'08 Conference articles

Wounded Warriors
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

If you're still looking to make some turns in New Hampshire, head to Wildcat.

Chances are folks will be skiing there into May. Prime spring conditions cover this north facing slope and with a parking lot at an elevation higher than nearby Attitash and Cranmore, it's no coin toss to name Wildcat late season favorite.

Drive 20 minutes from North Conway on 16N through Jackson past PWildcatinkham Notch. Look for Brian Chamberlain, Wildcat's "Sales Guy." But be warned. He's the best baseball-player-turned-skier you'll ever follow. Set your cruise speed for honking GS turns and get in line--if there is one. That's another bonus about the 47 trails on this 225 acre resort. And it's packed with history too.

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.

WildcatSailing 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.

Frida Waara
Midwest NASJA President '08


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.

Most were lost when first handed the equipment by Jake Jacobson, Garmin's Senior Media Specialist who flew in from the company's Kansas headquarters to offer us a chance to get familiar with the latest technology. He brought several dozen units, giving us a choice of the light and easy to use Colorado or the slightly bulkier and more high tech GPS/radio unit called the Rino.

On Thursday morning, Jacobson gave people at breakfast a quick overview of the units' capabilities and offered to meet those interested in learning how to use them at the Bretton Woods base lodge. People took a while to learn how to use the equipment but soon found ways to apply the technology.

Dan Cassidy, Mitch Kaplan and Martin Griff all took out units and decided they could best be used to clock top downhill speeds. Cassidy insisted that he had bettered the 60mph mark on his best run. Kaplan and Griff had slower units.

In the afternoon, Jacobson set up shop at the cross country center. Richard Donnelly and his wife Jean were among the first to try the equipment and neither one got lost.

When people turned up later in the day to try some geocaching, things didn't go quite so smoothly.

Geocaching is similar to the sport of orienteering in which a map and compass are the primary tools. As with orienteering, participants in a geocaching event have to find certain hidden sites or caches but have to use.

Mary Jo Tarallo from SnowSports Industries American (SIA) thought that the exercise could be a great addition to SIA's Winter Trails events each year. She'll have extra time to evaluate GPS units as her name was drawn from among all those who competed in the geocaching. Her prize was a brand new GPS unit donated to NASJA by Garmin.

In the geocaching exercise set up by the staff at Bretton Woods, each person went out to find a half dozen locations scattered over a few miles of the cross country trail system.

They got the latititude and longitude coordinates for the first cache and, after entering it into the GPS, followed the system's prompts to find that location. That cache contained the coordinates for the second site. By entering those coordinates, each person would get directed to the next cache to get the next set of numbers.

Wearing either snowshoes or cross country skies, nearly everyone found the first two caches. Neal Estano and his son Sam struggled on snowshoes through some backcountry before making a wise choice to return to the lodge before hypothermia started.

Tamarack's Jesse Murphy flew out ahead of the pack and got through four of the caches before turning back as darkness set in. For reasons that might be best left unexplained, Bretton Woods' Sean Doll ended up spending the whole tour hiding in an outhouse up on the trail system. His rescue was completed without the use of a GPS system and we declared the entire operation a success (defined as not incurring any fatalities).



NASJA

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.