On January 4, 2023

Gwen Allard elected to U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame

By Karen D. Lorentz

A highly revered pioneer in the world of ski education and adaptive skiing, Mendon resident Gwen Allard has been elected to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Class of 2022, which will be inducted in March at Big Sky, Montana.

Allard’s career spans five decades of teaching skiing and terms as executive director of Professional Ski Instructors of America Eastern Division (PSIA-E) and director of the PSIA-E Education Foundation among other positions.

As a pioneering snow-sports educator, she was one of the first to embrace adaptive snow-sports education and went on to become a well-respected leader within the PSIA — now PSIA/AASI which includes snowboard instructors — for her innovative teaching methodology and her ability to effectively communicate it to students. She is also acknowledged for her perseverance in rallying the entire ski industry around adaptive sports.

In his nomination of Allard in the “snow sport builder” category, Bill Irwin, a longtime PSIA-E examiner and ski industry consultant, wrote: “Gwen Allard is a visionary who dreams big and then brings people together to make things happen. She has forged a lifetime career in snow sports, holding numerous leadership positions at the regional and national level.”

Irwin added that “recognizing Adaptive as a major discipline and taking over all training and certification operations, examiner training, development of standards and written materials, and creation of an annual national educational event . . . she has touched the lives of thousands of trainers, instructors and students.”

Allard founded the Gore Mt. Adaptive Program and the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Ski Windham (New York) where a new slopeside adaptive center was named The Gwen Allard Adaptive Sports Center in 2006. She also was a guiding light in the development of an adaptive ski and snowboard program at the Double H Ranch (New York) for seriously ill children.

All those accomplishments are just the tip of the iceberg that caused Irwin to nominate her, he said. She also “has had an impact on Alpine, Nordic, adaptive snowboarding, and seniors,” he wrote.

With an extensive resume of her long career, Irwin made clear Allard epitomizes the role of a sports builder.

She was also inducted into the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame in 2001 in recognition of her work with physically and mentally challenged learners among other honors.

In his letter supporting Allard’s USSSHF nomination, adaptive pioneer Kirk Bauer, emeritus director for Disabled Sports-USA, noted she was one of a handful of “national pioneers and leaders in the development and universal acceptance of adaptive snow sports in the USA. … Gwen realized early on that development of standardized, professional teaching methods and training of snow-sports instructors, was key to the safe, effective and successful expansion of this specialty. . . .  Adaptive Snowsports is now universally taught throughout the USA; and hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities can thank Gwen Allard for this opportunity,” Bauer noted.

Early influences matter

Gwen Allard was born the second girl to a dad who loved the outdoors and skiing. “My father wanted a boy,” she said. So growing up in the Schenectady, New York, area, she became “the son” he taught to ski at age 4 on the golf course next to their home.

GHer older sister skied little and her mother not at all so it was Gwen who packed the sandwiches and the car for their ski trips, chores she willingly undertook because she shared her father’s passion for the outdoors and snow.

She relishes the memory of the winter trips in 20-below-zero weather to an Adirondack cabin where “dad chopped wood and fed the fire at 2 in the morning.” They got water from the lake and cross-country skied out the door. For lunch, “we ate peanut butter and fluff-a-nutter sandwiches followed by brownies for dessert,” she recalled.

Another early influence was Frederica Anderson, ski school director at Maple Ridge (New York) and “a brilliant sports lady who taught skiing for 55 years,” Gwen said. In 1964 Anderson invited Allard to teach skiing at a municipal golf course. That experience with “an early female champion of skiing and the adventurous group of people who said ‘try it’ in a positive, open, encouraging and inclusive way made all the difference,” Allard noted of her own ‘you-can-do-it’ attitude taking root.

Asked what stands out in her long career,  Allard said, “The people — they taught me so much. They had such a wonderful outlook on life … ‘So you can’t walk, that’s okay we’ll get you to slide’,” she said of the adoption of a “can-do it attitude.”

Allard is in good company as other Vermont inductees with the Class of 2022 include Peter Graves of Putney and Jan Reynolds of Stowe.

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