For two decades, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum has been honoring “athletes, pioneers and special contributors to Vermont skiing and snowboarding who promoted and/or contributed to the sport of skiing or riding in Vermont.” It also presents special awards; the Paul Robbins award for ski journalism, the Bill McCollum Community award for an organization, and the First Tracks award, to an emerging star in snowsports. While the First Tracks award was not presented this year, the others were given out at a ceremony at Bolton Valley Resort. Here’s who this year’s winners are:
Ralph DesLauriers – Founder of Bolton Valley Resort (pictured above)
On Christmas Eve 1966, Ralph DesLauriers, son of a Vermont dairy farmer, opened Bolton Valley ski area on former timber land his father had purchased. DesLauriers built the access road and installed three double chairlifts on three slopes spanning 963 vertical feet. There were nine trails, a ski school, night skiing, and a hotel that could sleep 144 people. A year later, there was even a discotech with strobe lights in the lower level of the base lodge. “That was a rockin’ scene,” DesLauriers recalls in one of his “Story Time” video interviews archived on Boltonvalley.com.
By the second season, there were also new glades, a heated pool, and a skating rink. The mountain was known as a family-friendly area and from its opening hosted a kid’s after-school ski program.
Among some of the kids who grew up skiing Bolton Valley were Ralph’s’ five children. The two eldest, Rob and Eric, went on to star in dozens of ski movies as extreme skiers. Ralph continued to expand and improve the resort he founded until 1997 when he sold it. In 2017 the family re-purchased Bolton Valley: Ralph and his younger three children, Lindsay, Evan, and Adam who now follow in his footsteps and run the resort.
Ralph may very well be the last ski area founder alive today who still owns and operates the resort they built, demonstrating an incredible life-long commitment to the Vermont ski industry.
Betsy Pratt – Mad River Glen Visionary
Betsy Stratton Pratt was not a likely owner for what became one of the most iconic ski areas in the country. She grew up in Greenwich, Ct. and after attending Vassar College, moved to New York City and worked for the Ford Foundation. Her sister, Sally, talked her into coming to Mad River Glen for a ski weekend in 1954. There she met Truxton Pratt, a member of the Montclair Ski Club. They soon married, buying a ski house in North Fayston on their honeymoon.
Mad River Glen was founded in 1947 by Roland Palmedo, who had previously developed Stowe. He and trail designer and long-time general manager Ken Quackenbush developed Mad River with an eye to be less commercial than Stowe: a skier’s mountain, with trails designed to follow the natural contours.
In 1972, Roland sold Mad River to a group of investment bankers and skiers led by Trux Pratt and Brad Swett. When Trux passed away in 1975, the ski industry was going through tumultuous times. Betsy took the reins at Mad River, carefully guiding the mountain to preserve its unique character. Rather than bulldoze the terrain and coat the mountain with artificial snow, as most Eastern ski areas were doing by the 1980s, Pratt fought to preserve and protect the mountain in its original state.
She and marketing expert and MRG skier, Gerry Muro developed the “Mad River Glen, Ski it if You Can” marketing campaign. The red and white bumper stickers turned Mad River Glen into one of the most recognizable brands in the ski industry. The plain meaning of the slogan was, “ski it when there’s snow,” but many also read it as a competition (ski it if you’re good enough), or a bucket list item (ski it if you get the chance). She also encouraged telemark skiing, which is still taught on the mountain, but famously denied snowboarders access.
Mad River Glen flourished. By this time, Pratt had also purchased the Mad River Barn, just down the hill from the ski area. Her next challenge was transferring ownership in Mad River to a new generation who would also appreciate and expand on the mountain’s conservationist ethos. She did this by selling skiers on the idea of the first and only cooperatively-owned ski area in the country. She talked about it everywhere: in the lift line, on the chair lift, in the Basebox lodge, and even at the grocery store. The transfer of the mountain to the Mad River Co-op finally took place in 1995.
Pratt continued running the Mad River Barn and being Mad River Glen’s biggest cheerleader until she retired in 2012, when she moved to North Carolina. Today, she still enjoys watching hikers, snowshoers, and skiers on Mad River Glen’s live webcams.
Jim Holland – Ski Jumper and Entrepreneur
One of the founders of the outdoor gear online retail behemoth, Backcountry.com, Jim Holland might not be a household name, unless you follow ski jumping.
A seventh-generation Vermonter, Holland grew up in Norwich, Vt., across the river from the Dartmouth ski jump in Hanover, NH. There, Holland and his older brothers all learned to ski jump and all went on to be Olympians. Jim and his oldest brother, Mike, were Olympic jumpers and Joe was a Nordic Combined athlete.
In 1987, during a training jump at Lake Placid, NY, Jim suffered a massive fall when his skis hit an ice patch while approaching take-off, something modern-day hill formats and preparation protect against. At age 19, he had four broken vertebrae and was facing back surgery. Many thought Holland’s ski jumping days were over. Instead, he went on to win six National Ski Jumping Championships and compete in two Winter Olympics.
