What’s in a pack?

December 2, 2011

Hi all,

I initially wanted to use this post to talk about my winter activity, which is Ski Patrol, but as I was thinking about what I wanted to say, I came up with another dimension to that topic. I first started ski patrol about a year ago. For most people, it takes them at least 3 years, and sometimes 4 years, to get jacketed and become a full ski patroller. I was therefore not expecting to be able to get my jacket; it was my junior year, and I knew I’d only have 2 ski seasons to complete what seemed like endless tasks — an OEC class, CPR training, becoming competent at skiing with a toboggan, learning assessment procedures…it seemed like a lot. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I’m pretty sure it was just that one day Mr. Manning asked me, “So, Abby, you’re gonna try to get your jacket, right?” And I decided that I was going to get my jacket.

About a month later, Mr. Manning came up to me in the patrol locker room carrying a ski patrol pack. It looks like this:


He told me that the pack belonged to a ski patroller who died in an accident on the mountain. I was allowed to use it for the rest of my two years in the program, and then it would be given to another, promising ski patroller for their time in the program. I was immediately humbled. But I knew nothing about Brad Cunningham, the previous owner of the pack. He was long before my time at Gould, but I knew the name sounded familiar. Putting two and two together, I soon figured out that he was the same person to whom this bench on campus is dedicated to:

(photo from Thomson Riley’s blog (found through google search, Thomson, don’t worry, I’m not that creepy))

Yesterday, after finally getting my pack filled up with trauma pads, gauze, and cravats, and realizing that my time as a candidate was starting to come to a close, I decided that I had to know more about Brad. Here I was, preparing to use this pack to help people on the mountain as a real live ski patroller, and I wasn’t even sure what happened to him, or what it really meant to carry his pack. So, lacking other research methods, I decided to do a Google search.

During my search, I also found this blurb on a somewhat unexpected site, in the middle of a short article about skier safety and responsibility.

“The heartbreaking and untimely death less than two weeks ago, of Gould Academy senior Brad Cunningham, is a reminder to skiers that accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of experience and ability level. Cunningham was an expert skier, and a four-year veteran of Sunday River’s Junior Ski Patrol program.”

The only part of this excerpt that annoys me is the phrase “Junior Ski Patrol program.” Gould doesn’t have a “Junior” ski patrol program. It’s a Ski Patrol program, as in, the students who put in time, effort, and dedication to this program become full ski patrollers. Brad wasn’t a “Junior” ski patroller — he was the real deal. That much I know for sure.

Like I said, I never personally knew Brad and I haven’t heard a whole lot about him, but just from knowing that he was a ski patroller, I know that he must have been an incredible person, just like all of the other patrollers, whether they’re Gouldies or not. I think that choosing to spend your time learning how to help other people says a lot about a person, so I like to think that even though I never personally knew Brad Cunningham while he was alive, I actually do know him: I know that he was inquisitive, compassionate, and talented at what he did up on the mountain. I know that as a patroller, he was dedicated to skiing and to helping other people enjoy it as much as he did.

I can only hope that as I finish up my training and (knock on wood) get jacketed soon, I can attempt to live up to this person whose pack I was given back when I was still a “never-ever,” as Mr. Alford affectionately refers to them. I also hope that whoever is given his pack at the beginning of next ski season tries to learn about Brad as well, and at least makes an effort to live up to his memory.

Happy trails,



29 Responses

  1. […] Here is the original post: What's in a pack? | Gould Glog […]

  2. Avatar Andrea says:


    Brad and I were suppsed to graduate together and were both jacketed patrollers when he had his accident. I didn’t know that Mr. Manning did this and it is heart warming to know that Brad’s legacy lives on.

    Thanks for the memories!


  3. Avatar Chris&Helen says:

    Thanks Abby

  4. Avatar dirk macknight says:

    Thank you Abby for sharing. It is students like you that make working here at Gould a gift. ~ dirk

  5. Avatar Deborah Robie says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful insights and your lovely writing.

  6. Avatar Will says:

    Very happy to see his memory and legacy are being carried on through his pack. Brad was an amazing person and genuinely kind to everyone around him. Work hard and study hard and you should have no problem getting to where you want to be. You certainly already have your heart and mind into it.

