Super Senior: Gwen Allard

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 6:01 PM EDT
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MENDON, Vt. (WCAX) - Even as a child, Gwen Allard has been drawn to the mountains.

“I’ve been skiing since four,” Allard said.

On a clear day, there’s a stellar view from her deck in Mendon. “That is Killington up here,” Allard points out.

“You can catch a glimpse of Pico out behind these trees, but today we’re not getting any of that,” said Ray, Allard’s husband.

The two met decades ago at Gore Mountain in New York. Ray was the director and Gwen taught folks to ski. “He always gave me the hardest darn skiers,” Allard said.

She was no ordinary ski instructor. Allard became a pioneer of adaptive skiing in the United States. “They’re neat people, they’re great people ...and they have a lot of courage. I learned a lot,” she said.

At 5-foot-10, the self-described “Big Girl” helped get veterans who lost limbs in Korea and Vietnam into makeshift ski equipment. “tThey were tired of, ‘No, you can’t do that,’” Allard said. But it didn’t end there. She wrote manuals on adaptive skiing.

“She got the whole country together on the same set of standards,” Ray said. “The big thing about Gwen is, she gets things done.”

Inside their home, there’s a wall full of honors and appreciations from mayors to presidents -- also her first skis.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You earned this.

Gwen Allard: I was the right person at the right time. That’s all it was.

But one of her most cherished photographs is signed by Diana Golden, a disabled ski racer who lost a leg to cancer when she was 12.

Reporter Joe Carroll: She must’ve really looked up to you.

Gwen Allard: I’d do anything for that lady.

Golden’s cancer came back and she died at just 38.

At 85, Allard’s balance is tenuous. She had to give up her cherished sport a few years ago and now lives off those memories.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Can you imagine, Gwen, a life without skiing?

Gwen Allard: No. And I’m a bitch in the wintertime when I can’t get out and ski anymore.

Just a few weeks ago, Allard was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Montana. Her son, Rob, went out, to accept the honor. They noted that for a half-century, Allard was a pioneering snow sports educator.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Do you have a soft spot for people with disabilities?

Gwen Allard: Oh yeah.

Reporter Joe Carroll: It must have been very satisfying for you.

Gwen Allard: It was -- and fun.

Making it possible for all to enjoy a life on the slopes.