Sometimes I look back at my career and smile, because I’m not supposed to be a World Cup-winning ski cross racer or an Olympian. I’m from London, ON! Don’t get me wrong, London produces an amazing amount of elite athletes, but usually they’re hockey players, figure skaters, speed skaters or track stars. The London Ski Club at Boler Mountain isn’t supposed to produce skiers who can compete with the world’s best. That’s for the “big” hills of Collingwood, the mountains of Quebec and the West.
So how did I get here? In large part it’s thanks to my family, friends, parents of friends and everyone else that’s joined my support network along the way. Drawing from author Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour hypothesis, I lived within 5 minutes of a ski hill with night skiing. So while many were skiing only on weekends, my buddies and I were skiing 7 days a week and you couldn’t drag us away from the slopes. The vertical adds up!
All joking aside, I’m proud of where I’ve come from and the journey I’ve taken along the way. It goes to show when you put heart and soul into chasing dreams, the obstacles you face make it all the more rewarding when you overcome them.
After spending my nights skiing at Boler, eventually I moved on to the National Ski Academy in Collingwood, ON. The academy not only took my skiing to a new level, it instilled in me the values and work ethic I needed to be successful both on and off the hill. At first, it was an adjustment living with 30 other teenage athletes, but it was exactly what I needed for the next stage of my career.
I went from the Academy to the Ontario Team before accepting a scholarship to the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Life is full of choices, and moving to Alaska was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The values I learned at the NSA helped me find the balance of skiing, school, work and social life. It was in Alaska where I figured out the things that bring me joy and the person I wanted to be. My love of skiing grew outside of just racing. It snows far too often in Alaska for hard perfect corduroy and constant gate bashing, so you learn to expand your skiing repertoire. I probably had more academic accolades than skiing trophies during my time at UAA, but there was a good mix of both and I loved skiing more than ever.
I graduated with a BS in Aviation Technology, which is a fancy way of saying I understand the aviation industry. I had my degree, my alpine career had come to an end and I’d landed a job with a heli-skiing company. Post-athlete Dave was doing pretty well! However, I started dabbling in local ski cross races and then did a couple more in California.
I met the right people at the right time and was invited to the tryout camps for the inaugural Canada Ski Cross Team. The opportunity was exciting, but I let the idea percolate while getting back to work.
The decision came down to two choices: join the Canadian Armed Forces in an effort to become a helicopter pilot, or go through the tryouts to become a member of the National Ski Cross Team. At the time it wasn’t an easy choice and I don’t think I’d be any less happy if I had of chosen the military route.
But here we are many years later and I’m happy. Happy, because like all kids, I had dreams. Those dreams included two primary goals; fly and compete for Canada at the Olympics. Happy, because my choice came between opportunities for each of these dreams. Happy, because I’ve found a way to let my dreams guide me through life and will do my best to continue down this path into the future.
My time with the ski cross team has been a mix of success and heartache, but what career isn’t? From injury at the 2010 Olympics to back-to-back world cup wins, I’ve seen and felt the full spectrum of athletic emotions. What has stayed consistent is the drive to never stop trying to improve. Whether it’s in relation to ski cross, the Canadian team, teammates or myself, I like pushing the status quo. If you’re not moving forward and pushing your limits, you’ll usually get passed.
I’ve been skiing competitively now for a long time and couldn’t have done it without all the help and support given my way. Skiing may be an individual sport, but this journey has been far from a solo pursuit. Thank you to all those who have helped, supported, coached or wished me well as I continue chasing dreams.