Waterville Valley Skiing Trip: How I Learned To Ski In One Weekend


Waterville Valley Logo

Last night, I got home and said, “What a day, what a weekend, what a trip!” You might be wondering, what trip?  Well, I’ll tell you all about it.

Northborough residents Barbara and Fred Kohout applied for the grant that the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation gave to the Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports (WVAS) program.  This program provides one on one lessons for skiers who have developmental or physical disabilities.  It also includes a free lift ticket and access to free skiing equipment.

Waterville Valley used the grant to give several families of many applicants an all expense paid ski weekend at the resort.  Families also got a free two night stay at the Snowy Owl Inn, a hotel in a very convenient location for Waterville Valley skiers.  We applied back in January for this by sending our application to WVAS director Cynthia Powell and we won the trip!

Over the past few weeks, I had been so excited for this trip, and it was 5 times better than my expectations!  Between eight hours of one on one skiing with really nice instructors, good food and a fun all-around experience, it was an amazing weekend.

After a two hour drive up to New Hampshire on Friday, we arrived and checked in to the Snowy Owl Inn.  We wheeled our bags up to our hotel room right above the lobby.  It was a charming hotel that had a lot of nice touches.  It had a lot of interesting details that added to it.  For example, there was a collection of owl figurines at the reception desk, and a moose head in a scarf above a lobby fireplace.

Me and my brother above the moose head.

After settling in to our room, we went down to the parlor room to play Monopoly Deal and head to dinner.  After playing, we met a couple of the ski instructors.  They gave us a warm welcome, gave us some info on the program, and even left us with a goodie bag that included resort merchandise, the schedule of events, and other helpful supplies for our stay.

It was tough finding a restaurant that my brother Ryan, who has Celiac Disease could eat gluten free at, but the ski instructors that met us told us to try Valley Pub & Grill, a restaurant at the Town Square.  The Town Square was a big hotel down the street from the Snowy Owl that additionally included a shopping center with restaurants and other stores.

The place we went to had a nice place for us to sit, and good food not just for Ryan but for me.  I had a delicious chicken tenders dish that I would have every night at dinner if I could.  We went back to the hotel and ended our night watching the start of Inside Out as a family in the parlor room before going back to the hotel room for the night.

We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a continental breakfast in the parlor room before getting our ski clothes on.  We were set to start skiing at 10:00 that morning.  We drove up to the mountain and got our helmets, boots and skis in the adaptive office.  There my brother and I met our personal instructors, Marc, Dean and Larry.

Me, Ryan and our instructors after a Sunday morning run.

The first thing they taught us before we even knew how to put on our skis was how to stop and go down the mountain.  To stop, you make a “pizza”.  That just means you point your skis together to make a wedge shape.  To go down, you need to keep your skis straight, known as making “french fries”. They put an edgy-wedgie, which is an elastic strap that keeps our skis together to help us make better wedges.

Then we practiced skiing short distances; we didn’t even have to try the J-Bar yet.  We just went down from one of our helpers to another, and the one we skied to would help us back up part of the mountain.  When the J-Bar line became less crowded, we tried going on with our helpers, our skis going in between theirs.  For a little bit, we did the same thing up at the very top of “The Pasture”, but they wanted to find a way for us to be able to go all the way down the trail.

Dean was able to get tethers for our skis, and we went down with ease.  The tethers attached my skis to Marc’s.  I was now skiing in front of him turning left to right with Marc tethered behind me.  I began to get the hang of it on tethers as the morning went on.  After a delicious chicken tender lunch similar to the night before at one of the resort’s restaurants, we went back out.

Skiing on tethers with our instructors.
More tethered skiing

We did a couple more tethered runs before Marc decided that I didn’t need them anymore.  Before I was mostly controlling my turns; now I would have full control.  We continued to go up the J-Bar together but now our instructors skied in front of us while we followed their turns.  We continued to do that for most of the afternoon, but I tried riding the J-Bar alone a couple of times.  I wiped out before getting to the top, and after some struggles, we decided to hold that off till the next morning.

