Kiwi winter we have a great gym and training facility based in Wanaka that the whole team spends a lot of time at. We all try to get as strong as possible to reduce the likelihood of injuries and speed up recovery as much as possible. Injuries are a part of the sport and are often something you just need to take on the chin and get on with. As a whole, I’ve been pretty fortunate with injuries, nothing that’s taken me off the slopes for too long just some broken bones, sprains and niggles. More just a pain in the arse than anything too serious.
Favourite tricks right now?
Always a tough question to answer as there’s too many to choose from, but it’s pretty hard to beat a big ol’ cork 360 on a lofty jump, best feeling in the world.
Tell us about the road to the Olympics this year?
The build-up of this year’s Olympics has been pretty hectic. I left New Zealand in October ’21 with a big job ahead of me as I still hadn’t qualified yet and had five remaining events to make up for it. It all came down to the final qualifying event in France a couple weeks ago and I managed to do well enough to secure my seat to Beijing. At the time it was a pretty stressful qualifying period, but now with a bit of hindsight and a happy ending I can look back on it and definitely say I enjoyed the journey.
Part of our mission at PYRA is to inspire people to reconnect with outdoors, especially those living the city life. How do you feel when you’re in the city, comparison to up in the mountains?
I have a vivid memory when I was younger traveling from Auckland to Wanaka to go training that every time I stepped off the plane I got hit with a wave of fresh, crisp air. As cliché as it sounds, I just love that feeling and get excited to head home and feel it. Mix that feeling with standing on the top of a snow-covered mountain either on your own or just with a couple buddies and you can’t beat it!
You have been lucky enough to travel and Ski the world, where has been your favourite spot?
I get asked this a lot and still haven’t decided what my answer is. I’ve been very fortunate to see a lot of incredible winter wonderlands across the world and ski in some unbelievable places. But the place I get the most excited for year after year, is our Kiwi winters in Wanaka. Whilst I have an incredible time traveling round the world, I haven’t found a place yet that compares to home.
What do you miss most when you’re away from home?
Mainly I just miss having all my family and friends in the same place. When I’m back home no-one’s more than a short drive or bike ride away from each other and it creates this awesome close community that shares similar passions for snow sports and the outdoors. And of course, I miss some home cooked meals from Mum!
Professional freestyle skiing seems like a competitive space. How do you prep your mind and body when it comes to preparing for a heat?
Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to figure this out and find the best mindset to compete with. But recently I’ve been trying to simply trust that all the work has gone into a specific run and once you drop in, just trust that your body knows what to do, switch your mind off and let instinct take over.
Describe your Skiing style in 3 words…
I’m not sure how to describe my current skiing style, but I definitely aspire to portray smooth, creative and diverse skiing.
What does the next 5 years look like for you?
These past few years have been relatively narrowly focused on training and qualifying for the Olympics. Once that milestone is behind me, I’m looking forward to taking a step back, indulging in all the different forms of skiing and exploring the amazing outdoors that Wanaka has to offer. I definitely want to keep competing and aiming to have some more great results, and simply keep doing what I love. Skiing.
What’s your day-to-day look when you’re not up the mountain?
Usually on our off days we try to go explore the region we’re in and do some sightseeing, but recently with Covid we’ve been a bit stricter with going out and exploring. This has meant there’s been lots of downtime in the house, chilling out. I’m currently studying part-time as well so whenever I can find enough motivation I try and smash some of that out so I can avoid it on ski days.
What styles from our latest drop do you have on rotation of late?
My daily driver is one of the long sleeve shirts. I wear them constantly and love when the weather warms up and I get to ski in them, but also can't go past the PYRA Padded Puffa jacket.
We are stoked to be working closely with you in designing our first every snow capsule, releasing later this year. What design elements are important to you when you are up the mountain?
I’m frothing to be a part of the journey helping with these products. For me, an essential is having an outerwear kit that you love the look of while keeping you warm in the cold, snowy and windy days. I can’t wait to see what Pyra whips up in that department and you can bet you’ll see me ripping around in their new kit.
Lastly finish this sentence: I like getting back outdoors into the elements because….?
I like getting back outdoors into the elements because natures truly the best and has so much to offer in any season.
Check out our latest kit Bens been rocking here: