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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!