Published Stories

PHOTO CREDIT: VINCE SHULEY

Peak Exposure

A snow-tographer’s guide to conquering his favorite slopes

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@mylifelist
Photos courtesy of VINCE SHULEY

How does a child from Brisbane, Australia—better known for wakeboarding than snowboarding—decide on snow journalism as a career move?

For professional “snow-tographer” and writer Vince Shuley, it started with adventurous parents who shared their desire to explore the world, and a list of eight countries where he found his own inspiration, merging his love for extreme mountain sports with his talent through the lens of a camera.

“Two days after I graduated from university, I got on a plane bound for Los Angeles, where I signed up for a job at Manmouth Mountain, about an hour’s drive from LA, in the Sierra Nevada Range,” Shuley said. “That’s where I got into ski instructing and what got me so heavily involved in the ski industry, proving myself as a skier and passing that on to kids and other people.”

The top three things new skiers need to know, according to Shuley:

  • “Know your environment. Don’t just head up the mountain not equipped for the cold and wet that might be up there. You need to know what you’re getting into. At the top of the run, the mountain looks fine. Then around the corner, you can’t negotiate, and your fun day ends up being a battle.”
  • “Have the skills to get yourself down safely. Knowing your limits is a pretty big one. Some might overpush and lead to an experience where they might not want to ski again.”
  • “You need guidance. Don’t underestimate the importance of lessons. You need to be shown. You can try to get down (the mountain), but it will probably be the last time. Think of it as driving a car. You can’t get in and expect to know how to drive.”

The top 5 mountains on his list: 

5. Valle Nevado Ski Resort, Chile
“This resort sits above the capital, Santiago, at the top of 60 switchbacks. I will never forget the storms that would come through in the night, howling winds that would bring several feet of snow. The next day, there would not be a cloud in the sky. Skiing Santa Teresa, you could access backcountry from the resort and ski down some of the highest quality terrain in South America all the way down the road. We could get in two laps before work … most amazing way to start a work day I’ve ever had in my life.”

4. Mt. Baker, Washington, United States
“Another resort I’m going back to is definitely Mt. Baker in Washington state, closer to Vancouver than to Seattle. There are no people. Here, there’s 10 people in the car park. No lines for the lift at all—there’s empty chairs going up. For the amount of terrain, you’re getting fresh snow for yourself time after time after time. The backcountry is beautiful, and they get more snowfall than Whistler.”

3. Revelstoke, British Columbia
“Revelstoke is all backcountry. It’s probably the most avalanche-prone mountain zone in all of Canada. They’ve got an amazing mountain there. It’s a ski touring community, a heli-skiing resort, and they built the resort on that foundation. It’s so steep and vertical in places, it doesn’t flatten out, so whatever direction you go, it’s your own. Really fun, fun, fun resort. Can’t speak enough of the area and the backcountry is very accessible.”

2. Las Lenas, Argentina
“My next favorite is Las Lenas. This place is starting to grow in population. They have contingents of pro skiers going there to film every year. It has mountains I haven’t seen anywhere else. Its lift system was built in the avalanche path, so that affects when it’s open. Despite its unpredictability, I’m going down there. There’s always a big storm and you can ski that last one then head elsewhere in South America.”

1. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
“The destination I’d have to honor because I’m spending my life here is Whistler. Blackcomb is the No. 1 ski resort in the world, the capital of skiing, because it has such a strong community of skiing people who move from all over to live here. I think it will always be my favorite place to ski, because it literally has everything, from beginner’s terrain all the way up. We get a lot of snow here—record-breaking snow—and it’s definitely the best place to live skiing.”

(As published in Achiever Magazine, December 2011)

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POST Tom Reardon accepting MHOR trophy credit Leighton O'Connor
Big Ti Captain Tom Reardon, left, accepts the MHOR trophy in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The historic ketch won its class handily. PHOTO CREDIT: LEIGHTON O’CONNOR

Master & Commander

Tenured pro aboard Ticonderoga makes a career of mentoring new sailors

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@mylifelist

Much has been written about the lavish ketch Ticonderoga of Greenwich—how she’s broken yachting records, withstood fearsome ocean conditions all over the world, and patrolled the Atlantic in World War II, her curves tucked into a battleship gray coat. The 72-foot, L. Francis Herreshoff beauty, now in her 75th year, has sealed her place in maritime history, with character carved right into her gleaming wood.  

But it also takes character to embrace the challenge of sailing this legendary boat, something professional captain Tom Reardon has done for the past 25 years. His latest turn at the helm was for the July Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race, a biennial tradition that links the two East Coast sailing villages. For the 2012 competition, Ticonderoga blew past its competitors with grace and ease, tying up the win in its class in a nimble 42 hours, 34 minutes and 16 seconds.  

Reardon made the transition from self-professed “surf bum” to successful pro sailor by setting his mind to it, the moment he realized it was an option. “I didn’t start sailing till I was 22 or so, and I said, ‘That’s it,’ ” Reardon said. “I planned on pretty much making it a profession right then.” 

All it took was a chance encounter at a newsstand to discover the passion that would fuel this native of Long Island’s unorthodox career at sea.

“I went sailing one day, it was in August. On the way home, I stopped at a street corner store—I went to buy a surf magazine and saw this sailing magazine. I bought it, read an article about Antigua Race Week in the Caribbean, and I went, ‘People get paid to do that?’ And I said, that’s it, I’m going.”

Reardon attributes his longevity to a life of fun and adventure, with the confidence of his employers. “I wouldn’t be here if we weren’t still having great times. The present owner is a fabulous guy (Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Conn.), the previous owner is also a spectacular guy.”

“What Tom does so well is love that boat. He knows that boat better than anybody in the world,” Frantz said. “The beautiful thing about the program is that he totally respects anyone who comes on board.” 

Support and success go hand in hand when learning to race offshore, and Reardon has made a teaching craft out of a sailing weapon. “I feel like this is a training vessel, we’re constantly training people. I take on a lot of crew just starting in the business, train them up and send them on their way,” Reardon said.   

The training is as much a part of the boat’s legacy as the trophies, as other boats have benefited from Reardon’s natural teaching abilities. “The old J boat Endeavor used to wait until I had crew from between a year and year and a half, and then take them away from me, poach them,” he said with a laugh. “As they all left here, they’ve had no trouble walking onto other boats. It’s been very, very simple for them.” 

Owner Frantz gave Reardon a nod for his openness in bringing newcomers to the sport while maintaining the streak of more elapsed ocean racing records than any other boat. “The crew may not be as experienced but they have passion for sailing,” Frantz said. “Tom trains them and it works out well. We can expect a crew member to stay on average about a year and a half—much longer than usual because they love the program so much and they learn so much from him.” 

But, of course, it’s better to learn the basics before you venture offshore.  

“Buoy racing is where you learn more about sailing than anything, about sail trimming and boat handling, everything,” he said. Seamanship, that comes from offshore, but buoy racing you definitely learn more, because you’re doing every point of sail, every day, sails up, sails down.” 

Breaking into ocean racing is less daunting than it might seem, according to Reardon, as the sport has made strides toward becoming more spectator and media friendly. It’s a unique sport that allows you to participate alongside talented and experienced professionals, much like playing pickup with Celtics captain Paul Pierce or park-and-rec touch league with Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. The first step is simply showing up. 

“When I started, I just hung around the yacht clubs and worked hard. I met people, and they knew I’d be there every race and they knew I’d work hard. 

“There’s no shortcuts. It takes hard work, like everything else in life. It doesn’t come free,” Reardon said. But at the end of the hard work, there’s the perfect wind, a flawless race, a satisfied team and the best part, shiny hardware—the trophies and celebrations that make all the effort worthwhile.  

(As published in Achiever Magazine, September 2011)

POST M&Commander

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POST Nantucket Steps Beach
Nantucket’s famous Steps Beach is a long leisurely walk, but worth the effort for its sweeping sandy vistas. PHOTO CREDIT: SHELAGH BRALEY

Ferry Relaxing

Nantucket Island brings the heat after summer season ends

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@mylifelist

A mere 80 miles away from Boston waits a ferry that will shuttle you to one of Massachusetts’ most beautiful and relaxing islands, Nantucket, where gentle breezes blow the beach grass and the beautiful people gather to celebrate the simple life. It’s home to 12,000 year-round residents, but more than 55,000 in the summer months. Waiting out the usual tourists has its benefits: Some of the best events are reserved for Nantucket’s mild Indian summer and fall.

