Molly Gray, 36, the former Assistant Attorney General, was sworn in at the Montpelier statehouse as Lieutenant Governor of Vermont in January. Daughter of two-time Olympic cross-country racer Bob Gray and his wife Kim (an alpine ski racer), Molly grew up on the family farm in Newbury, a small town north of White River Junction. A fourth-generation Vermonter, Gray went to Stratton Mountain School, earned an athletic scholarship to University of Vermont and then pursued her law degree at Vermont Law School. She has worked for Congressman Peter Welch and the International Red Cross where she helped champion human rights for detainees in places such as Georgia, Uganda and the Balkans. Later, she was recruited to the International Code of Conduct Association. There, she helped ensure private security contractors complied with human rights laws and lead missions in East Africa, Nigeria and Iraq.
The important question first: where do you ski these days?
Oh gosh, you’re going to make me choose just one place? Every time I go back to Newbury, I try to ski up Tucker Mountain, (which has been purchased by our town). At the top, there’s a 360-degree view of the Greens and the Whites and there’s an exciting downhill as well. But it’s a real pleasure to go to small [cross-country] ski areas around the state like Sleepy Hollow, which is such a family-friendly, well-run business; Craftsbury, which has really made skiing accessible and affordable and Rikert Nordic Ski Area, which now has the snowmaking loop.
Your best recent memory skiing?
Last winter I skied into the Chittenden Brook Cabin with a bunch of girlfriends. We brought in food, cooked great meals at the cabin and skied Brandon Gap.
You competed in Div. 1 at UVM, what race are you most proud of?
When I was at UVM I actually won the Stowe Derby in the freestyle division. That’s such a fun race and one I’d love to go back and do again.
How did your parents teach you to ski?
It’s no secret that my parents raced pretty competitively, so my childhood included a lot of skiing. Winter didn’t happen without skiing and skiing didn’t happen without winter. We’d ski in the backyard on tracks my dad would set down, or we’d tow each other up the hill on a rope behind the snow machine. My dad was pretty good at building things and he made a track sled and eventually bought one of those small groomers and laid trails in the strawberry fields. We learned to alpine ski at Northeast Slopes, which is our area rope tow and I think one of the oldest rope tows still working in Vermont. We also skied on the VAST snowmobile trails and the ungroomed trails in Groton State Forest.
What was it like growing up on a working farm?
We have 35 Jersey cows and 225 acres and grow vegetables such as strawberries, tomatoes, squash and pumpkins. I think the toughest chores were planting rows and rows of strawberries. I always remember my dad’s mantra: “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” There’s a stubbornness and toughness that comes with growing up on the farm that allows you to endure just about anything in life. But it also lets you truly appreciate what the land has to offer and what it means to face a lot of unpredictability that comes with changes to the weather and all the unknowns that come with being a farmer.
Your take on the Governor’s 2021 budget, which allocated $10 million to outdoor recreation?
Vermont is a place that has so much to offer —like the Lamoille Valley rail trail or our pristine swimming holes in Southern Vermont, or our world class mountain biking and skiing. If we’re going to draw people here and reverse our population decline, we need to make investments in recreation.
What drew you back to Vermont?
I don’t know whether it’s the diversity of our seasons or the harshness of our winters or the beauty of our summers. There’s something about Vermont that gets in into the heart and marrow, of all of us. It’s hard to even find words for it. n