The Vermont Sports 30

John Caldwell (center) raises a glass with his son, Sverre at his right and nephew Zach at his left.

5 Families With Lasting Legacies

In Vermont, blood runs way thicker than water. The Green Mountain state has been blessed with families who have passed on an outdoor ethic from one generation to the next. Each of these families has multiple members who, on their own, would be in the top 30 but their collective contributions are even greater.

8. CALDWELLS: Nordic’s First Family

It is hard to overstate the impact the Caldwell clan has had on Nordic skiing in Vermont and, truth be told, worldwide. Patriarch John Caldwell turned 92 this November. The former Olympic Nordic combined skier and coach still calls Putney home, the town he moved to with his parents in 1941 when his dad took a job at the Putney School.

John would go on to teach and coach at the boarding school after graduating from Dartmouth and in 1964 published, The Cross-Country Ski Book. It remains one of the most widely-distributed ski books and helped generations learn to ski. Three of Caldwell’s four children with his wife Hep became Nordic ski legends on their own, benefitting from the wisdom John shared as a coach of the U.S. Olympic teams from 1960 to 1972 and then again in 1984.

Daughter Jennifer was the 1983 American Birkebiener champion and raced canoes until she passed away from cancer in 2012.

Son Tim competed in four Olympics.  Tim’s son Patrick competed in the 2018 Olympics and his daughter Heidi, who coaches running at Craftsbury Outdoor Center, has won the Mt. Washington Hill Climb and run a 2:42 marathon.  Sverre Caldwell  skied at Dartmouth and went on to coach at the Putney School then at the Stratton Mountain School in 1980 before retiring in 2019. 

Sverre was a three-time USSA Coach of the Year and coached five of the athletes on the 2019-20, U.S. Ski Team, including Olympian Andy Newell and Sverre’s daughter, Sophie Caldwell. Sverre also founded the Stratton T2 Elite Team which drew skiers such as Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins and teammate Simi Hamilton (now Sophie Caldwell’s husband) to Vermont to train. In that training group too was Patrick Caldwell, Sverre’s nephew. John’s other son, Peter, was an equally accomplished skier but chose not to continue in competition.

Today, down the road from John Caldwell’s home in Putney, John’s nephew, Zach Caldwell has been picking, tuning and waxing skis for the top cross-country ski racers in the world. Zach and his wife Amy, a two-time amateur World Champion in triathlon, recently bought the West Hill Shop, the well-loved bike shop, and are combining it with Caldwell Sport.

While not every Caldwell has been a winner in a sport, just about every one of them has played a key role in helping another skier to win – and usually to win big—as a coach, ski tech or teammate.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle with his mother, Barbara Ann Cochran at the 2011 Audi Birds of Prey Alpine World Cup, Beaver Creek, CO Super G
Photo: Tom Kelly/U.S. Ski Team

9. COCHRANS: Building Generations of Medalists

On any given winter Friday night, the frozen dirt parking lot at tiny Cochran’s Ski Hill in Richmond is jammed. Up on the lit slopes, new generations of ski racers might be watching Tim and Robby Kelley  carving through gates as Marilyn Cochran Brown shepherds her  young  grandson, Charlie Brown – who many say is the next Olympian in the family. Jimmy Cochran and his father, Bob, might be busy working on a grooming machine. You might see Barbara Ann Cochran serving up lasagna –and aside of inspirational coaching—to a posse of hungry young skiers. Lindy Cochran (Tim and Robby’s mom) could be talking with a parent and brother Bob Cochran stoking one of the small bonfires at the base. Missing is Ryan Cochran-Siegle, but that’s because he’s off racing World Cup in Europe.

If you combined the Olympic, World Cup, NCAA and other medals this family has collected, you could sink a battleship.

To spell things out: Marilyn Cochran Brown was the 1969 World Cup giant slalom champion and the 1970 World Championship bronze. Her son Roger Brown won the NCAA slalom championships and was a U.S. Ski Team member from 2004-06.

Barbara Ann Cochran  won the slalom gold at the 1972 Olympics and silver at the 1970 World Championships. She was also the U.S. slalom and giant slalom champion. Her son, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, is a current member of the U.S. Ski Team and defending champion of the Nor-Am Overall Title. He was a five-time junior national champion and gold medalist in downhill and combined at the World Alpine Junior Championships in 2012. His sister Caitlin Brown also coached ski racing.

Lindy Cochran Kelley won both the U.S. National slalom and giant slalom titles and was a NCAA All-American while at the University of Vermont. Her oldest son, Tim Kelley, is a former NCAA slalom champion. Lindy’s daughter, Jessica Kelley, skied with the U.S. Ski Team from 2001-10. She has been a three-time NorAm champion and was the giant slalom silver medalist at the 2002 World Junior Championships.

The youngest, Robby Kelley, was on the U.S. Ski Team from 2011-14. In 2012, he was the U.S. National Champion in giant slalom and North American Cup Champion in giant slalom. In 2015, he had six international slalom wins.