If you’re thinking of making a quick getaway, check out what the “Gray Lady” (so named for its many gray-shingled homes and frequent fog) has up her sleeve.

Here are some sweet spots to explore:

  1. Century House Bed & Breakfast (10 Cliff Road, centuryhouse.com, 508-228-0530). This glorious classic, a restored whaling captain’s home, is Nantucket’s oldest continuously operating guest house. It’s been named “Best Bed and Breakfast on Nantucket,” by Cape Cod Magazine, and it’s so easy to understand Its 18 rooms, with their charming names (“Red Dahlia,” and “Black Orchid”), are plush and antique without feeling fussy, and are filled to the brim with classic books from the personal collection of fascinating owners, Gerry Connick and JeanE Heron. The walls are dotted with works of art created by artists in residence who share their talents with all who visit. The bucolic wrap-around porch, replete with deep-cushioned rocking chairs and fragrant flowers, is exactly the right spot for planning a day of biking and shopping, or relaxing with an afternoon iced tea. Every morning, Century House puts the “breakfast” in B&B, the warm, French country-inspired kitchen drawing visitors to partake in an indulgent feast that also features entertaining tales of the Connicks’ adventures. They have loved Nantucket since 1984, leaving the hustle of corporate life to create a home away from home on the island. “Nantucket is just like a lover, so familiar and comforting … so wild and unpredictable,” the innkeepers say. No doubt, that’s what keeps visitors coming back year after year to this award-winning retreat on the ocean. Special fall rates available.
  2. Nantucket Cranberry Festival (Milestone Cranberry Bog, nantucketconservation.org, 508-228-2884). Did you know cranberries are one of North America’s only three native fruits, including the Concord grape and blueberries? The famous red bogs of Nantucket Island are ripe for harvest, so why not find out what makes these rich little berries float? Saturday, Oct. 8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Milestone, one of the oldest continually operated farms on the island will offer free admission to tour its 193 acres. Celebrate fall with hay rides, music, food and other cranberry delights that make Nantucket so iconic. All proceeds benefit Foundation’s Land Fund to preserve Nantucket’s open spaces.  Free admission, directions at nantucketconservation.org, click “events.”
  3. Murray’s Toggery Shop (62 Main St., 508-228-0437). This is the store that started it all, right in the center of town—the original preppy shop. Poke around the piles of yachty-wear, from sailing belts emblazoned with the Jolly Roger to boat bags made of recycled sails. But don’t leave without a memento of your trip, the original Nantucket Reds. These timeless shorts, pants and skirts are a hallmark of Nantucket coastal living, fade to near perfection over time, and can’t be bought anywhere but here. They come in plain and embroidered styles, for men, women and children.

UPCOMING EVENTS: Nantucket Restaurant Week (Sept. 26-Oct. 2) Nantucket, even in its more relaxed fall season, never stops cooking. Participating restaurants will expand your palate with three-course menus that will ramp up your tastebuds and leave you with a greater appreciation of fine food. $25-$45. Or head out for Halloween Fun at Fifty-Six Union (Saturday, Oct. 29) that includes extra fun and festivities after 10 p.m. Dress for dinner following this year’s theme of Divas. For reservations, call 508-228-6135.

(As published in Achiever Magazine, September 2010)

Nantucket

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POST Mickey on Magic
Mickey gets kids and their parents in a Disney frame of mind as the Wonder sets sail. PHOTO CREDIT: SHELAGH BRALEY

Mickey’s Magic Works Its Way to Mexico

West Coast itinerary expands cruise brand

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@mylifelist

The Magic of Disney lured us this time for a seven-night West Coast cruise, a special sailing celebrating Disneyland’s 50thbirthday.

