Mink and the man on the mountain
12 February 2013Markets
When you see a young guy in black coveralls dispensing food down the aisle of a mink shed, skiing is hardly what springs to mind. For Lasse Kamp Simonsen, mink feeding and slalom skiing are both parts of his everyday life. In future, Kopenhagen Fur's logo will adorn the 18-year-old mink farmhand's helmet and clothing as he sets out to pit his talent against the world's best skiers.
Fur, snow and cold weather are inextricably linked. So far, only nouveau riche Russians and Norway's Crown Prince Haakon have dared to combine fur with ski sports. Rumour even has it that someone stole the prince's reindeer-fur ski jacket.
Kopenhagen Fur is now giving it a try, but without mixing mink fur and skiwear. Eighteen-year-old mink farmhand and Danish national team skier Lasse Kamp Simonsen will flash Kopenhagen Fur's logo when competing on the slopes in 2013.
An extraordinary talent
During a ski holiday three years ago, an unknown man stopped Lasse Kamp Simonsen from Ulfborg in western Jutland, as he was hurtling down a slope. The meeting meant that Lasse went home with more than just sore legs from some punishing days on the slopes.
- At first, I was afraid that I'd done something stupid, but he only stopped me to say that he liked my skiing style. He suggested that I should get in touch with a ski academy. It was kind of weird, but it left me with a really cool feeling, explains Lasse.
It is certainly no mere coincidence that Lasse Kamp Simonsen receives praise. He has been skiing with his family since he was five, but the decision to contact a ski academy was not that simple. Lasse was in the middle of a boarding school stay, when the unknown skier stopped him. The school and his youth made it impossible for him to make an immediate, total commitment to skiing. Patience was required to find the optimum place, but in 2011 Lasse finally joined a Canadian ski team at a summer training camp in Switzerland. The coach was impressed with Lasse's talent, and invited him to train in Canada with the team at the National Ski Academy in Collingwood, a 90-minute drive from Toronto.
- It's awesome to be in Canada. We're a team of 25, and several of the skiers have participated in the Olympics or youth Olympics, so the training really pushes you, Lasse says.
The pressure seems to have worked. After last season, Lasse was picked for the national Danish alpine team. If a spot on the national team is not convincing enough, take a look at what the National Ski Academy writes about him. It leaves no doubt that he is an extraordinary talent.
In only a year, he has managed to reach the level of some of Canada's best youth skiers. He races against the best in both slalom and giant slalom, and has reached a speed of 160 km/h in the death-defying downhill.
- I may have been skiing several times a year since I was five, but it's pretty wild that I've reached the same level as the other skiers. The guys I train with have been competing since they were five. It makes me believe in it since I've only been on family ski trips, says Lasse, who speaks of his achievements and progress with the quiet humility typical of someone from the western part of Denmark.
From Ulfborg to the Olympics
Days and days of hard training have readied the young Dane to start participating in international competitions. The world championship in Schladming, Austria, in February is the first major challenge. His goal is to be the best of the six Danes participating. A very realistic goal for Lasse Kamp Simonsen. He has clocked in as number one in all timings. And with a comfortable margin on number two at that.
His skiing season consists of 150 days on ski with training and competitions. In addition to the world championship in February, he will enter the Nor-Am Cup tour of competition. During the tour, Lasse must earn points to qualify for the major competitions. Competitions are key components in the training of the 18-year-old mink farmhand who aims to pass the qualifying mark for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. The Olympics has both A and B requirements, and Lasse is en route to passing the B requirements. Of course, his qualification depends on his training.
The 150 days of training leave no room for a conventional job needed to provide the means and time for all his travels. For this reason, Lasse has put his business college studies on hold so he can focus on skiing and his work as a mink farmhand outside Ulfborg.
Hard to find financial support
Time is one reason why the mink farmhand job suits Lasse perfectly. The seasonal periods of work are perfectly suited for the ski season.
- When I've been away to train, I can almost always find work as soon as I return to Denmark. I'm usually in Denmark for the mating season and whelping time. In the skinning season I'm a little pressed for time, but I'm good at working long hours when I'm here, says Lasse.
Lasse had already worked with mink when he started at the mink farm, so it was quite natural for him to continue. He enjoys the variation in the job with no two days being alike.
The line of work also made it quite natural for him to look for sponsors in the sector. Skiing is not a major sport in Denmark, so finding effective sponsorships is difficult. Lasse is not eligible for Team Danmark support, but money is a necessity for those who want to participate in the important competitions and will in turn showcase their skills to more sponsors.
- Kopenhagen Fur's sponsorship has given me the freedom to choose where I want to ski. I don't have to return at a certain date to earn more money. It costs more to participate in the major competitions. So the more money, the more races for me. At the same time, the major competitions are where the sponsors get exposure, he explains.
Kopenhagen Fur's own ambassador
Lasse will primarily race in Canada, the USA and Russia, all important countries in the fur trade, and Lasse treats his sponsorship as more than a financial contribution from Kopenhagen Fur. He will do his utmost to be a superb ambassador for Danish mink farming when he is outside Denmark's borders. His helmet has already elicited questions from people on the slopes, and he takes pleasure in discussing subjects other than skiing.
- I'm really proud that Kopenhagen Fur wants me to display its name. I think I'm a good ambassador for Kopenhagen Fur, because I work at a mink farm and compete at a high level. I've only good things to say about Danish mink farming. I don't think that Kopenhagen Fur could find a better personal ambassador than me, says a beaming Lasse.
It seems that Lasse Kamp Simonsen is more ideally positioned to combine ski sport and fur than Crown Prince Haakon and the newly rich Russians.