INSIDE THE DEN: Carina Hamel ’03

Each month in celebration of BMA’s 50th anniversary, we present to you a fellow academy alumnus/alumna. Join us as we look “Inside the Den”, learn about how the academy has evolved over time, and gain new insight on how the school shaped these Burkie Bears’ lives in ski racing and in life.

Since its inception in 1970, the academy has been home to 1,193 students including 36 who have gone on to compete in the Olympics and 145 who have been members of national teams representing the USA, Australia, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Great Britain, Japan, South Korea, and Spain. Above and beyond the athletic success of its alumni, BMA has always embraced a progressive educational model that focuses on engendering creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving in all of its graduates.

This month we bring you Carina Hamel class of 2003. Carina grew up in Western Massachusetts and, after spending a year in Norway when she was 15, decided to make a move to attend BMA to focus on her ski racing. She and her husband recently launched Bivo, a performance product company. Their first product is a metal water bottle designed for cyclists.

Why did you choose to attend BMA? 

I grew up in Western Massachusetts, and nobody else in my high school skied. At the age of 15, I knew I wanted to put more focus on skiing and I decided to leave my high school to move to Norway for the year. It was an incredible experience and when I returned, I wanted to be able to continue to focus on my skiing career. Burke’s team, spirit, and location all made it feel like the right spot for me. 

What drew you to the academy?

I really wanted to focus on my skiing and I wanted to be around other people who also wanted to dedicate their time to training hard. Burke felt like a perfect place to train but I also felt when I visited that there was an incredible sense of community. The combination of the two was impossible for me to turn down. 

What did you do after graduating?

When I graduated from Burke, I attended the University of Vermont and raced on the ski team from 2003 – 2007. While at UVM, I studied European Studies and minored in Mathematics. I had an absolute blast at UVM, and during my senior year, had one of my best ski seasons. From there, I decided to go back to Burke to help coach while training to compete professionally. 

What was your professional journey after college?

After one more year of racing, I knew it was time to move on and secured a job at the parent company of Keen Footwear, which took me to China for three months before moving to Portland, OR. I worked at Keen for five years, learning product development, sourcing, and international business. From there, I started my own product creation company helping brands with creative direction, product development, sourcing, and production. My husband, Robby, joined my company about two years later. After recognizing how much we love the creative direction portion of the business, Robby and I decided we really should try coming up with an idea for our own brand. After almost two years of engineering, we recently launched Bivo, a performance product company. Our first product is a metal water bottle designed for cyclists called the Bivo One. We have been having a blast getting our product into the world!  

What memories stand out the most from your Burke days?

Our team camps, in particular Val Senales in Italy. I think back on those days and smile because it was so fun. We trained so hard and had an incredible time doing it. Val Senales is absolutely stunning and we were able to train with several national teams while there. We had time on the glacier in the morning and did dryland workouts in the afternoon. The road up the valley was steep and winding. I remember the national teams double poled up the whole climb and we were all in awe. The exposure to culture, training, and seeing our idols in action was an awesome experience. 

What was your favorite workout at BMA?

The run around Burke Mountain. We first did that run with Matt Whitcomb and the back side, as many of you reading this know, has a serious mud pit. I still love long runs, and when you throw in fun adventures like climbing up rocks, random strength sessions, and crawling through the mud like we did on those runs around Burke, awesome memories are created. 

What lessons did you learn at BMA that you’ve carried forward in your adult life?

Independence. I think I was independent from my upbringing as well, but at Burke, we had to do our homework on our own accord and had to have motivation to learn because of the no grading system. We also had to train based on how our own bodies were feeling and while we had our teammates to help, the hard work had to be done independently. 

What projects and passions keep you busy now?

I love what I do for work. Running two businesses is a really fun challenge and I learn something new every day. Launching Bivo has been super exciting and it has been great to dive into the parts of business I haven’t touched before. I love to ski still and am always anxious to see the first snow of the year fall. I also have a two-year-old daughter who brings a totally different pace of life! 

What is your relationship to skiing now?

Skiing has always been a part of my life, and I still absolutely love it. There is nothing more peaceful than a good classic ski. I recently moved back to the east coast from Portland, OR, which hopefully means more days on snow than I have been able to have over the past 10 years. We got our daughter on skis last year, and it is really fun to pass down our passion for skiing and snow to her.