Cicero Gouvea was ten years into a successful career with IBM in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro when he uprooted his life in Brazil and headed north to the West Kootenay in search of a powder-filled dream.
A student in the Ski Resort Operations & Management (SROAM) Program based out of Selkirk College’s Tenth Street Campus in Nelson, the 37-year-old is gliding into his second year emboldened by success in the classroom that earned him the prestigious Fred Bosinger Sunshine Village Scholarship.
“I started skiing less than ten years ago and became so addicted to it that I decided to take a different path in my career,” Gouvea explains. “I want to work in the mountains and live in the mountains… that is why I am here.”
As Gouvea moved his way up from intern to supervisor at IBM, he carved out a promising career in the business operations side of the giant multinational technology company. Despite his success, Gouvea found himself working as much overtime as possible so he could take extended snowboard holidays to Chile, Argentina, Italy, Spain, the United States and Canada.
While on a three-week Nelson ski trip in 2018, Gouvea rode the lift at Whitewater Ski Resort with a stranger that ended up changing his life’s direction. Seeing the Brazilian flag on Gouvea’s helmet, the two started chatting in Portuguese where it was discovered that his compatriot was taking the SROAM Program. By the time they unloaded at the top, seeds were planted for a formal ski industry education.
Upon his return to the beaches and sizzle of Rio de Janeiro, Gouvea began a process that would lead him back to Nelson for the start of the 2019-2020 academic year at Selkirk College.
“When I was accepted and realized what was ahead of me, it was a little bit overwhelming,” he says. “I knew it was going to be tough and I was not really confident that I could do it because I was a mature student from Brazil with no real experience working in ski resorts. I felt that I was at the disadvantage, but I dedicated myself to the studies and focused. I have a huge passion to be part of the ski industry, so commitment and dedication was never a problem.”
An Industry Legend with a Local Connection
Fred Bosinger was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1937 and immigrated to Canada in 1963 where he was a ski lift installer for Mueller Lifts in Quebec. In 1971, Bosinger moved his family to Rossland where he started at Red Mountain Resort in the maintenance department. Working his way upward to general manager, Bosinger played an important role in the development of both the resort and the Red Mountain Racers.
In 1982, the family moved to Banff and Bosinger started working at Sunshine Village Resort as the maintenance manager. He became vice-president and general manager in 1991, overseeing major terrain expansion at the world-renowned destination. Inducted into the Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame in 2016 and a well-respected industry builder, Bosinger passed away in December 2017.
While living in Rossland, Bosinger played an instrumental role in the founding of the SROAM Program in 1980. To recognize his contribution to both the program and the industry, Sunshine Village started an annual Selkirk College scholarship in his name. Awarded to two SROAM Program students each year, Gouvea and classmate Kirstie Leighton are the 2020 recipients of the award that is based on academic achievement.
“I felt very happy to be recognized for my efforts, this is an important award for me because it feels like my hard work is paying off,” Gouvea says of the scholarship. “You can do anything you want if you have the determination to learn and if you apply yourself to do it. That is the attitude I had coming into the program and tried to do my best.”
No Challenge Too Large
The disruption to post-secondary studies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for international students. Without the benefit of government support afforded to Canadian learners, Gouvea had to make some difficult decisions in the last few months.
“There was a lot of anxiety in March,” he says of the early days of the pandemic crisis. “We had to finish the semester which was at a very important stage of the program, but instructors helped us and supported us through to the end. On top of that, it is a difficult situation for international students because we are a long way from home and many of us made the decision to stay because we want to continue with our studies here in Canada.”
Over the winter months, Gouvea happily shoveled snow on the Tenth Street Campus to earn extra money. When COVID-19 hit, he was able to secure a position as Student Advisor at the Tenth Street Campus student housing facility where some learners continued to stay throughout the spring and summer months. Though scraping by, when Gouvea received word that he earned the Fred Bosinger Sunshine Village Scholarship, the financial pressure eased.
“The scholarship helps provide me the resources that I need to finish the program in the next year,” he says. “It came at the right time for me.”
As he prepares for a winter work term, Gouvea is more committed than ever to his goal of a career in the Canadian ski industry where he can establish deep roots in the snowy mountains. Having been introduced to all facets of the industry from operations to customer relations to administration, he is prepared with the same enthusiasm that brought him to study in Canada.
“I strongly believe in Selkirk College and this program,” Gouvea says. “If you want to dream, follow your dream and I am here to prove it. There has been sacrifices and I have given up a lot to come here. But if you believe in yourself and want it enough, you can do it.”
Second-year SROAM Program students are required to complete a work term as part of their studies. Gouvea will be working as an accounting manager at Fernie Alpine Resort this winter where he will combine his past experience with his new knowledge and skills developed at Selkirk College.
Find out more about the Selkirk College Ski Resort Operations & Management Program at: https://selkirk.ca/program/ski
Photo Caption: With an abundance of enthusiasm for winter in the outdoors, Selkirk College student Cicero Gouvea is well on his way to a successful career in the ski industry as he blasts into the final year of the two-year Ski Resort Operations & Management Program. — Submitted photo