The Disney Magic, in its first West Coast swing (like sister ship Wonder, it is usually based in Port Canaveral, Fla.), took us from the port of Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera and the ports of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

Accommodations, like on the Wonder (see review in Sunday Herald), are big by cruising standards and quaint, with the lyrics of Disney songs framed on the walls to coordinate with the red and blue nautical decor. Ours was “Candle on the Water,” from “Pete’s Dragon,” an oldie-but-goodie.

Being on the open water for two days on our way to Mexico gave us ample time to explore all the options onboard this floating amusement park. The pools were filled with children from morning till night, splashing and making friends, and flying down the corkscrew slide that looks like Mickey’s fat gloved hand. My nearly-3 year old, still a little cautious out of her home environment, looked right at one boy cannonballing into the kiddie pool and said, “Be careful now.”

Once we were fully waterlogged, we checked our daughter in the supervised kids program and went to explore some adult activities. At the Park West art auction, one woman, in 15 minutes, purchased more than $15,000 worth of art, including some funky Disney prints by Peter Max. We never lifted our paddle, though we were tempted to a couple of times.

Then we hit the duty-free store for some bargain-priced fine cigars, ordered up some cocktails and lounged in the teak recliners on deck, hoping to take in our first Pacific Ocean sunset. Unfortunately, we missed it—”June Gloom” had hit in California, and the dark skies followed us for two days at sea.

The sun finally broke out just as I jumped in the water (my husband watching, my daughter asleep in her stroller) for a swim with some dolphins in Puerto Vallarta on a ship-organized shore excursion.

The dolphins swam right up to participants when we slapped the water, just like on “Flipper” and when they turned in our direction … these huge creatures are unnerving at first. After I got used to their fish breath, I considered leaving it all behind—the house, the career, the family back in Boston—to move here and train these amazing animals.

But there was shopping to do.

We started with the Disney-recommended shops, all mapped out in close proximity to the ship. Silver jewelry, cotton blouses, skirts, dresses, Mexican opals, turquoise, shells—all at great prices and too much to resist. I did all the picking, and my husband did all the haggling. (We all have our strengths.)

When we were fully loaded with bags full of bargains, we were starving, and tourist traps were not going to do it for us. So we ventured a few blocks from the port and found some authentic Mexican food at the open-air Salsa de Mexicana where I had the best chicken mole I’ve ever tasted. My daughter, with a little prompting, even ordered her own arroz con pollo. Thank you, Dora the Explorer.

That night, we (and all the other passengers) were invited to “The Golden Mickeys,” one of the many productions onboard that fully entertain parents and even keep toddlers amused for nearly an hour. “The Golden Mickeys” is a mock awards show that keeps the spirit of the real thing, even down to the red carpet interviews beforehand. My daughter, in her Snow White gown (purchased in a weak moment) caught the interviewer’s eye.

The woman with the mic commented on her beautiful gown, then asked the question, thinking she knew the answer: “Who is your favorite princess?” My daughter looked right into the camera, feeding live onto a big screen in the theater, and said “Cinderella.” Then she promptly tripped and fell, sprawling in yellow tulle across the red carpet. And so ended her career as an A-lister.

In Mazatlan, the gloom continued, but we went for the Beach Party excursion at the Playa Hotel, promising a pinata and a clown for the kids. When we got there, some kids dove right for the water, and promptly were stung by jellyfish. There was no swimming for us that day, but Spaghetti the Clown more than made up for it. He came equipped with his own sound system, blasting rap in Spanish, made balloon animals and led dance contests.

The morning we docked in Cabo San Lucas, the weather cooperated for a sunrise coffee break on our cabin veranda.

A water taxi later took us to a picture-perfect golden-sand beach surrounded by red cliffs. We picked our lounge chairs for the day, ordered “dos Coronas” and gave our daughter bottled water we brought from the ship. (It is advised not to drink the local water or use the ice.)

To the sounds of Jimmy Buffet over a loud speaker, I revved up a rented Jet-ski and felt like a true beach bum, flying through the water, getting as close to our enormous black and yellow ship as allowed by law.

Safely back on land, we swam, we played, we burned.

We’ll remember the Magic.

(As published in the Boston Sunday Herald travel section, June 2005)

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