INSIDE THE DEN: David Brule ’86

Each month leading up to BMA’s 50th anniversary celebration on June 12-14, 2020, we present to you a fellow academy alumni. 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 David Brule. David graduated from BMA in 1986, before venturing into investment banking and later into entrepreneurship where he led BOSS Snowplow, the #1 snowplow brand in the world. BOSS Snowplow was recently sold to The TORO Company. Read all about David’s exciting journey and how BMA helped to set a strong foundation for his successes.

Where did you grow up? 

Iron Mountain, MI in the Upper Peninsula of the state near the Wisconsin border.  My home ski area was Pine Mountain.

Where do you live now? 

We have lived in Iron Mountain since 1997.  Now that our kids are graduated, we plan to spend more time at our place in Deer Valley, UT.

Who is part of your family? 

I am married to Stephanie and we have three children. Nick (age 24), is a third-year medical student at Michigan State after having graduated from Grinnell College and having played soccer there. Katie (age 21), is a senior at Williams College where she is also captain of the women’s basketball team. She is studying English literature and studio art.  David III (age 18), is a first-year student at the University of Michigan studying music in the performing arts technology department.

What are your earliest skiing memories? 

I’ll never forget the first skis I got for Christmas when I was 6 years old. My Mom brought me to the ski area and got me a lesson that I found profoundly boring and spent more time watching the people up above making turns while our instructor tried to force us to snowplow. I absolutely fell in love with the sport and was mimicking the “good skiers” and making parallel turns by noon that day. I also remember watching the racers on the local team practice on the racecourse and desperately wanting to join them. At nine years old, my mother got me a lesson with an instructor and after an hour he admitted that I could ski better than him and asked what I wanted to do. I pointed to the race team and he introduced us to the coach and the rest is history.

How did you first learn about BMA and why did you choose to attend the academy?  

Burke was THE place to go for ski racers when I was a teenager. I had some friends from the Central division who had gone there but a boarding school was simply not in our thinking. At 16, I qualified for the US Nationals and saw Dean Keller ’83 who I had met at summer camps at Mt. Hood. By this time, I was traveling for more races around the country and missing school was a burden. Like many other Burkies, this was the inflection point to decide on committing to skiing on a deeper level. Later that winter we visited and “interviewed” with Finn. Of course, I wanted to start immediately but waited until Fall.

What are your fondest BMA memories? 

Oh boy! My first memory was feeling horribly out of shape compared to my peers (I was). Every morning felt like a 4-6 mile race to breakfast. But I met some of the most amazing people… My class only had 10 kids and there were 2 PGs (Lindon Seed and Pat Gilmartin). There are too many impressive people to name them all but a few will forever be remembered… JP Parisien was a great friend who was one of the hardest working and smartest people I have met.  And people like Richie Graham, Hayato Koeda, Takuji Kamibayashi, the Puckets, Schlopy’s, Parisien and so many others. Mostly, I remember the faculty truly making a connection and convincing me that we were a “community” together and they were not an opponent but more of an ally, contrary to my naive perception from public school days.

How did BMA shape you as a skier and as a person? 

Profoundly life-changing… Burke taught me to be honest with myself about my weaknesses and to face them head-on and work at them. True excellence requires commitment beyond practice courses including diet, fitness, preparation, attention to all the details.

What were your academic and professional paths after BMA? 

After two PG years of racing with the national team with lots of time spent training at Burke, I went to Williams College and graduated in 1992. While there, I met my wife, Stephanie (Smith College grad), and we both ended up in San Francisco after graduation where I worked for Montgomery Securities in investment banking and she went to Law School at UC Berkeley. After a couple of job changes to a VC firm and then another bank, we moved back to Iron Mountain to help with our family business. In the past 22 years, much has happened… I had to convert my career to being an operating executive and Steph became a prosecuting attorney instead of doing corporate work. We were fortunate to be able to build up the business and ultimately sold them in 3 different transactions, the latest in 2018. I was fortunate to see our business, BOSS Snowplow, grow to be the #1 snowplow brand in the world and had lots of interesting times building the markets in Europe and Asia.  When The Toro Company purchased the business in 2014, I spent a couple of years with them on the transition but officially “retired” in 2016 to get more time to watch my kids play sports in college.

What are your current personal passions? 

The Burke culture stuck I guess. I spent many years biking and then got into triathlons and completed two Ironman races among a whole bunch of shorter events. I started the soccer program at our local high school and coached that team for several years. Lately, I have re-kindled a passion for fly-fishing and try to get on the water whenever I can.  

What role does skiing play in your life now? 

My skiing has been sporadic since graduating from Williams in 1992. A combination of work, family and some burnout contributed to low motivation to ski. Everyone in the family skis but nobody skis competitively. The boys both played ice hockey and soccer while my daughter played basketball and tennis leaving little time in the winter for skiing except for a few vacations spent in the mountains. Interestingly, I started XC skiing in 2003 and have done several ski marathons and now have about six miles of groomed trails at our hunting cabin in Wisconsin. We bought a home in Deer Valley in 2018 and are now committed to alpine skiing as much as time will allow. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Finn and Kathy last month in Park City and really look forward to seeing more Burke friends in the coming months and years.

What is keeping you busy professionally right now? 

I have a few private equity investments in small companies and enjoy helping them grow. I am also on the board of One Revolution Foundation with my good friend, Chris Waddell, from the ski community.  

What is/are your proudest life achievement(s)?  

I struggle with the word “pride” (one of the seven deadly sins, right?)…Of course, I am extremely proud of my children and their successes. Personally, I am happy that I spent a short time on the US Ski Team, that I graduated from Williams College and that I did an Ironman… the one thing these accomplishments have in common is that someone at some point said: “You’ll never do that”.  So I guess that may say something about my mulish nature or perhaps pride in the willingness to overcome self-doubt. I like to think that Burke and skiing taught me to see the path and not the obstacle.

Do you have a life philosophy or lesson that’s helped to guide your success in life and that you’d like to share with current generations of Burkies? 

Burke and ski racing teach you great life lessons… your training partner and teammate is often your biggest rival.  Preparation is the key to success! Particularly in skiing but so true in all other parts of life as well.

Do you have an impactful book or movie/documentary you’d like to share with students and alumni? 

There are so many good books in the world… but one that everyone should read is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Summarized, it simply says that happiness is the difference between expectations and actual outcomes.

Will we see you at the 50th anniversary?

I think we will try to attend the reunion.  My daughter will be graduating from Williams a few days prior so it might work out perfectly!