JACKSON, Wyo. — Seven years ago, Benjamin Alexander was a resident of Burning Man’s emblematic Robot Heart community as a globe-trotting DJ who ditched his day job in finance.
“That’s a cardinal sin, don’t quit your day job,” Alexander said.
But it doesn’t seem that abandoning the 9-5 had any severe or lasting repercussions for Alexander, especially considering the fact that he’s across the world speaking from the Olympic Village in Beijing, China.
Alexander, who is the first individual to represent the country of Jamaica in Olympic alpine skiing, spent the greater portion of the last two years training here in Jackson Hole. For now, he’s put DJ’ing on pause.
It’s as unusual as it sounds: international DJ turns Jamaican Olympic skier. And of course, it is undeniably reminiscent of the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team that went on to inspire the beloved 90’s film, “Cool Runnings.”
So on Wednesday evening, clad in an electric yellow “Team Jamaica” sweatsuit, Alexander begins to explain.
“I spent ten years on the road performing as a DJ across five continents and over 30 countries and had a really fun ride with it,” Alexander said.
“I performed at Burning Man every year for the last 10 years, lived in Ibiza for every summer and had a residency at a radio show there. I really had fun with it, but most importantly my DJ’ing introduced me to so many interesting characters and things I never had exposure to as a kid. One of those things was skiing.”
Through his time as a DJ, Alexander was introduced to a group of individuals who loved to ski. One of these friends was a Jackson resident who invited him to heli-ski around Christmastime in 2015.
At the time Alexander had no skiing experience and was just in attendance as a DJ. On one of the afternoons, the non-skiing contingent of the group was invited to the top of the mountain to meet the skiers for lunch.
One may say this was the day an Olympian was born.
“At the end of the lunch, I watched my friends click into their 130 millimeter Black Crow powder skis and just disappear off the ridgeline [into the abyss]. I thought to myself, this was the coolest thing I had ever seen.”
At that moment, Alexander vowed that he wouldn’t return unless he could participate.
“When I get interested in something I go down the rabbit hole pretty hard.”
So down the rabbit hole, he went.
Since that momentous day in 2015, Alexander set an audacious goal to become the first downhill skier to represent Jamaica in the Winter Olympics.
At the age of 32, Alexander took his first lesson in Whistler. He fell 27 times on the first run. Alexander noted that he graduated with an engineering degree and his brain often works in numbers. To make sense of a challenge, he prefers to calculate everything which was a strategy that allowed him to succeed in the sport.
Moving on to 2020, Alexander arrived in Jackson.
“My buddy Tom who organized the heli-ski trip had a house up on Saddle Butte. When deciding where to go to pursue this dream of going to the Olympics he suggested I stay there and train.”
For the greater part of the last two years, holding fast to his Olympic dream, Alexander split his time training between Snow King and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
“They didn’t really take me seriously they were like ‘okay buddy whatever’, and they threw me with the Masters.”
But eventually, he got into the swing of things.
“On a training day we would start training at 10:30 a.m., but I’m such a glutton for corduroy. I would do JHMR first to get like 12 laps in on the Teton chair, then head to Snow King and back to JHMR to finish out the day.”
Alexander made sure to recognize both JHMR and Ryan Stanley at Snow King Mountain who provided him with discounted lift passes.
“Both of the mountains helped me out and gave me tons of support.”
He also became an ambassador for local outfitter, Stio.
In his hours off in Jackson, Alexander says he could be found unwinding at The Virginian Saloon.
“You could always find me at the Virginian. I would be there all the time, I love to play pool.”
While the valley allowed him to train amidst a global pandemic, by April 2021 he was off to Austria to receive more training and compete in races throughout Europe. From there, Alexander qualified for the games making history as the first alpine skier to represent the country of Jamaica. This was possible because he holds a Jamaican passport. He was also the flag bearer in the opening ceremony on Feb. 4, 2022.
This Sunday, Feb. 13, just five days short of Alexander’s six-year anniversary of his first ski lesson, he will compete in the Giant Slalom event at the Beijing Olympic Games. And when he’s done he’ll be back right here, in the valley.
“For me, this is really all about participation. There are no delusions here that I will get close to the top fifty athletes.”
“I’m going to get rid of my race skis and go live on my powder skis for the rest of my life. Ski racing is just so tough on the body. But I will be involved in Jamaican skiing for the next two or three Olympic cycles. I’m super excited about that.”