April 18, 2023

How a Life Altering Skiing Accident Becomes a Resource for Hope and Re-Juvenation with Roy Tuscany [EP 377]

Show Notes

Rick Saez
How a Life Altering Skiing Accident Becomes a Resource for Hope and Re-Juvenation with Roy Tuscany [EP 377]

I have an inspiring conversation for you today with an incredible human being, leader, and visionary. High Fives Foundation Founder Roy Tuscany. We talk about his go-all-in attitude, talent for big air, his skiing accident, and the High Fives Foundation.

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Show Notes

So when did you first put on a pair of skis?

In third grade, my mom gave me a choice that I had to do something in the winter. And at the time I was probably about 46 pounds soaking wet. I was barely four feet tall. I was the littlest kid in my grade, and I grew up in this kind of rural area of Vermont where the two choices were either hockey or learn to ski at the Bolton Night Ski Program. And the folks that played hockey at that time were the kids that were on the opposite side of the spectrum, the ones that like could buy beer in third grade, they had like a full beard, you know?

And I just knew that like the game of “Let’s see how hard we can hit little Roy into the boards” wouldn’t be that much fun to me. Little did I know, unfortunately, skiing would have some pretty devastating injuries throughout my life. They’re probably more devastating than getting crushed into the boards.

Where did you get your talent for Big Air?

Back in the day, I was on a freestyle team and they had this jump that was set up behind a bar. And, we used to get literally paid by the patrons at the bar to keep jumping from like three until the sun went down. We basically would just put on our own little big air shows at Sugar Bush, Vermont. And that’s how I got into it.

Why did you choose mechanical engineering at UVM?

My dad is a civil wastewater engineer. So my dad designed sewer systems and it just never really appealed to me that you would be designing something that when you went to go test it, you would be smelling well . . . yeah, you can guess it that. And I knew I wanted to be creative. I knew I had a mind that could start with an end result and work all the way back to the beginning to figure out all the steps needed to, to. So it just hit me that let’s try some type of engineering that you don’t have to smell poop.

After graduation, you landed a job as a freestyle skiing coach at Sugar Bowl, that must have felt great!
You know the wild thing, the head coach at that time, Eric Des Laurier hired me. The guy I wanted to be my whole life from Bolton Valley. He was the head coach there and gave me the job through John Egan. Yeah, I got paid to go skiing every day, that was awesome.

And then you had your accident in Mammoth, which changed everything.

So April 29th 2006, after coaching for two years at the Sugar Bowl Academy, I was down at Mammoth for the annual coaches retreat. And, ended up going 130 feet on a hundred foot jump, came down from 30 feet in the air and then the result an impact into the snow fractured my

T 12 vertebrae in my spine and I was paralyzed from there and got life flighted to Renown which is a medical center in Reno, Nevada.

Then somehow found the perseverance to push through all the work it took to get you where you are today.

I mean, for two straight years  that’s all I did. But it was because the academy I was working from and the place I’m from in Vermont, they came together and they rallied around and raised all this money. All I had to do was focus on myself. To me, I had an obligation to every single person that donated to my recovery fund to be obligated o show up. And I think if there’s anything people could learn, is that if you just show up, you’re already beating 90% of the population, right? That means you only gotta be better than 10% now. And gosh, like how great is that if like all you have to do is show up and now all you gotta beat is 10%. Like let’s go!

Tell us about the High Fives Foundation

In 2009, we kicked off the foundation with the idea of helping one individual every year that would sustain a life-changing injury in the winter sports. And now, 14 years later, we have supported over 600 plus individuals and veterans with grants that have totaled over 7 million dollars that are focused in getting people back to sports and getting through the recovery process. And we’ve evolved from one individual getting hurt in the outdoor sports to now evolving to the idea to focus on preventing life changing injuries, but providing resources and hope becasue they do happen in the outdoor sports.

Do you have any suggestions or advice for folks that might want to launch something like High Fives, a foundation or something they’re passionate about?

I would say, you’ve gotta be able to tie it back to something. I always tell people the one reason I was as successful, and there’s many, but one really drives back to the idea of these nineties commercials I remember for Hair Club for men, and the guy would end the commercial being like, I’m not only our first client, I’m also the president. Right? And we can use that same pitch. I’m technically Athlete Zero for the foundation. Right. The first person the foundation ever helped. Before the foundation was anything. And because of that I can speak with a massive amount of passion. But then through my education, through just all the things I’ve done leading up to that, I’m also able to bring in a lot of structure. And a lot of ways to stay organized and ways to become more successful just by showing up

What’s your favorite piece of outdoor gear? Under a hundred dollars?

I would actually say they’re these like after surf pants from the brand Rvka, just, they are like, I think they’re like 70 bucks or something like that. After I go surfing, I just always put these pants on and I’ve actually kind of transitioned into wearing them every day, every once in a while, right? Because. I just feel happy in ’em.

Do you have a couple of books?

I am like in love with this book right now. I’ve listened to it three times and I think I’ve bought it in the last day for like 14 different people. It’s the new book by Ryan Holliday. Discipline is Destiny.

Where can people find you if they’d like to follow up?

High Fives Foundation.org