Ogden Shares Her Sport Passion Through Little Bellas
When Katharine Ogden wasn’t racing on two skis, recovering or studying last winter, she was planning out her summer on two wheels as a Ride Program Lead for Little Bellas.
Little Bellas is a 13-year-old nonprofit that creates opportunities for girls to experience success using mountain biking as the platform and pathway to personal growth, building community, and competency.
Indeed, this past season was a busy one for Katharine, who has re-joined the Davis U.S. Cross Country Team for the 2020-21 season after skiing collegiately for the past couple of seasons. In addition to planning for the summer Ride Program, she was also studying toward a degree in psychology and a minor in education at Dartmouth College, with plans on graduating next spring. Plus, she was posting top-30 results at the FIS Cross Country World Cup Tour de Ski in Europe.
“It’s amazing how much energy she has,” said Sabra Davison, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Little Bellas with her sister Lea Davison, winner of multiple U.S. National Mountain Bike championship, and a two-time Olympian. “While performing at such a high-level last season at the Tour de Ski, she would call me in the evenings to discuss plans for the summer.
“All of the ambassadors do so much for the girls, but Katherine is our all-star. And that’s an impressive complement considering the many other ambassadors!"
- Sabra Davison, Little Bellas Executive Director
"She started as an ambassador, and she said ‘that’s not enough,’" Sabra said. "She wanted to be a mentor and spend more time with the girls. From there, she wanted to run a program that mitigated the drop out rate of kids participating in sports and mountain biking, which aligned with her current studies.”
For the past two summers, Katharine participated as a Pro Ambassador and mentor with Little Bellas. But for this summer, she was presented with a new opportunity as a Ride Program Lead. The Ride Program offers a unique opportunity for girls ages 12-16 to learn how to ride from Little Bellas’ most experienced mentors. Oriented around having fun, these group mountain bike rides take participants on trails they may (or may not) know to really give the girls a chance to try, learn, and hone their skills.
“Most of the programs that they are running across the country are for a younger audience,” Katherine said of the Little Bellas weekly and day camp programs. “The Ride Program has an emphasis more toward riding. It’s non-competitive, and super supportive, introducing the girls to a group/shop ride set up.
“It is amazing to be there to watch these girls,” she added. “Even though we’re not coaching them, we’re not doing skills, to watch their confidence and abilities grow exponentially over the summer.”
The first American woman to ever win a medal at the Junior World Championships (bronze in skiathlon in 2017 at Soldier Hollow), Katharine grew up mountain bike riding with her father and older younger Ben (who is also a member of the Davis U.S. Cross Country Ski Team) on the trails surrounding their home in Londonderry, Vermont.
“My father and his riding buddies built all of those trails,” she said of the network of singletrack around Londonderry and Peru, Vermont, some of which can be found on TrailForks.com. But to experience the good stuff, you’ll need Katharine, Ben, or one of the many members of the Stratton Mountain School Cross Country Team to show you the way. Katherine’s hometown trails are just one of the many dozens of trail networks through Vermont and New Hampshire. With so many riding options, planning out her summer Little Bellas’ Ride Program provided a unique opportunity for her to share her trail knowledge and passion for mountain biking to the 14 participants.
“We rode at eight different trailheads for the eight-week program this summer throughout the Upper Valley (New Hampshire and Vermont),” she said. Originally, the program was slated for 10 weeks, but due to COVID-19 pandemic, it was reduced to eight weeks.
In addition to riding a new area each week, Katherine also recruited former U.S. Cross Country athlete and fellow Little Bellas Ambassador Ida Sargent. “She is one of my mentors,” Katharine said of the two-time Olympian. “The girls were really psyched. She is a great mentor and it was sweet to have her.”
With the summer slowly fading to fall, and the cross country season fast approaching, Katharine is in full-on training mode with her eyes toward the 2021 FIS Cross Country World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, and of course the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. But in the back of her mind, she’s planning once again to share her summer passion for mountain biking and working with kids.
“When I’m retired from competition, I want to work with that age group of kids,” she said. “It’s cool for them to get that opportunity to connect with adults, in that type of setting, so that they also see us as peers.”
“We feel lucky to have her and give her a platform because she is such a great role model and athlete,” Sabra said. “And I’ve seen first hand how the girls have flourished under her leadership.”