Robert “Bob” Cochran was the first American to ever take the gold in the legendary Hahnenkamm combined event in Kitzbuhel, Austria. That same year, 1973, he became the first American man to win a World Cup giant slalom. Bob Cochran was also a two-time U.S. national champion in slalom, giant slalom, and downhill. His son Jimmy Cochran was on the U.S. Ski Team from 2005-09 and on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2006 and 2010. He raced in three World Championships (2005, 2007, and 2009) and is a four-time U.S. national champion. Daughter Amy raced for the University of Vermont.

The biggest lasting legacy is the program patriarch Mickey and Ginny Cochran started when they put up a rope tow on their Richmond hill. Since then, thousands of young kids have learned to ski “the Cochran way:” competing on a shoestring budget, training their hearts out and never giving up.

10. DESLAURIERS: Keeping it in the Family

It’s remarkable that Vermont has two families that not only founded ski areas, but are still running them. In 1966 Ralph DesLauriers, now 85, and his father took a tract of timber land high in the Greens and began carving trails and putting in lifts. Bolton Valley became the place his five kids learned to ski, hucking off rocks and small cliffs, and snaking through the tight trees. His two oldest, Eric and Rob, went on to become pioneers in extreme skiing, appearing in Warren Miller films and for movies filmed and produced by their brother Adam.

Ralph, Adam, Evan and Lindsay DesLauriers: The once and future keepers of Bolton Valley Resort.

And it was not just Ralph’s kids who learned to ski there. “When I built Bolton Valley back in the ’60s, I made it my mission to give every Vermont child the opportunity to ski,” Ralph said. “We established after-school programs where kids could take the bus up after school and learn to ski — and tens of thousands of kids all over Chittenden and Washington counties have learned to love skiing at Bolton Valley. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of, and it’s that same family centered mission and love of Vermont that’s driving me and my kids back into this business.”

Ralph sold the resort in 1997 but 20 years later, in 2017, he and his daughter Lindsay and sons Evan and Adam, bought it back. Since then, Lindsay has taken over as CEO with Adam pioneering the resort as a backcountry basecamp, with a backcountry rental center, season-long rentals (new this year), guided skiing and a heated yurt – as well as two backcountry cabins.

And it’s still a Mecca for kids, with an indoor skatepark, kids remote learning programs, night skiing and, new this season, Mad Taco tacos at the base.

11. DREISSIGACKERS: Making Fitness Fun

In 1976,  Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer were two rowers training for the Olympics. Dick had just earned his M.S. from Stanford and, with his brother Peter, was designing and building oars using a new material at the time, carbon  fiber. That November, after combing the country to find a place to start their oar company, Concept2, the brothers settled on an abandoned dairy farm in Morrisville. Dick and Judy, a Dartmouth grad ,married and the family built Concept2 into a leader in the rowing and fitness world.

Judy Geer and Dick Dreissigacker at the Chairman’s Awards Dinner 2016 USSA Congress
Photo: USSA

They trained and tested their oars just up the road, on Big Hosmer Pond at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, where owners Russell and Janet Spring had built winter ski programs and summer tennis and soccer camps. Nordic director John Brodhead had already made a name for Craftsbury as a cross-country destination and started the 50K Craftsbury Marathon in 1981.

In 2008, the Dreissigackers set up a non-profit foundation to purchase the center. Since then, they have extended the trail system, upgraded the lodging, built a new state-of-the-art fitness center and founded the Green Racing Project which lets athletes work at the center (coaching, or helping with chores focused around sustainable practices) to earn their keep while they live and train there. Among those athletes are World Cup biathlon champion Susan Dunklee, Olympic biathletes Hannah and Emily Dreissigacker (Dick and Judy’s daughters), and cross-country ski Olympians Ida Sargent and Kaitlynn Miller and World Cup oarsmen Peter Graves and Steve Whelpley, who now coaches at Craftsbury.

12. VON TRAPPS: Building a Lasting Playground 

It is hard to imagine 2,500 acres of open space in Stowe today. But that’s the footprint of the Trapp Family Lodge property with more than 100 kilometers  of trails, a 96-room lodge and villas and chalets hidden in the woods and hillsides.

The von Trapp story is now legend: after fleeing Austria, Baron Georg von Trapp and his wife Maria bought the Gale Farm in Stowe in 1942 and set up what became first a music camp and then an inn. When son Johannes took it over he opened a cross-country center in 1968, the first of its kind in America.  Johannes, who had a forestry degree from Yale, first skied to get to the woodlot. “It was a much faster way to get out into the backcountry, out to timber or to the old hill farms than snowshoeing,” he says.

Johannes von Trapp and his son Sam skiing at the Trapp Family Lodge cross country trails. Photo by Paul Boisvert

Over the years, he bought and annexed many neighboring farms to the original 660-acre von Trapp property, naming trails after the families that owned them. The outdoor center and  ski rentals were initially a way to keep guests happy in the winter. A charismatic ski instructor named Per Sorlie was recruited from Norway and soon the Trapp Family Lodge was America’s first destination cross-country ski center.

Johannes children, Kristina and Sam, became accomplished ski racers and ski instructors and all-around athletes  and have helped grow the trail network into a mountain biking and trail running heaven. Snowmaking keeps the trails covered late in the season and the cabin at the top of the network, Slayton Pasture Cabin, a place to refuel with hot soup in front of a roaring fire. 


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