After the Saturday lessons, we went to a social for just the families that got free adaptive skiing through the Flutie Foundation.  There was food and drinks provided along with a ribbon ceremony for all of the skiers.  Cynthia, Marc, Dean, Barbara, Fred and the other instructors and families were there.  Making all those pizzas up on the slopes made me really crave actual pizza, and that was the perfect apres ski snack.

Everyone at the social Saturday afternoon.
Family picture at ribbon ceremony submitted by Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports.

We went back to the Valley Pub & Grille for dinner, and played a board game called Say Anything and finished Inside Out in the parlor room before bed.  After Ryan was asleep, the rest of us watched part of Dodgeball in our hotel room before actually going to sleep.

The next morning we loaded our stuff into the car and checked out of the Snowy Owl after I grabbed a bagel at the convenience store at the Town Square.  All our ski stuff was ready when we arrived at the Adaptive Office that morning.

I started my morning back in between Marc’s skis on the J-Bar, but we picked up where we left off when it came to going down the mountain.  Throughout the morning I was really getting the hang of the S-shaped turns we were taught to follow down the mountain.  By 11:00 I even got all the way up the J-Bar alone several times.  Part of it might have been that the snow was better in the morning, but I improved my skills too.


My dad and I on a Sunday morning run at The Pasture.

By lunch, it was no more edgy-wedgies for both me and Ryan, and we were almost ready to go to the Lower Meadows, a section with our first trails that weren’t bunny trails.  The area had a two person chairlift that led to four green circle trails.  We were even beginning to learn the more advanced way to land than the pizza; it’s almost like a turning motion that would just slow you down on the slopes, but stops you at the bottom.

We ate the same meals, except it was at a nicer restaurant, the T-Bars Restaurant and Lounge.  I enjoyed some March Madness action while I ate.  In the afternoon, we took a few more runs on The Pasture J-Bar before going over to the Lower Meadows, which had a chairlift instead.  Even though I had to go on slow mode the first few runs, I got the hang of the chairlift relatively quickly; it was 5 times easier than the J-Bar!

My mom and I riding the Lower Meadows chairlift

We went on some runs on Leroy’s Loop, the easiest course in the Lower Meadows that had lots of natural turns, enforcing what we had learned over at The Pasture.  Our parents came to visit earlier for this last lesson.  They had come for 30 minutes in the first three lessons; this time they came for the last hour.  I did the most runs of the entire trip and had the most fun that afternoon.  I went on the chairlift with my mom several times and for the first time, we were all skiing as a family!  This was the best feeling yet!

Skiing on Leroy’s Loop with the family.  Photo Credit: Dean Haymes


At this point, on Leroy’s Loop at least, our instructors didn’t need to help us much anymore.  On our last run we went with our instructors; we had to take Revelation and Baseway, two tougher Lower Meadows green circle trails that led to the rental return area.  We returned our skis, and for one last time, said goodbye to Marc and Dean.  We even had a little graduation at the Adaptive Office that afternoon.  I enjoyed some Cinnamon Toast Crunch as my apres ski snack before heading home after a great weekend.

This experience was amazing for us.  My brother and I learned to ski in just one weekend and had a blast while doing it.  I’d like to thank the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation along with Barbara and Fred Kohout, Cynthia Powell, Marc Bellerose, Dean Haymes, Larry Gannon, my entire family and everyone else who supported me in this amazing trip.  I hope to return next year for more skiing at Waterville Valley.  Maybe we’ll even meet some of next year’s Flutie Foundation families.

Also, don’t miss Doug Flutie tonight on Dancing With the Stars.  I met him at an Autism Alliance of Metrowest event at Skyzone in Westborough.  I did a project on him at school last year and blogged about it.  Go team Kutie!


Private tour from Boston Herald Editor in Chief

Yesterday I had the very special opportunity to get a private tour of  the Boston Herald by their editor in chief, Joe Sciacca.  He was a very kind and generous man who took a lot time of his busy day to show me and my family how a modern news organization works.  Joe had invited us to come visit him after I was introduced to him by news reporter, Matt Fitzgerald when we were all at a Red Sox game a couple of weeks ago. I arrived at the Herald around 1:30pm and Joe met us in the lobby.

Boston Herald 001
This is me in the lobby in front of the reception desk.

