My Deep History With Sugarbush and the Flyin’ Ryan Foundation
My Sugarbush history started in 1958 on a spring trip with my girlfriend. At that time, I was the four-event skier on the Dartmouth ski team and we had wrapped up the season. I had ski patrol credentials and so was skiing as a volunteer patrolman. While skiing under the gondola lift line, I lost an edge and plowed into a tower on the fly. The mishap totally destroyed one ski and I navigated to the bottom on the other one. I noticed my ski pant leg had changed color and after a close-hand inspection at the workings of my knee, I realized that my tibia had surfaced for air. What a way to first experience a mountain.
From 1963 to 1970 I served as the eastern representative for Head Ski Company during the time that Sugarbush was catering to the glitzy New York crowd. Stein Erickson was running the ski school, doing backflips in the base area and skiing on Head skis. His lieutenant, Roberto Gasperl, took me on numerous adventuresome rides down the mountain at that time.
My odyssey eventually brought me to Burlington in 1976 and I again inserted myself into the Sugarbush family. In the mid-80s my wife Jackie and I had two children, Ryan and Alicia. They are both athletic. Alicia learned to snowboard at Sugarbush and Ryan focused on hockey. Because of Ryan’s hockey travel schedule, I put my ski life on hold for several years. I fixed the problem one spring by taking Ryan to Tuckerman’s Ravine. He skied the headwall, loved it, and hung up his hockey skates in exchange for skis. He got his ski legs at Sugarbush, was part of the Diamond Dog Program and ultimately became a highly respected free ride skier on the free ride world tour. Ryan and his good friend, Lars Chickering Aires, were very proud of their Vermont roots and founded a group called Green Mountain Free Riders. They traveled the Western free ride circuit in a van that ran on vegetable oil and gave them mounds of grief. Unfortunately, Ryan tragically died in 2011 while competing in a free ride world tour event in Kirkwood, California, which led me to found the Flyin’ Ryan Foundation. More on that in a second.
Sometime in the early years of this century, I signed up for an outback tour that Sugarbush was conducting In the Slide Brook area. I loved it and consistently went back to the Slide Brook terrain and had a habit of chewing up fresh powder prior to the arrival of the scheduled tours. Craig Speer, the lead outback guide, decided to get rid of the pest by inviting me to become an outback guide. There were four of us. I brought my first aid credentials up to speed and served as a guide for the next 10 years or so. I considered guiding to be a privilege and really focused on providing a comfortable and informative experience for the outback guests under my wing.
My current connection to Sugarbush is through the aforementioned Flyin Ryan Foundation, which was established in 2011 to extend the impact of my son, Ryan. Sugarbush is one of four areas with whom we work as a center of influence. The core mission of the foundation is to share Ryan’s 14 self-composed core values and stimulate adventurers of all persuasions to establish self-identity and self-respect by connecting their hearts and core energy to their minds, which in turn create an authentic set of self-composed core values. The foundation also awards adventure scholarships whose purpose is to stimulate applicants to share with us their quest for adventure, recognize a financial need, and stimulate expressive core values. Several awards have been made to Sugarbush skiers including SJ Grunden, Keegan Hosefros, and Johnny Egan.
You can find more information on the cores up on the sponsorship board on the first floor of the Gate House Lodge. You can even grab a card to fill out and work on your own core values. It matches well with the whole “Be Better Here” mentality of the resort.
I am now 81 and have accumulated some physical baggage from mountain biking and skiing mishaps. I still have milk in the bottle and so I’m going to pour until it is empty. I am grateful beyond belief for the privileges that skiing has afforded me: friendships, exposure to nature, the sensations associated with coexisting and respecting mother nature. Participating in skiing is part of my DNA. I don’t need to be a good skier to be a happy skier. The “Bush” is an important part of that experience.