Meet the Vermonters who are making history.
If you want to rub elbows with Vermonters who have made ski history, put October 27 on your calendar. That’s when the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum holds its annual Hall of Fame gala. This year’s event, held at the Killington Grand Hotel, honors five Hall of Fame inductees and presents three special awards.
Hannah Kearney: Mogul Maven
There are only a handful of skiers in the world who can match Norwich native Hannah Kearney’s blistering record. Growing up in the Upper Valley, Hannah learned to ski at age two when her parents strapped a horse halter on her and guided her down the slopes. At age 9, she joined the Waterville Valley, N.H. freestyle team. By 16, she was doing backflips.
During the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons alone, the freestyle mogul skier won a record-setting 16 World Cups in a row, eclipsing Ingemar Stenmark’s record for the longest winning streak in any discipline.
After stumbling on a jump in her first Olympics in 2006, Kearney came back with a vengeance to win a gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 and a bronze in Sochi in 2014, all while taking classes at Dartmouth. She went on to graduate in 2018 from Westminster College in Utah, after racking up eight World Championship medals, three gold; and 10 F.I.S. World Cup crystal globes. In total, Kearney has stood on World Cup podiums 43 times.
Kearney credits part of her success as a skier to doing ski ballet as a kid: “My success comes from the heart of the sport which is that you had to recover at all costs, be really strong, well balanced but also agile and light on your feet,” as she told NBC in January 2018.
Foster Chandler: Marketing Guru
Foster Chandler has skied 196 ski areas, but there’s one he knows best. From 1964 to 1996 Chandler was vice president and director of marketing at Killington, which he helped grow into one of the largest ski resorts in the East. He mass marketed the Graduated Length Method that revolutionized the way people learned to ski, resulting in major growth of the sport in the 1970s and ‘80s. He was founder and president of Ski New England, director of New England Ski Areas Council for 46 years and served as chairman of the Vermont Travel Council.
Dennis Donahue: Biathlete and Coach
Biathlete Dennis Donahue raced internationally from 1968 to 1976, representing the Putney Ski Club. He competed in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics and raced in five World Biathlon Championships. After seven years teaching and coaching at the Holderness School, he has spent 30-plus years dedicated to the development of competitive junior skiing in New England at the Ford Sayre program at both national and regional levels. He has also been actively involved with the Junior Olympics. Donahue grew up in Essex Junction, went to Middlebury College and currently lives in Thetford.
Paul Johnston: Pioneer of Pipes and Parks
Paul Johnston accumulated many firsts in his 30 years in the ski resort industry, most notably as vice president of Stratton Mountain Resort, where he opened the slopes to snowboarders and hosted the U.S. Open of Snowboarding, starting in 1985. Under his direction, Stratton brought in specialized grooming equipment, including a pipe grinder, and was able to introduce halfpipe events at the 1998 U.S. Open. As the number of riders at ski areas quickly grew, Johnston was instrumental in helping other resorts navigate best practices for instructors, equipment and liability. He also worked at Bromley Mountain in the 1970s, installing snowmaking and the first alpine slide.
Janet and Brad Mead: Pico’s Founders
Pico Peak founders Janet and Brad Mead opened their ski area in Rutland on Thanksgiving Day 1937 with a rope tow on Little Pico. In 1938, Sunset Schuss opened on a hike-up basis, and Karl Acker arrived from Switzerland as the ski school director. The Meads installed the first T-bar in the U.S. in 1940. After Brad’s tragic drowning in a boating accident in 1942, Janet ran the ski area until 1954 focusing on youth programs. Their daughter Andrea Mead Lawrence succeeded internationally in ski racing, winning two Olympic gold medals in 1952.
Community Award: Killington Resort
Killington Resort and president Mike Solimano will receive the first Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Community Award. The award recognizes “a group or organization that is making a significant and unique contribution to further Vermont’s place in skiing and snowboarding history.” Killington brought Mikaela Shiffrin and the world’s top women slalom and giant slalom racers to Vermont by hosting the F.I.S. Alpine Women’s World Cup in 2016 and 2017. In its first year, the Killington World Cup outdrew any other women’s World Cup event in attendance, bringing more than 30,000 spectators over two days. Thanks to superb race management, a slopeside vendor village and free concerts and ski films, the following year exceeded that number and 2018’s event, to be held Thanksgiving Weekend is expected to as well.
First Tracks Award: Kelly Brush Davisson
This year, Kelly Brush Davisson will receive the second annual First Tracks Award, which honors exceptional and ongoing contributions to skiing or snowboarding in Vermont by someone under 35. This award is given in memory of Ian Graddock, a Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Board member and lifelong skier who passed away in 2016 at the age of 35. A Middlebury College ski racer, Kelly suffered a spinal cord injury in 2006 in a collegiate ski race. Soon after, Kelly and her family founded the Kelly Brush Foundation, which started as a commitment to ski racing safety and has expanded to helpingpeople with spinal cord injuries lead an active lifestyle. Since then, the Kelly Brush Foundation has raised more than $4.5 million and helped more than 621 people in 47 states. Grants have gone to everything from helping skiers get adaptive equipment to providing safety netting at races such as Killington’s World Cup.
Paul Robbins Award: Peter Oliver
Waitsfield’s Peter Oliver will receive the Paul Robbins Journalism Award in recognition of his contributions to ski writing. Oliver is the author of seven books, including Stowe: Classic New England and The Insider’s Guide to the Best Skiing in New England and more than 150 feature articles for Skiing, Ski, Outside, SkiVermont, Powder, Ski Area Management, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, USA Today and many other publications.
Photo Caption: Young fans at the 2017 Killington World Cup. Photo by Alex Klein.