By Mary Kathleen Mehuron
As I continue to explore the way children’s programs in the Mad River Valley shaped the characters of some individuals, I return to the very first Diamond Dogs team of 1993. Please be in touch if you want to share a story of your own about a different program.
A phone interview with Roy Tuscany:
“Getting involved with the Diamond Dogs program all came from getting to know the Wry family. I got introduced to Kasey Wry at Harwood in seventh grade. He told me his dad had started a new program at Sugarbush. It was just a handful of kids -- Anna Eberle, Kasey and Skooter Urie. Then a couple months later Bruce Hyde came on board, then the Korts and Jamie Schubuk -- a really small group of kids.
“From seventh grade until I graduated from high school that’s all I did, the Diamond Dogs, it was my identity. It was my place in the Mad River Valley community. It’s something that grew from a little kind of Bad News Bears team into … Well, look at the kids that came out of that program.
“Bruce Hyde is now the owner, of, in my opinion, the pillar of businesses in the Valley, Mehuron’s. Andy Woods went on to be the head coach for the U.S. Ski team after being a champion at the U.S. Open for big air. Kasey Wry is one of the most sought-after architects in the Lake Tahoe area, which is one of the fastest growing billionaire communities in the world. I started a foundation called High Fives. (The nonprofit foundation focuses on preventing life-changing injuries in winter sports and provides resources and hope if they happen.” It was formed to pay-it-forward by Roy, after his own recovery from a spinal cord injury.)
“Matilda ‘Skooter’ Urie is solving renewable energy problems with wind farms all over the world. It’s a pretty impressive group of kids that started off as a rag tag little team who grew into impressive individuals.
“I think what was different about that program was that our coaches weren’t just coaches. They were our mentors. They were character builders. And they were also our friends. People we really looked up to. I mean, growing up in The Valley, the best skiers on the mountain -- Chris Parkinson and John Egan -- were also our coaches. Alongside Kevin Wry, who was “The Coach.” He was the ringleader of all these hooligans of incredible talent that he somehow convinced to coach the program. They provided not just ski lessons but life lessons.
“Kevin Wry is the reason this program started and exists today. He’s still doing it. Last year, I was skiing down Sugarbush and there’s Kevin Wry shoveling a mogul course. He’s got to be close to my dad’s age. He was a strong influence on all the kids he coached.
“The community aspect was so important too. Skiing moguls and competing were a nice draw to the Diamond Dogs. But it was friendship, brotherhood and sisterhood, that was able to be bonded together to create the character of young leaders.”
Matilda “Scooter” Urie answered my private message on Facebook:
“My parents both worked at Sugarbush, so my sister and I were there from early in the morning until late at night. And every weekend. We did every ski school and club going. Snowblazers was great. But when I joined Diamond Dogs, I started competing in moguls. The kids and coaches were extraordinary. What fun we had! A lot of those kids went on to really push limits of skiing. But what I’ll never forget were the turkey tumbles we bounced down. Do you remember that? We ran that event if there was enough snow to build a course in November.
“Big ups to Kev-Dog for starting it all. I hear he’s still coaching. What a legend!”
Kasey Wry in a phone interview:
“I’ve been designing houses for rich people for the last 20 years in Truckee, California.
“My Dad is from Vermont, but he moved to the Lake Tahoe area, and I was born out here. And then he ended up moving back after five or six years. Like everybody else he had to figure out how to make a living in The Valley. I think he saw an opening in the ski industry.
He got a job, lift operating, but he wasn’t happy until he moved up to coaching. He started giving private mogul lessons. I was in seventh grade doing the GMVS weekend racing, kind of like Bruce Hyde Jr. was doing the Mad River Racing program, but I wasn’t loving it. I love skiing every day. My dad knew it and saw it but knew I wanted something else. He recognized there were other kids more interested in moguls too.
“There were some other programs starting. Waterville Valley and Killington had a mogul program. It was just starting to catch on.
(Freestyle skiing was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Moguls became an official medal sport at the 1992 games.)
“There was the Budweiser Pro Mogul Tour, I saw that every year and it was inspiring. And Dad proposed the idea to Sugarbush, and they went for it. That was like, 25 years ago.
“The core group, I call us the Core Four, were Bruce Hyde, Andy Woods and Roy Tuscany. Andy may have come on board a little while after the rest of us. The Kort family joined up. Skooter Urie, her real name was Matilda. Her parents worked at the resort. Anna Eberle. Travis Perkins signed up. He was Bruce’s age, I think.
“The memories I have are of traveling. Going to other resorts and meeting people outside of our community who shared a love of the sport. Spring skiing was a big thing for us. The competitive season would end, but we would never end. We’d keep skiing as long as we could. We’d hike up and build our own jumps. We’d go down to Killington and we’d always wear Hawaiian shirts. That was our crew attire. Our posse. Our gang. We thought we were super cool.
“We loved doing big air, which really wasn’t a thing back then. Some terrain parks were starting but they were for snowboarders. And our crew was trying to do the same tricks on skis. Rails, boxes and jumps. It was an interesting part of our development.
“They built us a big jump right at the bottom of Spring Fling, where Valley House Lodge is now. There was a bar there with a deck. People would be sitting out there, and we would give a performance of our tricks. We loved it and so did they. Some of my fondest memories are working on that jump hill.
“That gets into how we developed as people. All the hard work we put in.
“It’s like we had our own little club. Go to bed early to travel the next day to go to competitions. If there was a snow day, we’d get a good night’s sleep and get up to the mountain as early as we could to get the powder. Or we’d stay over at each other’s houses and build jumps and hit them till late at night.
“In one competition up on Castle Rock, I won for the youth category. John Egan told me, if there were no age categories, I might have won for adults as well. Whoo! That’s the kind of thing that stuck with me all these years.
“If you can ski the East, you can ski anything. My dad always said that. People are always commenting on what a good skier I am. I tell them it was growing up in Vermont.
“The coaching must be mentioned. Because it was spectacular. There was Chris Parkinson, who was kind of a big kid. He would relate to us as we were in our teenaged years. He was a tremendous influence. Obviously, my dad. He was the top dog. The leadership came from him. We all saw how much work he put into the team. Running it. Organizing competitions, nailing down a place for us at Sugarbush he called The Dog Pound. At home he’d be struggling with scheduling. And making sure the kids had the money they needed to compete. Pretty inspiring.
“We all got sponsored, that was pretty cool for us. People in the ski industry giving us stuff.
“Mike Millstone. Darrel Mays. They were coaches too.
“Jesse Murphy wasn’t one of the coaches, he worked for Dynastar. But he was very supportive and interested in our team. It wasn’t like, ‘Here’s some skis so now give me results.’ No, he really cared about us. This was before he started Vermont North. Then, when he started the company, he was taking money out of his own pocket to get us equipment. It was tremendous to have him in our lives, believing in us and our dreams.
“And I want to emphasize something. That was how the team kept us away from the teen party scene. The team responsibilities and schedule were a little intense but never overwhelming. And it was our passion, so we loved it! What we didn’t realize is how it kept us from going to the high school parties every weekend … I mean we went to a few but weren’t the regulars trying all sorts of things. I think the team was a huge positive in that way.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I didn’t even have a drink until I was in college (let alone anything else). I never felt like I was missing out on anything and really had no interest in partying, I was way more motivated to excel in my skiing. I’m not sure it was anyone’s intention to utilize the team as a mechanism to avoid all of that but it sure was successful and for that reason extremely beneficial.”
Mary Kathleen Mehuron lives in Waitsfield. Her new novel will be out July 11, 2023.