He gave us a tour of the studio.   Our first stop was the archive room.  “This is what they had before the internet”, Joe Sciacca said.  It was organized like a library card catalog, except filled  with newspaper clippings from over the years.  We found old files on John F. Kennedy and former NESN announcer Jerry Remy.

Boston Herald 002
This is me visiting the archive room.

Our next stop was the Boston Herald radio studio.  We met Tyler Sullivan and Chris Villani as they took a break from a show on Tom Brady’s DeflateGate appeal.

Me in front of Chris Villani and Tyler Sullivan's live radio show.
Me in front of Chris Villani and Tyler Sullivan’s live radio show.

They let me in, and I sat in the same chair that Patriots Jonas Gray and Dominique Easley sat in last week.

This is the radio room.  The show is video taped online using the green screen.
This is me talking to radio hosts Chris Villani and Tyler Sullivan.

They let us in to the production room as well.  I saw the Boston skyline background shown behind the radio hosts on a computer in place of the green screen.  They were very generous and gave my brother and me Boston Herald Radio T-Shirts.

The computer that changes the green screen's projected background.
The computer that changes background of the green screen.

Joe stressed that all learning about all multimedia platforms is very important to be a successful news organization today.  That was good news because I am starting a multimedia camp next week at Worcester Academy (http://www.worcesteracademy.org/) for the next two weeks.

Our next stop was a studio for video reporters.  One of the things filmed here are the movie reviews. Joe also showed us a back area where they kept backpacks filled with video equipment like cameras and tripods so that reporters could cover a story all on their own.  We also paused for a photo opportunity.

My brother Ryan, Joe Sciacca and I in a workspace for news reporters.
My brother Ryan, Joe Sciacca and I in a workspace for news reporters.

After that, we visited a photography room.  He mentioned that there used to be a dark room, where photos were developed but now that everything is digital it is a bit different.

Me in the photography room.
Me in the photography room.

Then we visited the main news room.  I met the sports editors, Rachel Fox, Sean Leahy and Mark Murphy, and the main Red Sox writer Scott Lauder.  Lauder is one of three Herald staff members that attended last night’s Red Sox-Orioles game.

Me talking to sports editors  ____________ and __________.
Me talking to sports editors Sean Leahy and Mark J. Murphy.

After that we visited a conference room where the staff meets to plan out the newspaper each day.  They lay it out on formatting sheets to use as a model for the printed paper.

Me looking at the newspaper format for June 23 in the conference room.
Me looking at the newspaper format for June 23 in the conference room.

The last stop was Joe Sciacca’s office.  There were some cool things to see in there, like an old fashioned typewriter with a carrying case that reporters used before computers.  He gave me the Fenway 100 year anniversary issue of the paper and a packet of articles that had tips on how to be a good journalist.

This is me and Joe flipping through the packet.
This is me and Joe flipping through the packet.

He mentioned that he was a journalist for over 30 years before becoming editor in chief.  Lastly, I got to sit in in Sciacca’s chair.  I felt special in that chair.

Me sitting in the editor's chair.
Me sitting in the editor’s chair.

This day was an unforgettable experience, and I was very inspired by this visit.

Northborough Helps Liam Fitzgerald Bump Out Cancer

The Bruins may have been bumped out of the playoffs last night, but today they helped helped bump out cancer with their biggest and most famous fist-bumping fan, Liam Fitzgerald, a cancer survivor.  This event, called “Northborough – Get Your Bump On” was a community fist-bumping event where people could line up to fist-bump Liam.  The event raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphona Society, an organization that raises money for blood cancers.  There were three other cancer survivors: Christian Campero, Max Blasko and William Furgal, who were also recognized at this event.  Event organizer Julie Stanwood, who is also director of Friends of Families in Transition, got the idea to start the event after watching Liam on TV fist-bumping the Bruins players.

“I knew what a supportive community Northborough was.”

Stanwood said.  She was able to get multiple local companies to sponsor the event, such as Uno’s Pizzeria, Berkshire Bank, Wegman’s, TD Bank, Buffalo Wild Wings, Lala Java, Core Connection and many others.  Liz Nolan, founder of Northborough Mom’s and Tots, also helped organize this event and created a Facebook page to spread the word called “Northborough – Get Your Bump On”.

Legislators Harold Naughton Jr., Danielle W. Gregoire and Jamie Eldridge were also there to support Liam and they honored him with a recognition award from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Adding to the excitement were mascots from various sports teams and organizations including Blades of the Boston Bruins, Jake of the Worcester Bravehearts and the mascots from Buffalo Wild Wings and TD Bank.  A lifesize Mater from the movie “Cars” owned by Jonathan Gabriel from Armory Motor Storage was also there.

Liam’s oncologist, Dr. Ghazali Usmani ,who helped save his life also attended as well as Northborough-Southborough superintendent Christine Johnson, who commented that it was a beautiful day for this event. Liam’s mom Christine Fitzgerald said,

“It was so humbling to see so many people come together from our town: the doctors and nurses at UMass, politicians, old friends and new.  It was just an amazing outpouring of love and kindness.  We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.”

She also wanted to thank Julie Stanwood and Liz Nolan for organizing this event.  Over 400 people participated in the fist bump and over $4,800 was raised at today’s event.

Liam with TD mascot and Blades-rs

Liam with his oncologist from UMass Dr. Ghazala Usmani
Liam with his oncologist from UMass Dr. Ghazala Usmani
Liam with Jake, the Worcester Bravehearts mascot
Liam with Jake, the Worcester Bravehearts mascot
Liam receiving award from the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Liam receiving award from the Massachusetts House of Representatives
State Representatives Danielle Gregorie and Harold Naugton, Jr. with Bruins mascot, Blades
State Representatives Danielle Gregorie and Harold Naugton, Jr. with Bruins mascot, Blades
Line for fist bump
Line for fist bump

Bruins Treat Me to Greatest Sports Experience of my Life

Last night was a very special night for me. I got to sit in the press box because of getting noticed for my blog.  First, I’d like to thank all the Bruins press and TD Garden staff for getting this together for me. This was the greatest sports experience of my life. That says a lot when I’ve said play ball at Fenway Park and presented the Red Sox line-up on NESN.
To start my experience, I bought a new Bruins cap at the Pro Shop. I came back down to where I had entered to wait for Bruins Communications Specialist Erika Wentzell. Erika gave me a tour of the media areas of the TD Garden. Once I introduced myself and received my very own press pass, we got right in on the tour.

The press passes my Dad and I wore to have access to the press area
The press passes my Dad and I wore to have access to the press area

I first got to go in a huge elevator with supply carts for the game. I got off right in front of a goal waiting to be placed on the ice.

In the net before Tuukka was
In the net before Tuukka was

I then saw the ice and took a picture right in front of it.

In front of the ice before the game
In front of the ice before the game

I then saw the Zambonis waiting outside the area where you could see the ice.

In front of the Zambonis before the game
In front of the Zambonis before the game

We moved on to where the media was. I saw the room where the post-game press conference takes place. While I was there I met Jack Edwards, the Bruins TV announcer. Next, I saw a room where the press worked. I saw the locker room doors while the players were inside.

In front of the locker room before the game
In front of the locker room before the game

Across from the lockers I saw the room where I would meet and interview a player after the game. Then we went on up to the 9th floor press box. I got a tour of the press box including TV and radio announcer rooms. I got to sit in Andy Brickley’s chair while wearing his headphones.

Sitting in Andy Brickley’s NESN seat
Sitting in Andy Brickley’s NESN seat

Before we got to our seats, I got a look at the free food I would have access to including unlimited popcorn and soda. Then Erika walked us to our seats with a great view.

The view from our seats
The view from our seats

Before the game, I met many famous people. First, I met Caryn Switaj, the Bruins Digital Content Specialist. I met Dave Goucher, who remembered me from Play By Play Camps (http://playbyplaycamps.com/). I also met Comcast SportsNet’s Joe Haggerty during warm-ups. Shortly after he introduced me to Dave Goucher’s radio partner Bob Beers, former Bruins star, while getting popcorn and soda. Minutes before the game, I met Joe McDonald.

