Sacrificing a promising Olympic ski career in favour of a post-secondary education inspired Trevor Bruce - photo by Martin Dee
UBC Reports | Vol. 53 | No. 5 | May 3, 2007
Ski Racer Finds New World View
By Brian Lin
Five years at UBC has taught Trevor Bruce that no man, not even an Alpine skier, is an island.
The 26-year-old North Vancouver native has been hitting the slopes since age six and has represented both British Columbia and Canada in competitions in more than 20 countries.
“My upbringing and ski racing career has been one of intense individualism -- everything from school work to physical training, I did on my own,” says Bruce, who is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Geological Engineering. “I was a one-man show and the team was my competition.”
But giving up his Olympic dreams in favour of post-secondary education and varsity athletics in 2002 has brought profound changes in both his personality and career path.
“In collegiate races, the three best times of the five-person team determine your overall ranking,” says Bruce. “I quickly learned that excelling on my own wasn’t going to cut it.”
As the unofficial technical coach, Bruce has led the UBC ski team -- the only varsity ski team in Canada -- to place consistently in the top five out of 200 schools in the United States Collegiate Ski Association national championships, including three podium results in the last four years.
“We receive $10,000-$20,000 a year in funding for ten athletes and consistently beat out American skiers with budgets ten times as much -- sometimes up to half a million dollars,” says Bruce, who adds that the UBC team is now attracting prospects from as far as Ontario.
Meanwhile, Bruce was excelling academically by calling upon the drive and motivation developed from ski racing, and finding UBC courses that transformed his worldview.
“I chose engineering because it came naturally,” says Bruce, whose late grandfather Ernest Watson was a UBC engineering professor. “But the emphasis at UBC engineering on the environmental and societal impacts of engineering -- from dams to roads to even home electrical systems -- was a complete eye-opener for me.
“Engineers take pride in being builders and creators – people who put things into action,” says Bruce. “What I learned here at UBC is that our decisions have long-term consequences. I was a little guy who tried to find my place and this knowledge empowered me to believe that I can make huge differences in the world.”
With a game plan to “start small and take baby steps,” Bruce wants to create a non-profit organization that provides sustainable housing options to low-income families.
“Low-income families typically live in older buildings that consume a lot of energy -- and rack up utility bills -- in winter months due to bad insulation, for example. I’d like to assemble a team of sustainability-minded volunteers to assess the situation and offer solutions that are both good for the environment and save money for home-owners -- from a $5 can of silicone to seal the windows to donated energy-efficient refrigerators.
“There’s a better way and I’m setting my goals to find it.”