A quest to learn more
Steamboat Springs — The pile of notebooks and textbooks in the middle of Bruce Alston’s coffee table seems uncharacteristically out of place in his otherwise uncluttered living room.
Alston doesn’t have any children, and he doesn’t exactly fit into the mold of your typical college student. But that’s exactly what he is.
Maybe the books seemed out of place because since moving to Steamboat Springs in 1977, Alston has embarked on a lifestyle that would make him more qualified to write a textbook than read one for a class.
He has held a variety of jobs including running the projector at the movie theater, driving shuttle buses for Alpine Taxi and waiting tables at several local establishments.
But he could teach business 101 at most colleges after his experience co-owning Sore Saddle Cyclery, running a small window company and opening and maintaining a chapter of the Better Business Bureau here in Steamboat.
He already holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s in psychology. He is an ordained minister who has married several local couples and, before stepping down a year ago, served as the head basketball coach of the Steamboat Springs High School girls team.
But that isn’t enough. So after selling his business last year, Alston decided it was time to return to the classroom.
“I get bored easily,”Alston offered as an explanation for his long and varied past. “I’m always looking for something to do and I never want to stop learning.”
Even as he set a book titled Human Learning by Jeanne Ellis Ormrod back on the table, it was easy to see that Alston still wants to add to the list. He celebrated his 50th birthday a couple of years ago.
He admits that he may appear to be a little older than most of the other students in the Regis Graduate Program, but he also shares a common goal with his twenty-something classmates — a love for learning. He is seeking a master’s degree in education.
“I think he will be a fantastic teacher,” high school teacher Steve Moos said. “He is very down to earth and just loves working with kids.”
Maybe that’s why Alston has not limited his educational experience to the Internet or an educational seminar once a month, both of which are required in the graduate program at Regis.
Alston said some of his most informative experiences have come from working as a substitute teacher in the school district four days a week. Moos said Alston’s personality is perfectly suited for working with students because he always puts their interests first.
“The other day I had a class of 25 second graders,” Alston said. “That was definitely a learning experience. I haven’t worked with that age before. It was a challenge to keep up with them, but they taught me so much.”
To maintain his energy level Alston says he attends a spinning class three days a week. He said it was helpful for his day with the second graders.
“They have so much energy and they always want to have your attention,” he said. “It can be really draining, but it is also very rewarding.”
Alston has also been spending time in the high school and middle school levels in Steamboat. He said he really enjoys interacting with children and hopefully inspiring them to learn.
While the classroom is something new for the former businessman it isn’t foreign. From 1993 until 2002 Alston got his first taste of the high school scene as the head basketball coach for the girls program. He had to step down last year when his window business here in Steamboat sold. As part of the deal, he agreed to work for the new owner.
“I didn’t feel like I had the time to give to the girls,” Alston said. “I was already working 40 hours a week, and coaching is another 35 hours a week. It just wasn’t fair to the girls.”
So Alston walked away from coaching, but he said the experience was one of the most rewarding of his life. It’s something he wants to return to sometime in the future.
“He wrote us a note this year to congratulate us on our season and offer to help us out this summer,” Moos said. “I think I will probably take him up on it.”
Moos replaced Alston as head coach prior to this season. However, Moos said he has great respect for Alston. “He is always offering to help out. That might be a strange situation for some coaches, but not with Bruce,” Moos said.
Coaching was just one chapter in Alston’s Steamboat Springs experience.
The longtime local still has fond memories of moving to Steamboat Springs back in 1977 to ski for a winter.
In his first few months he did what most locals do — he waited tables, worked at Werner’s Storm Hut and worked at the movie theater downtown.
But his love for recreational biking soon led him down a different path. In 1978, Alston was introduced to another local entrepreneur, Kent Erickson, and the two entered a venture that established a Steamboat Springs landmark –The Sore Saddle Cyclery. At the time Ericksen was running a small bike shop downtown, and was looking for a partner.
The pair met one time and entered into an agreement that would help the cyclery expand and build a reputation as one of the best in Steamboat during the next 12 years. “He was the up-front guy, and I spent a lot of time working in the back,” Ericksen said. “It was a good relationship that helped the business grow.”
During that period, the pair bought an old incinerator, which was sitting unused on Twentymile Road, for $1 and moved it to a piece of property they had purchased along Yampa Street.
The strangely unique building has become a Steamboat Springs landmark and one that Alston said would never meet today’s strict architectural codes.
The building housed the store and later the production facility for the Moots Mountain Bike — a company which was also started by Alston and Ericksen.
The production of Moots bikes allowed the pair to stay busy in the winter months when biking was a second thought to most locals. But the store was also important to Alston for other reasons.
One day while working in the store a customer walked through the doors who would catch Alston’s eye and eventually steal his heart. Fortunately for Alston, the young woman, Cindy, wanted her bike repaired. She returned to the store a few days later and Alston, a rather shy guy, made the most of his shot to ask her out for dinner.
The two connected, and were eventually married.
“She is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met,” Alston said. “She has been there to support me as a coach, in my businesses and in my life.”
When he isn’t studying or coming up with ideas for new businesses, Alston stays busy as a mediator helping to settle disagreements outside of the courtroom. In the past, Alston has worked on all types of disagreements from divorce to commercial issues.
Alston said he isn’t sure what the future will bring, but leaves little doubt that he has already started to think about it.
Whether it’s in the classroom or as a member of the Peace Corps is still uncertain. But the one the thing that is certain is that Alston is not finished learning or adding to his long list of experiences.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Explore a mix of in-person and virtual events happening this weekend in Routt County.