By David Schissler – Ann and I recently had an exceptional day at Nashoba Valley, MA with US and Canadian Hall of Famer Wayne Wong and Olympian Pam Fletcher. Wayne is universally known as the first “hotdogger” and founding father of what we now consider freestyle. Pam is a 1988 Olympian and an FIS World Cup downhill winner. Skiing with them is always fun and educational. Both have a nearly uncontrollable need to teach. Every run with them is an opportunity to up your technique. My tip for this day came from Wayne. He taught me not to “death grip” my poles but to extend my fingers during the pole plant for better balance, control and quickness. After just a couple of runs it became natural.
As much as I appreciate world class tutoring I truly enjoy the rides up with Pam and Wayne most. The stories they tell are as diverse as the people they know. Wayne and I will discuss the state of freestyle skiing, how it’s changed from its roots, ski design (Wayne is involved in Anton Skis, an innovative ski design firm refining suspension technology), where we like to ski, how often we get out on the hill and so on. With Pam, as you may suspect, racing is always a topic of discussion whether it’s the latest World Cup performances, industry trends, personalities or her role as World Pro Ski Tour commentator.
On one such ride up Wayne told me about his recent experience at Waterville Valley. The Kennedy family and Waterville invited him to the 50thAnniversary ceremony and rededication of Bobby’s Run, named after Bobby Kennedy. When Tom Corcoran founded Waterville the Kennedy’s were instrumental in the resort’s early success. Bobby’s run, perhaps the steepest at the resort, is in recognition of their contributions.
Waterville Valley is owned by Chris Sununu, who also happens to be New Hampshire’s current governor. He and many other dignitaries attended the rededication ceremony. When it was over some one pointed out that one of the resort’s newest trails on Green Peak is Wayne Wong Way. It had never been skied. It made perfect sense that Wayne himself should christen the new terrain on the spot. The only obstacle was the readiness of the trail. It was closed. It’s steep and the top is largely ledge. In short, it needs a lot of snow. What began as a few “in the know” heading to check out the trail ended up being a group of about 30 dignitaries. Who wouldn’t want to be the first to ski Wayne Wong Way with Wayne himself?
The powers that be discussed the situation. Waterville GM Tim Smith assed the trail and gave it a thumbs up. Chris Sununu told the patrol to lift the rope. It was on. Tim directed the group to good snow around the ledge and one-by-one 30 lucky skiers literally and legally ducked a rope, followed Wayne, and officially christened Wayne Wong Way.
This is a mere glimpse of Wayne’s world (no pun intended) shared in the time it takes to get up the hill. I’ve been skiing with Wayne and Pam at Nashoba for years now. The skiing is fun but it’s the backstories only they can tell that keep me going back.
Here’s a link to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp video of Wayne in the early days, courtesy of Wayne himself: