Lake Placid, NY
In 2016, my son, Max, had just begun ski jumping in Lake Placid at five years old. His second week at it, he had a significant crash on the 20m hill that sent him to the hospital to check for concussion symptoms. Larry was there by his side in the hospital. Luckily, he was fine.
A few weeks later, as ignorant as we were, we signed up for the Andover/Lebanon Meets and I agreed to ride in the van with Larry and a bunch of young jumpers. This was my first time spending any significant time with Larry.
After dinner at McDonalds in Middlebury, VT, I made the mistake of offering to drive. Larry passed the keys over. It was dumping snow as soon as we started up Middlebury Gap and I could feel the wheels on the van spinning and sliding as I tried to maintain just the right amount of speed around the switchbacks. We made it over the mountain and on to Hanover, NH where we stayed with a very gracious host family. They fed and housed a van full of high energy U12 ski jumpers. I learned a lot about ski jumping culture on that trip and also began to appreciate that Larry was a lot more than just a coach for the little kids in Lake Placid.
On the hills, Larry coached every jumper (not just NYSEF jumpers), spoke with every parent, and was obviously well-respected by every coach. Most importantly, he coached with passion and a pure love of the sport. And no coach stresses the warm-up, off-hill training, and mental preparation more. Six years and dozens of competitions later, Larry and my family are extremely close and both of my children view him like a grandfather / Zen Master.
I could go on and on about the incredible coach, mentor, and friend Larry has become for my children, our family, and so many others. I could also write about the time Larry left the van keys in the NYSEF van and somebody locked the door. We had to find a jumper with skinny arms to reach through one of those hinged windows that open three inches.
I could also tell you about the time Larry left his wallet at a gas station and two-time Olympian and NYSEF Coach, Jay Rand, backtracked 45 minutes to get Larry’s wallet so Larry could continue to drive the kids home in the van. Jay stated, “That’s traveling with Stoney”, something he has done since Larry was his teammate in the 1960s.
After jumping together as young men, Larry became Jay’s teacher and coach at Northwood Academy. Larry has a few years on Jay. One day, Jay, the student, gave Larry, the teacher, the finger. That move resulted in Jay getting slammed against a wall and threatened by Larry. Jay deserves his own story project.
In the ski jumping season of 2020, before the world shut down in March for COVID, Larry was driving a van north on Route 89 leaving Lebanon. I was riding shotgun. There was a bit of a rotor noise coming from one wheel. NYSEF did not have a van available on this particular trip so Jay Rand had secured a van from a local in Lake Placid.
According to Jay, the owner of the van had told him that the van was good to go and that he had looked it over. The Lebanon Competition went well that day but ran late. We were on the road at about 4:00pm and by about 4:30pm, Larry told me he could feel the wheel grinding a bit and was going to take it slow. A few minutes later Larry yelled an obscenity followed by “HOLD ON ”. We were in the left lane of a major two lane highway. I watched in absolute horror as he wrestled the steering wheel to the right across a lane of traffic on Route 89 to get to the shoulder. A couple parents were caravaning behind us and stated that sparks were flying from the van’s broken wheel. We were lucky that we didn’t collide with other vehicles or roll as we crossed from the left lane all the way to the right shoulder. The wheel had almost come off and rested at a disturbing angle, completely destroyed. The bearing had torn apart.
Thankfully, there were parents behind us. We crammed all the kids into three other vehicles and they were off for home while Larry and I worked on a solution for the van. Within minutes Larry had secured us a ride from a ski jumping friend who lived about 30 minutes away. This was part of that ski-jumping culture I had witnessed that first trip to Hanover and Lebanon. It’s like some sort of secret handshake organization that doesn’t have any secret handshakes…just a pure love of a sport and the people that participate in it.
While we waited, Larry called Taylor Hoffman in Lake Placid who was a high level jumper that Larry coached. Taylor owns a towing / wrecker company and garage. He had a flatbed on the way from Lake Placid, three hours away. This “ski jumping connection thing” was really working out. Larry’s other friend picked us up at the broken, piece-of- junk van. He had found a bar that said it was open late on Sundays that he could drop us off at while we waited for Taylor’s truck to come get us; then we would have to go back and get the van. The bar was named Babes Bar in Bethel, Vermont. With that name, we weren’t sure what to expect.
Larry and I got out of the SAAB, and walked through the door of paradise. All of our joking about the name was inaccurate. Babes Bar is a die-hard Green Bay Packer’s Bar in the middle of Vermont. The bartenders were wearing Packers Jerseys and Cheeseheads. Better yet, the Packers were on the big projection screen in a close playoff game. Larry and I ordered some beers. They had Bratwursts for an unbelievable price of $3.00, loaded with kraut and mustard. We each got two as we were starving. The Lebanon concession cheeseburger, chips and soda meal deals had been consumed many hours earlier. We discussed football, beer, ski jumping, music, and life. For those of you who don’t know, Larry is an incredibly talented musician and songwriter. We were having a grand old time despite the circumstances. This is what spending time with Larry is always like and another reason he is such a living legend.
About 2 ½ hours later around 11:30pm, our flatbed truck arrived. We closed down the bar and headed 30 minutes in the opposite direction from home to get back to the van. I remember standing by the side of the road freezing while the driver loaded the van onto the flatbed. Now it was closer to midnight and the fun part was over. We started heading back. I must have nodded off in the back seat of the wrecker. We missed a turn and headed about an hour out of our way. We got back to the Lake Placid Ski Jumps at about 3:00am and couldn’t get the gate opened to get our vehicles. We had to call and wait for the facilities manager. Never once did Larry or I freak out and I know there was a mutual respect for each other’s patience. Finally we got in our separate vehicles to drive home. It had snowed a couple inches of slippery snow and Larry barely made it up the steep hill out of the jump’s lower parking lot, gunning it and fishtailing his truck. We departed knowing that we were lucky to have had each other in this fiasco and not someone who was negative or unable to accept life’s curve balls. We were also lucky and thankful that all the young jumpers had survived. The ski jumping community had come through for Coach Stone as he has come through for them time and time again. Or as Jay Rand once told me, “That’s traveling with Stoney”.
If you’d like to hear one of Larry’s tunes- Old Doug and the Salt Bag Blues– click here.