Each month leading up to BMA’s 50th anniversary celebration on June 12-14, 2020, 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 1,178 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. To learn more about BMA’s celebratory reunion, CLICK HERE.
This month, we present you to Caitlin Curran Bernstein. Caitlin is one of the few Burkies who traded her slalom boards for skinny skis during her time at the academy. After pursuing studies in elementary education and earning her VT state teaching license, Caitlin embarked on a professional journey that includes four years working at Strava in a high paced, tech start up. When not working, Caitlin continues to fuel a passion for Cyclocross racing.
Why did you choose to attend BMA?
My older half-brother Tim Curran went to BMA in the late 80s-early 90s and I always looked up to him as an athlete and person. I went to visit Burke in 7th grade and loved the community feel. I just got the feeling that Burke was the place to go to become your best ski racer and self.
What drew you to the academy?
The people I met and the uniqueness of the campus and surrounding area drew me to BMA. I loved the remote, small-town feel, with access to some of the best coaching and training venues in the world. All the staff and students were so welcoming and passionate, that made all the hard work we did a lot more approachable.
What memories stand out the most from your Burkie days?
We worked really, really hard at Burke, but we also had so much fun. The bonds that we built while living together in the middle of no-where while traveling the world and while pushing ourselves on the ski hill created some very special, enduring friendships. There were plenty of challenges, but I’ll always remember the sense of community felt there- knowing that everyone had your back when things were tough!
What was your favorite workout at BMA?
I liked mountain biking! Sometimes we did a dual GS type thing on mountain bikes down a grassy hill- that was fun. I was one of the few Alpiners who really liked the running workouts. It was awesome that we got to do such a variety of workouts and that we used the outdoors so much.
What are special classroom memories from your BMA days?
Bryce Hubner definitely stands out. He challenged us to read books I never thought I’d enjoy and coached us to finding meaning in them. He was passionate and pushed us to work hard and take our learning seriously. He left a lasting impression on our whole class!
What did you do after graduating?
After graduation, I stayed at BMA for 1 more year as a post-grad. I did this because I made the switch from Alpine to Nordic skiing right before my Sr. year. I felt like I needed more time to get to know the sport and decide if this was something I wanted to pursue after Burke. Turns out, it was, and I went to Bates College my freshman year and joined the Nordic Ski Team there. I transferred to the University of Vermont after that year and my skiing really improved when I was surrounded by skiers at the highest level. In my senior year, I was a team captain and we won an NCAA title. It was the first one that UVM won since my older brother was there in the 90s, that was an awesome experience to be a part of!
What were your academic and professional journeys after BMA?
At UVM I studied elementary education and earned my VT state teaching license. I decided not to go into teaching, as I knew how challenging it would be and I wasn’t sure yet if my heart was fully in it. Plus, I got an offer I couldn’t turn down, to move to Tahoe and work at Sugar Bowl Academy as a coach, dorm parent and Asst. Director of Admissions working with Bryce Hubner. I was very drawn to the big mountains and sunshine out west and was excited to work at a ski academy, after having had such a great experience attending one. We only overlapped one year, but I learned so much working with Bryce- many things I still use to this day. I had 2 great years working at SBA before I moved on, with hopes to pursue a new career path. That led me to San Francisco, and I got my start in recruiting at Strava. I spent 4 years learning about the tech world/ start-up life there and have recently moved on. I will continue in recruiting at my next role, but have since moved to Reno, NV for a little more peace and quiet after the busy Bay Area life.
What lessons did you learn at BMA that you’ve carried forward in your adult life?
I learned so many valuable lessons that stuck with me. The value of hard work stands out. When you are at Burke, everyone works hard and pushes themselves to do their best in everything. I didn’t really realize until leaving that that’s not the case everywhere- there are plenty of slackers and cheaters in this world. They make the hard workers stand out though and if you continue to work hard and put passion into whatever it is you are pursuing; you are very likely to succeed. Sure, there are always bumps along the way or failures to learn from, but Burke instilled the value of hard work in all of us and it has definitely helped me in all aspects of life after Burke.
What projects and passions keep you busy now?
I’m very active in the cycling community and have been racing Cyclocross at a professional level (although it’s not my day job) for a few years now. I’ve gotten drawn back into training and competing more than I ever thought I would after retiring from ski racing when I graduated from college. I’m having so much fun, meeting amazing people and traveling to really neat places through bike racing!
What is your relationship to skiing now?
My relationship to skiing is complicated now- but I still love it! I love to alpine ski still, but I’m definitely feeling the knee injuries from when I was younger, and I have to take it easier. I Nordic skied a ton still and I love being able to get a workout on snow and get away from the crowds, while not having to stress my knees. Backcountry skiing has also become a passion and I love exploring new places this way!
Do you plan to attend the 50th?
I haven’t bought plane tickets yet, but I’m hoping I can make it! I know a lot of friends are going and I’m sure it’s going to be awesome.