by Chris Dehnel
Yes, we had snow.
Yes, we had good food.
And yes, we conducted our business.
But this year's NASJA conference was as moving an experience as I've had on assignment, thanks to U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Newell.
I had the privilege to ski with Newell at the Bretton Woods adaptive center as part of the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that teaches injured combat veterans how to ski and snowboard.
Flash back to January. The 23-year-old Newell was the gunner in a Humvee on patrol in Afghanistan. Suddenly, there was an explosion from below. The vehicle had run over a homemade bomb. Newell was the only survivor, but the blast left his legs shattered, and they eventually had to be amputated.
He had to be driven to a field hospital because helicopters could not land in the area. He was revived being dead for after four-and-a-half minutes and then needed 14 units of blood. He was eventually transferred to Washington, D.C. and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
But there he was - just two months later- at Bretton Woods with his wife, Carrie. He was supposed to be at the hospital being fitted for artificial legs, but chose to travel north to ski instead.
After instructors put him in a monoski sled, he was on the hill and after the fourth run, was going solo.
As he came in for lunch, Newell was all smiles.
"It feels very good to be here," he said. "When I was first at Reed, I didn't ask if I were going to live or die. I am working hard at getting better and this helps."
So no one was surprised that, after lunch, Newell was back in the sled, strapped in and ready to head back to the lift.
"So you're going to stay with this?" he was asked.
"Yes," he said. "This is something I want to do with my kids."
I know you don't traditionally salute noncommissioned officers, but I snapped one off anyway.
It was an honor to be on the same hill as him.
Wildcat was the first ski area established in the White Mountain National Forest back in 1933 when CCC's--the Civilian Conservation Corp -- cleared a trail. At that time the Wildcat Trail was considered the first ski racing trail in the U.S., and you can still clock some respectable speeds cranking through the "S" turns dropping from the 4,062 foot summit. Even better, you're back up for the next run in a hurry. Six minutes up 2112 vertical feet on the Express Quad hardly leaves time to catch your breath.
The area's been lift fed for over 50 years and in 1958 boasted New England's first gondola. The original lift has been replaced but in the summer the operations team swaps out the high-speed chairs for a 4-person gondola because no matter what the season, sight-seers flock to this summit.
Sailing off the lift at the top, you'll see why."Straight ahead is the Great State of Maine," pointed Dan Cassidy regarding his homeland. Then over your shoulder is an eye-level shot into the famed Tuckerman's Ravine, Mt. Washington's most famous back country playground. If you forget your camera, hope that Martin Griff is around to capture the scenery.
Without a doubt, Wildcat ranks a place you can pack in the runs and that's probably why you'll find no-nonsense vertical hogs like Dick Butler and Mitch Kaplan there. If you want a real thigh burner, head back in early March for the"100K Day." Story goes that's when skiers loop the "Lynx" 50 times for 100,000 vertical feet. Now that's what I call squeezing the lactic acid out of a lift ticket.
Lost and found.
by Sean Mulready
That pretty much sums up the experience of those NASJA attendees who took advantage of professional development activities at the annual meeting using handheld GPS (Global Positioning Systems) units provided by Garmin International.
Our hosts at the 2008 NASJA Annual Meeting at the Mt. Washington Hotel included, from left to right, Chris Ellms, Bretton Woods director of skiing, Pat Corso, CEO of the Mt. Washington Resort and Irene Donnell, Director of Public Relations, posing with NASJA president Bob Cox after the awards banquet.