In Memoriam: Hall of Fame Adaptive Instruction Icon Gwen Allard
Hall of Fame snowsports instructor Gwen Allard, one of the world’s visionaries in the field of adaptive instruction and a pioneer for raising the profile for women in snowsports teaching, died on Nov. 28 at the age of 86.
Inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame last year as a member of the class of 2022, Gwen spent a half century focusing on helping others learn how to ski, with a particular focus on adaptive. She was one of the first to embrace adaptive education and went on to become a well-respected leader within the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) for her innovative teaching methodology and the ability to effectively communicate it to students. Along the way, she was a model of perseverance in rallying the entire ski industry around adaptive sport.
“Gwen changed PSIA-AASI forever in making our entire organization focus on the importance of Adaptive Snowsports and the need for Adaptive Snowsports Education,” said PSIA-AASI CEO Peggy Hiller. “We are a far better and more inclusive organization because of Gwen.”
Marking her impact on the growth of adaptive snowsports instruction, Gwen’s Hall of Fame induction notes, “The hallmark of her impact on snowsports was that of a visionary who dreamed big then brought people together to make things happen. Her career was multi-faceted, but her primary contributions came in the field of adaptive sport, where her tireless promotion of the discipline and development of programs and standards created a greater awareness and acceptance of the discipline within the snowsports community.”
One of her most noted accomplishments was the development of the Adaptive Sports Foundation at New York’s Ski Windham. Starting with a fledgling program in 1983, she grew it to become an epicenter for adaptive sport. In 2005, the foundation opened the Gwen Allard Adaptive Sports Center, which continued to grow and now features its own chairlift. Gwen received PSIA-AASI’s Educational Excellence Award in 2002.
PSIA-AASI Adaptive Team Coach Geoff Krill said that Gwen was more than a trailblazer to him, and that focusing solely on her adaptive inroads doesn’t do justice to everything she accomplished as an instructional innovator.
“Gwen was someone who saw potential in everything and everyone,” Geoff said. “For me personally, she was my first examiner and pushed me from that moment to keep stretching the boundaries of what it means to be an adaptive instructor in the industry.”
“She lived skiing to the end and was family to us all,” Geoff continued. “What does my heart good was that she was still skiing with her hands in her final days and trying to keep figuring it out, according to her son, Rob Bevier. She had a life well lived and with purpose and exemplified what we should all try to be.”
In recalling the impact that Gwen and New York instruction icon Freddie Anderson, who died in December 2022 at the age of 101, had on snowsports and teaching, former PSIA-AASI Adaptive Team Coach Kim Seevers wrote on her Facebook page, “They not only paved the way for women to become ski instructors, they shattered the glass ceiling by becoming two of the most influential people, male OR female, in our professional member organization, the Professional Ski Instructors of America – American Association of Snowboard Instructors… Gwen pioneered adaptive ski teaching and paved the way for individuals with disabilities to take to the slopes.”
Read more about Gwen’s accomplishments on her U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame page.
Read about Gwen’s reaction to her Hall of Fame induction in this interview with frequent 32 Degrees contributor Mark Aiken on the PSIA-AASI Eastern website.