  7. Avatar El Jefe says:

    Thank you Abby, your Glog brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. I was there the day that Brad died, and I have watched a succession of very special Gould patrollers wear that pack ever since. You more than deserve it, and we, your instructors, are very proud of everything you have done so far. Keep up the good work!

  8. Avatar Kat 2004 says:


    This article made me tear up. I was at Gould when Brad died. He was a wonderful person and an amazing skier. He had the biggest heart and would be happy to be passing on his pack to you! He always extended a hand to the Freshmen to help us navigate the new atmosphere of being in a prep school. He was an amazing person all the way around. It is so wonderful to read his name again and remember the great times we had together!

    Thank you for sharing!

    AKA Kat of the Freshman class of 2004

  9. Avatar Rick Gilbert says:

    As the Dad of two of Brad’s classmates, Ryan and Keri Gilbert 03′, I met Brad on many occasions. His untimely death was as horrible for the Gould Community as you can possibly imagine! I was so impressed how such a tragic event was handled by the staff, students, and Brad’s family. The way Mr. Manning and the Gould Community continues to remember and honor Brad is a tribute to all of you! I remain forever impressed!

  10. Avatar Holly says:

    Thank you, Abby! A beautiful tribute from a lovely soul……

  11. Avatar Matt Ruby says:

    Moving and inspirational, Abby. You do great honor to Brad’s memory and the pack.

  12. Avatar Maggie says:

    nice to read this Abby…well said & inspiring! thanks for sharing & thanks to your mom for direction to this “blog”, well, I tried to type “blog” (with a “g”) but it won’t let me…have a great season with Ski Patrol @ Sunday River…hope to see you on the slopes!

  13. Avatar Andrew Gleason says:

    Wow, this sent a serious chill down my spine, been a long time since going to school with Brad, but those 4 years will never be forgotten.

    A. Gleason class of 2001

  14. Avatar Chris Hayward says:

    Thoughtful, inspiring & honorable. Well done! I’m sure your own jacket will be earned soon, you are deserving.

    Mr. Hayward-2208 SR Patrol

  15. Avatar Kaitey says:

    Wonderful, thoughtful post! I started my Gould career on freshman orientation with Brad and was blessed to be in his class for my 4 years at Gould. I think of him often when I’m snowboarding. A very special person indeed! So happy to hear his legacy is living on at Gould!

    Kaitey Lightbody -Class 2001

  16. Avatar The damn Swede says:

    Thank You for that. I remeber it like yesterday. Had just been away with the Prep Team racing and we got the news.

    I, like many of the 2001 class will be touched by this post as we have been touch by Brad and the memories of him.

    Every time it snows here in stockholm I think of him and I take extra causion.

    It am very glad that his memory lives on at gould in more then one way.

    Thank You!

    Daniel “Sven” Bodenfors

  17. Avatar B. Phillips says:

    Man, I remember this day so well. I was leaving the barn from doing chores and heading to the art cottage. Saw Bonnie Pooley who was clearly worked up. Bonnie was, and is still very much like second mom to me so I basically made her tell me what happened. The faculty were supposed to wait until assembly to tell everyone. I sat on the ground where I heard the sad news. Felt helpless. Brad was a great friend who spent many hours with me building the wood kiln, making art and whenever his bike was broken I’d help fix it. He was mischievous but in a great, kind hearted way. Months before his passing he was the first to give CPR to a soccer player from another school who, as I recall had an aneurism during a game and passed away. It is tragic that young girl was able to thank her responder a few months later when Brad passed away.

    To this day I still have the duck tape ribbon on my graduation gown. He figured out how to fix about anything with that stuff. Thank you Mr. Manning for turning this in to a well deserved legacy. It is a kind and appropriate tribute to a great person.

    Ben- ’01

  18. Avatar Katie Davisson Dolbec says:

    Thanks for your post, Abby. Brad was an incredible person – smart, kind , compassionate, and athletic. I can still picture his meek smile, and it makes me smile to do so.

    Skiing was his passion, and when he retired from racing due to injuries, he took his passion and compassion and combined them to become an amazing patroller. He was also an avid backcountry skier, and his death stood as a reminder to me that even the most accomplished athletes and nicest people can have horrible, fluke accidents.

