Obituary: Gwenith Allard, 1937-2023 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Gwenith Allard, 1937-2023 

A love of nature and innate compassion inspired Vermont woman to create adaptive snow sports programs

Published December 7, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated December 7, 2023 at 11:31 a.m.

click to enlarge Gwen Allard - COURTESY
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  • Gwen Allard

Gwen Allard was a much beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Her life’s work was advocating and empowering the disabled community. She was a revolutionary in her field, and her vision was a spark that ignited commitment and momentum in the hearts of those who met and worked with her. She was contagious.

Gwen’s deep love of nature, combined with her innate compassion for others, fueled her pioneering efforts in creating adaptive snow sports programs throughout the United States. Her energy and lifelong commitment to helping others painted the mountains with hope, making the thrill of skiing accessible to all.

Hundreds of people called Gwen “Mom.” Her hugs were a universe of comfort; her spiritual depth and empathy as vast as the sky. Gwen used to say, “Church is sitting on a ski lift on a sunny winter's days riding up the mountain listening to birds and seeing snow crystals sparkling on pine tree limbs!” Off the snow, Gwen loved gatherings at a family lodge at Hunt Lake in the Adirondacks, where laughter and camaraderie filled the air for decades! She was a gardener, a baker, a lover of animals and the outdoors.

Of her many accomplishments, Gwen was president of the Junior League of Schenectady, received degrees from the University of Delaware and Russell Sage College, and contributed her expertise to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Special Olympics. Her pioneering adaptive sports curriculums are the foundation of adaptive programs across the country and led to her induction into the Disabled Sports USA Hall of Fame in 2001.

Gwen’s determination to create ever more innovative approaches to enable any disabled person to access the sport of skiing dovetailed with her tenacious capacity to fundraise. In 1983 Gwen arrived at Ski Windham in the Catskills and formed the Adaptive Sports Foundation, a 501c3 corporation which became one of the largest programs of its type in the country. As the scope and reach of ASF programs expanded, so did its facilities. An 8,500-sq. ft. adaptive center is named in her honor, complete with its own chairlift.

Charlie Wood and the Paul Newman Foundation contacted Gwen and challenged her to transform what had once been a small Adirondack ski area into a modern facility, welcoming seriously disabled children to enjoy winter activities, with a focus on skiing. Ski lifts, snowmaking and grooming equipment were secured, with ski patrol, ski instructors and medical staff all volunteering their time and equipment to what is now known as the Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne, N.Y. In 1998 a new ski trail, “Gwen’s Fun Run,” was named as a tribute to her leadership.

In 2021 the adaptive wing of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Museum, located in Ishpeming, Mich., was named after her. In 2022 Gwen was given skiing's highest honor by being formally inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, in recognition of a lifetime of achievements within the snow sports industry and adaptive community.

Gwen wore her heart on her sleeve and shared her wonderful energy, not only with immediate family, but also with devoted groups of friends, including Freddie Anderson, her dear friend, mentor, and founder of the Schenectady Ski School. Their enduring relationship spanned many decades.

Gwen Allard passed away peacefully on Tuesday, November 28, with family by her side in her beloved state of Vermont. She leaves behind her husband, Ray Allard; son John Bevier and his wife, Lyn; son Rob Bevier and his wife, Trena; stepson Scott Allard, stepdaughter Cherie Briggs; granddaughters Isabel, Ellen and Samantha; step-granddaughters Brittney and Courtney; great-grandsons Bradley and Caleb; and her sister, Marlyn Martin.

We take comfort in knowing Gwen’s spirit will live on through her legacy: the continued joy, independence and freedom her efforts have brought to so many, and so many yet to come.

In lieu of flowers, please support your favorite tax-deductible adaptive sports program, such as Adaptive Sports Foundation, Vermont Adaptive or Double H Ranch. Your support changes lives for the better.

We will announce a date for Gwen’s celebration of life after spring skiing ends and lifts stop carrying skiers to the tops of mountains.

If you would like to receive information, please email us at [email protected]. A form will autogenerate and be sent to you so you can share your contact information, allowing us to update you with our celebratory event details.

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