With ESPN’s Joe McDonald before the game
With ESPN’s Joe McDonald before the game

He tweeted my blog out which was very nice of him and I promised to do the same (https://twitter.com/espnjoeymac). They all told me to keep reading and writing and I plan to. I asked them to read my Boston SportsMania blog and gave them samples and the link (andrewr1008.wordpress.com).
Also before the game, I got game notes that only the press gets and saw my name on the media seating chart and a place card saving my seat at the left end of the press box. I also got lineups minutes before game time and stats before the game and at the end of each period.

Media Seating Chart
Media Seating Chart
Seating Assignments
Seating Assignments

The game started and I enjoyed great seats and free food that was delicious. I kept my own stats on the paper with the lineups. I also had the stats I got at the start of the game. After each period, they handed out updated stats which were very cool.
In the second period, I watched with Caryn Switaj, while watching her tweet out quick game updates to 700,000 followers of http://bruins.nhl.com/.

With Caryn Switaj in between periods
With Caryn Switaj in between periods

She was very nice and invited me to write this post. Joe McDonald also came by in between periods which made me feel special. Both Joe and Caryn taught me things about writing and also told me interesting facts like Zdeno Chara’s fastest shot in the game, 108 MPH! He scored to make it 4-0 Bruins.
As the third period went by I began to prepare to ask the first question to Claude Julien for the post-game press conference. The game ended with the Bruins winning 4-1 over the Arizona Coyotes.
After listening to a quick interview Caryn Switaj did, I left for the press conference. There, I asked Claude Julien, “Who do you think had a great performance in this game?” He answered, saying everyone did well, especially the young guys that were new additions to the lineup, like Ryan Spooner. He said that Milan Lucic was like a father figure to those players like Spooner, who scored his first career goal to win the Bruins the game in overtime on Friday night. Two sports writers complimented on how well I asked the first question and gave me high fives. I got to then practice for a question I would soon ask a player in the press dressing room.
Brad Marchand came in, and we introduced ourselves.

With Bruin Brad Marchand after the game with my Dad in the background taking the photo
With Bruin Brad Marchand after the game with my Dad in the background taking the photo

I asked him, “Thinking about how well you’ve done over the last four games, what do you think your playoff chances are right now?” He answered saying, if we keep playing the way we played tonight, I think we have a pretty good chance. After that, we said goodbye to Erika, and we started on our way home. This was the greatest sports experience of my life!

Football Stars:Doug Flutie

This is a picture of my brother Ryan and I meeting Doug Flutie at an event through the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation at Skyzone in Westboro, Massachusetts.
This is a picture of my brother Ryan and I meeting Doug Flutie at an event through the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation at Skyzone in Westboro, Massachusetts.

Today I am posting about Doug Flutie, a local football hero.  I am also doing this topic at school for a project, Topic Of The Week, where you choose a topic you’re interested in to teach the class about, we do this throughout the year.  This post is all about him, and why I chose it a school topic.

I chose Doug Flutie because he has many connections to me.  First of all, I follow the NFL and top draft prospects in college football.  Flutie played as a top player in college and top NFL player.  He won the Heisman trophy in college, his senior year.  He got signed first by the USFL in New Jersey, but had NFL rights with the Los Angeles Rams.  He then played for the Bears.  He also has a conection to me because he lives in Natick and played for the New England Patriots, after Chicago, then to end his career, as he made a historical play kicking a field goal himself, as a quarterback, but like a punter would punt.  He also played for British Columbia in the CFL along with Calgary and Toronto, where he was better than he ever was in his career, he was named the best player in that league, he was meant for it, but retired from it.  He went back to the NFL, playing for Buffalo.  He played when Rob Johnson got injured.  He then went to the Chargers before New England, ending his career.  He also connects to me because he was shorter than many people on his team, and I’m one of the shortest in my class.  He has a fourth and final connection to me.  He has a son with autism, so he started the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation, in honor of his autistic son Dougie.  I’m autistic and was diagnosed with Aspergers’, a type of it in 2012 after not knowing what kind I had for 7 years.  I also met him at an event at Skyzone through his foundation and I got a picture with him that will be used in my project.  So, those are my many reasons I decided to do Doug Flutie.