    Brad was one of the first people I met at Gould, at a pre-season dry land ski camp, and we became friends immediately. He called me “Racer F” after I wore bib F forerunning a prep school race our sophomore year. We spent sophomore 4-point together building a house for Habitat for Humanity.

    I miss Brad, but it makes me happy to know that his legacy lives on through his patrol pack, a symbol of both his passion for skiing and his compassion for others.

  19. Avatar Tim Hall says:

    Hey Abby,

    I’m another 2001 alum like a lot of the people who have responded already. You don’t need Google to find out about Brad b/c you have us. Anyone who knew him will have tons of stories to share. He was laid back and kind, good under pressure and a whole lot of fun. Now I have never skied at Sunday River (my idea of downhill is attempting to walk down any incline during the winter), so I would probably never have known about this tradition without you. Since I still think about Brad every time I start taking my life for granted, it’s good to know that other people are also carrying his legacy around with them b/c I will never be a mountain biker or a ‘polar bear’ or a full ski patroller and the world is a little darker for that. Thanks so very much to you, Mr. Manning and the entire Ski Patrol for working a little harder and burning a little brighter. Your efforts are appreciated more than you may ever know.

    Tim Hall ’01

  20. Avatar Kristen says:

    Wow Abby thank you for this wonderful post. Brad was such a kind person and his passing was far too soon. I will always remember his memorial service early in the morning on Locke Mountain. It really was the perfect morning on the mountain to remember someone with such a caring and wonderful spirit.

    Kristen Murphy ’03

  21. Avatar Pete Rackliffe says:


    Thanks for your thoughtful and reflective words. I think of Brad every time I enter Hanscom Hall. For those who don’t know or don’t remember; the beautiful iron lamp that hangs over the main entrance was donated anonymously in memory of Brad. It has a piece of duct tape on the inside!
    Pete Rackliffe

  22. Avatar Mr Baker says:


    Thanks to you and to Mr Manning for keeping Brad’s spirit alive and with this community. Your blog brought back a flood or memories that left me with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face.

    Mr Baker~

  23. Avatar Lauren Jacobs says:

    Thank you so much for such a great piece of writing, Abby.

    All of my most vivid memories of Brad involve him helping other people. So glad to see the spirit of helping is living on through the passing down of his patrol pack.

    – Lauren Jacobs GA ’03

  24. Avatar Erika H. says:

    Hi Abby,
    Thanks for your wonderful post. I also carried that pack, and I’m glad that Brad’s legacy will continue with it. It’s weird to think that that will have been 10 years ago this January. Strangely, Brad came up in conversation at my job the other day. I work at the New Hampton School and a co-worker had brought up that an NHS student had died of an aneurysm on the soccer field at Gould about 10 years ago, but how this brave student had been the first responder to the field and had tried so hard to save her. The student was Brad. He was a very awesome guy. Ski patrol at Gould gave me skills and lessons that I still use to this day. I’m so glad you are also finding so much fulfillment from it.
    All the best,
    Erika Hoddinott ’02

  25. Avatar Bill and Ki Clough says:

    ‘Very glad Brad Cunningham has touched you through the ski patrol program. Your thoughtful and moving insights caught us by surprise.

  26. Avatar Rob Casella says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reflection, Abby.
    Your work, like Brad’s, is what makes Gouldies among the best people in the world.
    Nice job.

    Rob Casella 75′

  27. Avatar Stephanie Montgomery says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Abby. I was very touched and appreciated the manner in which you told it. I think Brad would be proud that you wore his backpack…his legacy continues.

    Board member and Gould parent of C’00 graduate

  28. Avatar Pat Donovan says:

    Thank you, Abby, for this beautiful piece – for stirring our hearts and the fond memories of Brad we all have. I didn’t realize Ski Patrol was doing this – what a wonderful way to keep Brad’s spirit with us. I have so many memories from that day …. one that I will always hold dear is watching Erik Janicki lead a line of students holding candles over to the bleachers on the upper field …. and all those lights for Brad with the mountains behind.

  29. Avatar Josh Liebowitz says:

    Very nice writing. I was also a senior and in the same patrol program. Brad was a great human being, and somebody most definitely worth emulating. I never knew that the passing of his pack began. I think it’s really an amazing tribute, and I’m sure speaks volumes about your dedication. I’m really happy he can be honored in this way, and that the patrol program continues on.

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