Before the Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France (’92), Holland drastically changed his technique. Instead of jumping the traditional way with skis straight and body extended forward, he turned the tips of his skis out like a “V” and sailed farther than he ever had before—the technique that is now common. His 12th place finish there was among the top performances ever by a U.S. jumper. He also jumped at the Winter Games at Lillehammer, Norway in ’94.
In 1995, Holland retired from ski jumping and, after graduating from the University of Vermont, headed west to Park City, Utah. Inspired by his passion for ski mountaineering, he and his childhood friend from Norwich, John Bresee, created Backcountry.com just as internet commerce was growing. After immense success, they sold their majority interest in Backcountry.com in 2007. Holland remains involved as a minority shareholder and holds a seat on the board of directors.
In 2007, the U.S. Ski Team abandoned ski jumping and Holland stepped in as the sport was unraveling. With no National Team, Holland helped start and fund USA Nordic Sports, a nonprofit in Park City that runs men’s and women’s national jumping and Nordic combined programs, keeping the sport alive.
Today, even as Holland confronts and combats Parkinson’s Dis esease, he continues to support the sport of ski jumping, including charitable support to Ford Sayre Memorial Ski Council’s jumping program.
Rip McManus – Olympian, Announcer, and Film Star
At an early age Rip McManus was enrolled in Rutland, Vermont’s Pico Peak Junior Program, a multi-year comprehensive ski school. McManus excelled at ski racing with the Pico Peak Ski Club. He joined the Rutland High School Ski Team and went on to set the record for the Pico Downhill Derby. McManus deferred his admission to Denver University to join the European Ski Racing Circuit.
During the off-season, McManus made Stowe his training base. He joined Stowe’s ski lift tower installation crew, volunteering for the high-risk work. Mount Mansfield Ski Corporation’s Sepp Ruschp took an interest in Rip and so did Mt. Mansfield Ski Club. McManus and his friend Billy Kidd were featured together on the cover of the Club’s magazine in November 1963.
Stowe innovator, Joe Daley tasked McManus with developing the early chart-based version of the International Ski Federation (FIS) and World Cup point system that rapidly ranked ski racers at the end of each race.
McManus raced for the Denver University Ski Team and then enlisted in the Army to race worldwide within the International Military Sports Council for the United States Army Alpine Ski Team. After winning the North American National Championships, he was named to the 1964 U. S. Alpine Ski Team and raced with the team during the 1963-1964 season. At the 1964 Innsbruck, Austria Winter Olympics, he and his teammates cheered on Vermont’s Billy Kidd and Jimmie Heuga as they made Winter Olympic alpine ski racing history as the first American men to win Olympic medals.
Following the Olympics, McManus finished his enlistment in the Army, married and went to work for a series of ski companies: Head Skis, Lange Boots, Olin Ski Testing, and his started his own mail order business.
McManus worked in the sound booth with Jim McKay at the 1968 Grenoble, France Winter Olympics and worked with Robert Redford in 1969 as a cast member and ski racer double in the American sports film drama, “Downhill Racer”. With a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous grin, McManus went through life promoting the growth of the ski industry until his life was cut short by a traffic accident in 1982.
Greg Morrill – Paul Robbins Award – Ski Historian
Greg Morrill received the 2022 Paul Robbins Award for excellence in ski and snowboard journalism. He got hooked on skiiing in college at the University of New Hampshire, and upon graduation in 1968 he moved to Vermont for a job at the IBM Burlington facility. This decision was made in large part due to the easy proximity to the slopes
Morrill retired after 31 years at IBM and promptly began teaching Computer Science for 11 years at Saint Michael’s College. After retiring for a second (and last) time, Greg began writing about skiing history and nostalgia in a weekly Stowe Reporter newspaper column during the ski season. His Retro-Ski column is built around weekly trivia questions, which test reader’s knowledge of skiing history. Greg maintains a blog at Retro-Skiing.com which contains all his trivia and related columns.
His 2014 book “Retro-Ski: A Nostalgic Look Back at Skiing” follows his trivia format where each chapter asks and answers a skiing history related question.
Catamount Trail Association – Bill McCollom Community Award
The Bill McCollom Community Award recognizes a group or organization that is making a significant and unique contribution to further Vermont’s place in skiing and snowboarding history. The 2022 award goes to the Catamount Trail Association.
The 300+ mile Catamount Trail began with a dream three adventurous young Vermont men, Steve Bushey, Paul Jarris, and Ben Rose had in 1982 of skiing the length of Vermont. In 1984 Steve, Ben, Paul, and sometimes Jim Painter and some others, strapped on their skis and skied from one end of Vermont to the other establishing the preliminary route that would birth the Catamount Trail Association. Thanks to their work and countless volunteers and supporters, the Catamount Trail was completed in 2002, and is the longest backcountry ski trail in North America.
Today the CTA maintains 300+ miles of backcountry ski trails and provides access to backcountry recreation. through conservation easements and the acquisition of public land.
The CTA has also increased access to Vermont’s backcountry and pioneered programs to expand equitable access to skiing, regardless of skier’s income or background. Launched in 2011, the Ski Cubs program provides over 500 youth the opportunity to experience outdoor winter recreation via cross-country ski each season, with a focus on partnering with underserved and New American communities.
To see past recipients visit vtssm.org