Sue Minter, 55, has an impressive résumé. She’s a Harvard graduate and the former Secretary of Transportation for Vermont. She led the state’s Tropical Storm Irene recovery efforts and has served as a state rep for her district. She’s now the Democratic candidate for governor and has an agenda for outdoor recreation. Minter lives in Waterbury with her husband, the author David Goodman, and has two children, Jasper and Ariel. And did we mention that she’s a wicked good figure skater and a ripping telemark skier?
So if this is a chairlift interview, what chairlift would we be on?
We wouldn’t be! We’d be skinning up. I believe the ascent is almost as fun as the descent. It gives you the time to really connect with your fellow climbers.
How did you get to be such a good tele skier?
I grew up as a competitive figure skater in Philadelphia, but we often came to Stowe on holidays to ski. Years later, we were living in Boston and my husband, David Goodman, was working on his first guidebook to backcountry skiing in New England for the Appalachian Mountain Club. I had a fellowship with the Conservation Law Foundation so we moved here in 1991. I was a downhill skier and he was a cross-country skier but on a trip to Colorado we tried skiing the 10th Mountain Trail and decided to try telemarking. It came relatively easily.
So you must know of some pretty good backcountry stashes?
There are so many great places here, especially on Mt. Mansfield, but because Camel’s Hump is always in view from my home, I’ve always loved skiing that mountain. One of my earliest backcountry ski adventures—we’re talking the 1980s—was there. It’s a long ascent and the top is always howling windy and icy, but there are more and more good descents and secret powder runs. I’ve always come down the Duxbury side but I’ve done an organized tour around Camel’s Hump and am starting to discover some great routes on the Huntington side as well.
How have you seen backcountry access change in Vermont?
It’s been really exciting to see ski resorts open up access to the backcountry and also to see the whole movement grow. When we started working on David’s book in the 1980s he was rediscovering overgrown routes that had been cut in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s so we were finding and mapping all these old routes.
If you are elected governor, what’s your vision for Vermont’s outdoors?
I want to make sure Vermont remains one of the top three destinations in the country for skier and rider visits. But we also need to think about four-season recreation and how to be proactive in developing areas for mountain biking. Trail building was actually part of our economic development strategy for our town, Waterbury, and it has helped us grow.
Tell us about your VT-Outdoors Plan.
There are three key initiatives in it. The first is to expand our trail systems for hiking and biking. Next, I’d like to promote our existing state parks and see if we can develop a hut-to-hut system. I’ve been to the 10th Mountain Division huts in Colorado and the Maine huts system and I’d love to see that developed here by a consortium of public and private groups. Last, I’d like to recruit outdoor industries and bring more young, active people to Vermont.
Why support outdoor recreation?
Outdoor recreation is part of Vermont’s heritage and under my leadership it will be a critical part of the Vermont brand and our economy. According to the Vermont Outdoor Industry association, the outdoor recreation economy includes approximately 34,000 direct Vermont jobs, $753 million in wages and salaries, and generates $176 million in state and local tax revenue.
And will you bring back the Governor’s ski race?
Yes! I want to rekindle that race and I’m already talking about it with a candidate in Colorado who’s a really hot skier.
Read more about candidates Sue Minter and Phil Scott at our sister publication, Vermont Sports.