Published: April 25, 2024 By

Photo credit: Ashton Scott 

Magnus Boee has achieved remarkable success both on and off the slopes.

In March, Boee, a graduate student in civil engineering, secured his third National Collegiate Athletic Association race win in Nordic skiing, leading the Colorado Buffaloes to a final-day comeback and their first national championship since 2015. Prior to this, he represented South Korea in Nordic skiing at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

This spring, Boee will complete his MS in civil engineering through the bachelor's–accelerated master's (BAM) program, having earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering in spring 2023.

We sat down with Boee to learn about how he manages the demands of a rigorous academic program while training as a student athlete for the CU Boulder Ski team, competing at the Division 1 (D1) level, the highest tier of college sports competition in the United States. 

When did you start Nordic skiing?

I began training and competing in Nordic skiing in the fall of 2011 when I was 13. I am of  Korean and Norwegian descent, and I had been living in both Norway and South Korea before moving to Norway at the end of 2010. Before moving there, I had only skied a few times each year with my dad. In Norway, cross country skiing is the number one sport. So when I moved there, it was natural for me to pursue Nordic skiing.

When did you realize that Nordic skiing was your sport?

I always wanted to try it. But I was living in Busan, South Korea, which is on the southern coast, and there’s no snow there.

So when I lived in Korea, I did other sports. Before competing in Nordic skiing, I was a cyclist, and I competed in mountain and road bike races. However, my cycling career went downwards, and my ski career went upwards, leading me to focus on Nordic skiing.

When did you know that you wanted to be a civil engineer? 

I came to college in the U.S. with the goal of pursuing a professional skiing career. Skiing is highly competitive in Norway, but it’s not as financially secure as ball sports like football or basketball. So you need a good Plan B: college. 

My dad is an engineer who specializes in ship safety.  He suggested civil engineering with a structural emphasis, as you can go into ships, planes or cars. 

However, when I was accepted to CU Boulder, I picked business as my first choice and international affairs as my second because I was afraid of becoming overloaded. At that time, I was envisioning becoming a professional athlete, so I focused on ensuring I could train a lot. 

But after my first semester, engineering appeared attainable. CU Athletics tutors are super-helpful, and my academics coordinator knew how to help me reach my academic goals.  There’s always been a really good flow of information and guidance, and that’s made my path into engineering and achieving my degree very smooth.

Also, CU Boulder Athletics has its own cafeteria where we get breakfast, lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday, so we don’t need to prepare our own food. 

I transferred into CU Engineering during my sophomore year with the support that allowed me to make such a bold move. The summer following my first year I took Calculus 2 and Physics 2. That was a grind. Thankfully, I had a lot of help from my athletics tutor. 

Why did you choose CU Boulder?

CU Boulder has one of the best, if not the best, ski team in the U.S. They give great scholarships, and Boulder is a beautiful place. I visited before I started in the fall. Seeing the Flatirons and CU Athletics facilities convinced me to choose CU. 

How do you balance your schedule between training and academics?

It takes discipline to get your schoolwork, errands, training and recovery done, but it helps me mentally to train. I am more energized and motivated to study; I work better under pressure. 

All my professors have been very understanding of my combining academics and sports, and I am very thankful for that. I travel for races, and I miss some classes. Sometimes we need accommodations to take midterms at different days, times and locations. CU Athletics has been good at communicating with the professors ahead of time in terms of managing my absences.

A nice aspect of our ski team is its flexible schedule. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we train for one and a half to two hours each day.  In winter we train at the Eldora Ski Resort. We also run, and there’s a huge treadmill in the indoor practice facility for roller skiing.

This semester, I only have three graduate-level classes, and they are all on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So I have more time. Last semester was stressful, as I was taking four graduate classes, and some of the classes were challenging. I was happy to get through it.

Most training I handle independently, dedicating between 15 to 20 hours each week to train. I sometimes increase it to 25 hours, but that’s season-dependent.  During the summer I love to bike, and Boulder is great for that. 

During the competitive season, our focus switches to optimizing recovery to maintain energy for the races. Our ski season is short relative to most other sports and ends in March. We don’t train for the rest of the semester. So at this point I have more time to do other stuff, like golf. Boulder is a nice place to golf because it’s sunny all the time.

What was the biggest challenge for you as a student during your engineering education? What did you learn from it?

The biggest challenge has been balancing academics with my athletic commitments and getting the grades I wanted. 

Sometimes I had to make difficult decisions. One semester I dropped a class because it was too big of a course load. Last semester, I took four classes. I got stuck on a final assignment and went to bed at 3 a.m. the night before a scheduled race. I didn’t want to get sick, so I texted the coach and skipped the race to get enough sleep and to ensure that I didn’t ruin the rest of the season for one race. 

Tell us about a moment (or moments) when you felt like you were “officially” an engineer.

It was a good feeling when I passed my FE (fundamentals in engineering) exam. I was happy to get it done on my first try.

During an internship in Boulder, at a small structural engineering company called Ascent Group, I gained insights into real-life engineering. I modified their drawings and learned how to interpret and read drawings for building designs.

Magnus Boee in front of a sandstone brick building.What is your favorite memory from your time at CU Boulder?

I have a lot of passion for skiing, and this year we won the national championships. I won individually before this, but this was the first time as a team. What is unique about college skiing is that you compete as a team. Skiing is an individual sport; it’s rare to compete as a team.

Also for my senior design project, our team won the contest for the Gross Reservoir Expansion, and that was pretty cool. It was only a simulation, but it was about experiencing a real-life project, where you have to do all the structural, hydrological and cost estimation tasks. Our names are on the plaque on the (ECOT) fourth floor, and that’s pretty cool to see. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of, either academically or personally? 

I'm proud of getting my engineering degree, especially considering all the catch up I had to do during the summer semesters. There were moments when I worried about passing certain classes, or even getting into engineering school. I learned to stay focused on what I was supposed to do and to not be too discouraged by the challenges. 

What is your biggest piece of advice for incoming engineering students?

If there’s a will, there's a way. Obviously, having good study techniques and routines are very useful. Make a personal tool box of study techniques, watch YouTube videos, ask people for help and try to observe others.

Last semester I was stuck on my final project, and I sent an email to my professor. He said he had five minutes, and I was lucky to see that email at that moment. Together, we were able to find the bug on the Abacus structural engineering tool.  When you need help and get stuck, reach out for help. 

What are your future plans? Do you have your sights set on competing in the Winter Olympics in 2026 in Italy?

My goal is to compete in the 2026 Olympics. I’ll be working toward that goal when I move back to Norway this summer for a civil engineering job. It’s a two-year training program where I rotate every six months. I start in Oslo and apply for work in other parts of the oil and gas and renewable energy company. 

I’ll see how I manage juggling training and work. There’s opportunity for remote work, and the office location is convenient to where I will be living. 

I should be able to continue to ski for a few more years!

Photo credit (right): Matan Coll