SKI LINES – “Beyond belief!”
That’s how Schenectady native Gwen Allard recalls her reaction when she got the call two years ago that she had been elected to the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
Some others, when they heard the news, wondered instead: “What took them so long?”
Allard is widely recognized as a key figure in the development of adaptive skiing programs throughout the country. Her career-long efforts to make skiing accessible to people with physical disabilities will be officially recognized when she is inducted into the Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame next Friday in ceremonies being held at the Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana. That evening she, along with Olympic Gold Medal racer Bode Miller and seven others, will be honored for their contributions to snowsports.
The road to the Hall of Fame for Allard started when she was 4 years old and her dad found some small skis so she could slide along on regular walks with the family dogs over the snow at the Mohawk Golf Club. As a student at Nott Terrace High School, she would get a more formal introduction to skiing from the late Freddie Anderson and her legendary Schenectady Ski School at Maple Ski Ridge.
In 1964, Anderson invited her to become a ski instructor. “She was my mentor,” said Allard last week. “She opened so many doors for me.”
ADAPTIVE SKI EARLY EFFORTS
Early on in her ski career, Allard met Hal O’Leary, who had started an adaptive ski program at Winter Park, Colorado. O’Leary was among the first to recognize that many veterans who came back wounded from World War II wanted to ski, but had nowhere to go. Allard was one of the earliest to promote adaptive ski programs and was a pioneer in developing standardized methods for teaching skiing to those with physical disabilities.
In the mid-1970s, she founded the adaptive program at Gore, and by the early 1980s, started the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham Mountain, which has grown over the years to become widely known and recognized as an important center for training and development of adaptive ski techniques and teaching. In 2005, the program at Windham became known as the Gwen Allard Adaptive Sports Center, complete with its own chairlift.
In the 1980s, Allard worked with Disabled Sports USA (now Move United) to gain formal recognition of adaptive sports and to develop programs for training and certifying adaptive teachers. She was instrumental in the development of the Double H Ranch in Luzerne, which opened in 1998, and since then has become known as a proving ground for the Professional Ski Instructors program that has reached more than 70 organizations nationwide, impacting more than 10,000 instructors and 20,000 adaptive skiers. She was named to the Adaptive Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Allard was the leader of the program at Windham for 24 years, but her reach went far beyond upstate New York. In making the Hall of Fame presentation next week, Allard will be recognized for her role in advising resorts throughout the country on how to best teach and manage adaptive programs for outdoor sports enthusiasts with special needs.
Allard now lives outside of Rutland, Vermont, with husband Ray, who she first met at Gore, where he was director of the ski school. Now 85, she hasn’t skied in three seasons.
“Wore out many of my parts,” she said.
But she hasn’t quit.
“I started skiing at age 4, and I love to ski,” she said. “It has brought me great joy and happiness. People tell me now that I’m done. But I don’t believe them.”‘
The US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame is located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at Ishpeming, where the National Ski Association was founded in 1905. The current Hall complex was completed in 1992 and honors more than 400 people: founders of the sport, accomplished former competitors and builders like Allard, whose efforts have shaped the sport in the U.S. over the past century.
In recent years, the induction ceremony has been held at major resorts across the country as part of an annual celebration of skiing history. The dinner and presentations on Friday evening are the highlight of the week-long event. The Allards will be represented at Big Sky by their son Robert, who lives in New Hampshire.
About the only question left last week on the World Cup race circuit was would Mikaela Shiffrin become the most accomplished ski racer of all time before or after she turned 28 years old.
Well, she made it last Saturday in Are, Sweden, capturing her 87th World Cup race, one more than Ingmar Stenmark, who competed in the 1970s and 80s. Shiffrin turned 28 Monday.
Shiffrin won her first World Cup race in 2012 when she was 17 years old. Her individual race achievement is even more remarkable when compared to other results. The total number of career World Cup victories by all other members of the current US team is three. In the 10 years she has competed at the World Cup level, she has won 37% of the races she started, the best career winning percentage of any athlete in any individual sport.
With the consolidation of ownership in the ski industry in recent years, multi-area season pass deals have become very popular. And they are now being rolled out for next season.
Epic, Ikon, Indy, Mountain Collective, Ski3 and several others are now available, and if you buy now, you lock in the best prices for next season programs. If you ski regularly —10 times or more in a season — have a favorite place or places, or plan to take a ski vacation next winter, these passes become a bargain.
Which pass program is the best? Is the answer simple? It depends. The key is to pick the one that works with your plan. In addition to matching the areas you ski, these plans now come with options. If you expect to ski a few times in multiple areas, or if you ski mainly midweek or if you are planning a ski trip abroad, be sure to check the various options and pick the pass that works best for you.
This is the time of year where ski areas plan special fun events. Looking for one for the family this Saturday? Head over to Willard Mountain in Greenwich for the annual Springfest. There will be a full day of entertainment and on-snow events highlighted by the cardboard sled — cardboard and duct tape only — race and Little Colonel Olympics for 4-7 year olds.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].
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