5 Legendary Ladies Who Shook Things Up

Pioneers in their own areas, these Vermont women didn’t and don’t just rip—they’ve changed snowsports. 

Ann “Nosedive Annie” Bonfoey Taylor 

(1910-2007)

Ann “Nosedive Annie” Bonfoey Taylor. Photo courtesy the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum

Skiing was just a second career for Ann Bonfoey Taylor, who first hit the world stage as a tennis star. Before starting her ski racing career, she competed at Wimbledon. When she moved to Vermont with her family, she quickly mastered “Nosedive,” one of Stowe’s steepest and most notorious trails, earning her nickname and a spot as an alternate on the U.S. Olympic Ski Team for the 1940 Winter Olympics. When World War II broke out and cancelled the Games, she did what any sensible athlete would do: enroll in an aviation program at the University of Vermont to become a pilot.

Bonfoey became one of 25 women flight instructors for Army and Navy pilots during the war. She later wrote a book about the experience before changing careers once again, designing fashion-forward, highly practical women’s ski clothing, that she sold for many years from her shop in Stowe. Her pieces were featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, LIFE and taken up by Lord & Taylor. Her clothing collection now resides at the Phoenix Museum of Art.

Betsy  Pratt

(1928-Present)

If anyone in the ski industry deserves the moniker “maverick,” it’s Betsy Pratt.

Betsy Pratt by Scott Markewitz

She and her husband Truxton Pratt bought Mad River Glen in 1972. When he died three years later, Betsy rolled up her sleeves, bought out their other business partner and started her 20-year reign. At the time there were hardly any ski areas in America owned and managed by women.

Pratt held fabulous parties at the Mad River Barn, the ski lodge she also owned, skied hard and arguably set the course for Mad River Glen’s legacy and brand. She famously told The New York Times in 1989, “I hate the ski industry. I’m not a member of the ski industry; I’m the steward of a mountain.”

In 1995, looking to retire, she sold the ski area back to its skiers, creating the existing cooperative—the first and only of its kind in the United States. Her legacy is ever present, from the sustainably managed ski glades to the steep and winding trails and natural features that abound.

Jan  Reynolds

(1956-Present)

Jan Reynolds does it all. Photo courtesy Jan Reynolds.

Jan Reynolds grew up on a farm in Salisbury, Vt., which is probably where she got the strong work ethic she’s known for as a mountaineer. After cross-country skiing for Middlebury Union High School’s Nordic team, she skied for the University of Vermont where she was named most valuable skier.

After college, she switched gears, beginning a series of mountaineering expeditions to places ranging from Morocco to New Zealand to Mount Everest. In 1980 she set what was then the women’s world record for high altitude skiing on Tibet’s 24,600-foot high Muztagh Ata peak. She completed the first circumnavigation of Mt. Everest in 1981-1982 and in 1985, made the first descent of Toubkal, which is, at 14,000 feet, North Africa’s tallest peak.

She joined the U.S. Biathlon team and in 1983 led them at the World Championships. Now 64, she lives in Stowe, still crushes, and is the author of several books. Her most recent is “The Glass Summit: One Woman’s Epic Journey Breaking Through.” 

“Women often think, ‘I should brush up on this.’ But by the time ladies raise their hands to take their turn, the guys are already gone… I say, ‘Just go!’” she told Backcountry Magazine in 2018.

Reynolds’ proudest personal accomplishment, she says, is “still going hard as a multi-sport athlete at nearly 64 with no intention to stop.” Professionally, she is most proud of the extremely remote travel she did to create her Vanishing Cultures series, which she describes as the most dangerous thing she’s ever done—aside from traveling solo over the Himalaya or flying a hot air balloon over Mt. Everest.

Andrea Mead Lawrence

(1932-2009)

Andrea Mead Lawrence in her beloved Eastern Sierra. Photo courtesy Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum

Andrea Mead Lawrence may be best known for being the first American skier to win two gold medals in a single Winter Olympics. She did so in Oslo, Norway in 1952 at age 19—a feat that put her on the cover of TIME magazine the same year. 

The daughter of Pico Mountain founders Janet and Bob Mead, Andrea started skiing at age three and racing at ten. She went to her first Olympics in 1948 in St. Moritz at just 15. At the 1952 Olympics, she fell mid-course on her second slalom run, got up, grabbed her skis and ran back to the last gate to ski down and finish in 4th place.

But perhaps her greatest legacy is as a political activist who spearheaded a grassroots environmental movement that radically expanded the scope of environmental review in California through the California Supreme Court Case, Friends of Mammoth v. Mono County (1972).

She served in political office in Mono Co., Ca, home to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, for nearly 20 years. During that time she testified before U.S. Congress many times, helping protect  thousands of acres of land. She authored a book, “A Practice of Mountains” and raised five children with her ski racing husband Dave Lawrence.

Time Magazine put it best when they said of the 19-year-old in 1952, “She drinks a beer with her meals, and is usually ready to join a friend in Gluewein. She smokes a cigarette when she feels like it,” and “She wears no lipstick; she has never been to a manicurist or a hairdresser.”

And man, could she ski.

Donna Carpenter

(1964-Present)

As co-owner of Burton Snowboards, Donna Carpenter has built snowboards, answered phones and served as CFO.

Burton Snowboards owners, Jake Burton Carpenter and his wife Donna Carpenter, on a late November hike around Stowe Mountain Resort on Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield with their energetic dog, Lily. Photo by Ben Sarle

Alongside her late husband Jake Burton Carpenter, she’s helped take Burton from a regional innovator to an international powerhouse and the most renowned snowboard company on the planet.

She also leads the nonprofit Chill Foundation, which she and Jake founded in 1985 to bring boardsports to kids who couldn’t otherwise access them. She’s helped countless kids learn to ride. A strong advocate for sustainability, she has also helped Burton continue to build boards in more eco-friendly ways.

Carpenter has been a champion of women at Burton,  developing internal programs to recruit and mentor women. In January 2017, she covered employees’ costs to attend the Women’s March on Washington.

Featured Photo: Andrea Mead Lawrence in the heat of a ski race. Photo courtesy Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum.

Abagael Giles

Abagael Giles is the Assistant Editor at Vermont Ski + Ride Magazine. She loves free-heel skiing and exploring her home state of Vermont–one ridgetop at a time. Find her on Twitter at @AbagaelGiles.

Leave a comment