The 2016 Hall of Fame Inductees

 

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Chip LaCasse

A born skier from Lebanon, N.H., LaCasse headed for the Rockies after high school and became a champion ski jumper for legendary coach Bob Beattie at Colorado. His first taste of coaching came at Colorado, where he became an assistant at the college that eventually would be a career-long nemesis.

But after getting his masters in physical education, LaCasse returned to New England, where he began coaching at Lebanon High School. Then he began his career at Vermont, which seems to him now like a quick schuss down the mountain.

''I know I'm not that old,'' he said, ''but then I look at all the years that haved piled up ... it's pretty amazing.''

In fact, LaCasse's career is inseparable from the rags-to-riches tale of the powerhouse Vermont skiing program itself. Well before LaCasse's time, in the 1950s, when the NCAA approved the first national collegiate championship, Dartmouth and Middlebury were the top guns in the East, with Vermont near the cellar most years.

Having skied for the top program in the country, LaCasse at first turned down Vermont when it offered him the assistant's job in 1969. ''After skiing with the best, I said no the first time,'' he said. But when his old friend, Dartmouth ski coach Al Merrill, convinced him to take the job, Merrill could not have known he was creating a monster that would topple his powerful program.

LaCasse had two problems, as he sized up Vermont's prospects in those days. First, it did not host a carnival, and so, in effect, did not have any home turf to race on. But a carnival took money and manpower to develop, so he had to sell the idea to the university, which he did in the mid-70s. But the team was so insignificant at that time, the big guns still didn't take it seriously.

''Al Merrill sent the Dartmouth B team,'' LaCasse said, ''because he wanted to rest his top team for other carnivals.''

That may have been the last time Vermont was not taken seriously. For LaCasse had focused on another, more serious problem - the flood of young ski racers out of the state. Olympians such as Billy Kidd, Rick Chaffee, and Rebel Ryan never considered staying home to ski at Vermont, instead skiing for Denver and Colorado.

LaCasse began his recruiting drive in the top New England programs, but found the Western tradition well-entrenched. ''Everyone wanted to go out West,'' he said. ''It was pretty discouraging.''

But along came one of Vermont's most famous ski dynasties, the Cochrans, whose patriarch, Mickey, founder of Cochran's Ski Area in Richmond, also raised four world-class ski racers - Barbara Ann (Olympic gold in slalom in 1972), Lindy (1976 Olympian), Marilyn (World Cup GS champion), and Bob, an Olympian who placed eighth in the downhill in 1972 and won the Austrian Hahnenkamm downhill - a feat that remained unequaled by an American until Daron Rahlves won the most prestigious downhill on the circuit.

Bobby Cochran not only became the draw that turned Vermont's program around, as a 4.0 GPA medical student he helped forge the image of the highly disciplined student-athlete.

''Bobby was essential to the development of our program,'' said LaCasse. ''He gave us almost instant credibility, a big drawing card.''

At times, LaCasse was forced to recruit skiers from overseas, and yet he always has scoured New England, Vermont especially. ''My goal is always to attract the best,'' he says. ''I never wanted to have a completely foreign team. I've wanted a blend so Vermont skiers have the best racers around them.''

During his tenure at UVM, LaCasse built the Catamount program into a national power, leading the Cats to six national titles, 10 runner-up finishes and a record 28 Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) championships. Named EISA Coach of the Year a record seven times, LaCasse’s skiers earned 44 individual NCAA titles and more than 250 All-America certificates during his remarkable 33-year run at UVM.

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Stan Dunklee

With the sudden emergence of Scandinavians on the collegiate ski teams, it is rare that an American male has won the NCAA individual cross country championship. One of the last was Stan Dunklee, a two-time All-America, former Olympian, four-time All-East selectee, and a 1987 UVM Hall of Fame inductee. A native of Brattleboro, Dunklee returned from the 1976 Olympics in Austria to win the NCAA 15-kilometer race in 1976 at Bethel, Maine. He also won the Eastern 15K titles at Middlebury in 1975 and 1976 to earn first-team All-America honors. A two-time Olympian (1976 and 1980), he was considered - along with Bill Koch - one of America's top cross country ski stars.

Soon after graduating from UVM, where he earned a degree in animal sciences, Dunklee would become America's top racer, taking over that ranking from 1976 Olympic silver medallist Koch, who was sidelined with an illness. His coach at UVM, Chip LaCasse, was obviously proud of his athlete's victory in the 1976 NCAAs, but the previous year sticks out in LaCasse's recollection of Dunklee's contributions. "That performance in 1976 was superb, but what impressed me most was Stan's courage in 1975. He had an early season stress fracture of the foot and mononucleosis and still, he finished in the Top Five at the NCAAs (at Fort Lewis, Colo.), earning All-America honors. He skied at the nationals that year just three weeks after recovering from mono."

Dunklee’s achievements went beyond what he did at Vermont: 1976 - U.S. National 50K champion; 1977 and 1978 - U.S. National 15K champion; 1977 and 1979 - U.S. National 50K champion; 1980 and 1982 - U.S. National 30K champion.

Dunklee and his wife(Judith Robitaille-Dunklee) live in Barton, Vermont, with their two children, Eric and Susan. Susan is on the U.S. Biathlon team and competed in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Paul Graves

Paul Graves credits his love for and success in Snowboarding to a chance moment in 1964 when a lot of snow fell near his home in East Brunswick, New Jersey and he grabbed a single old ski out of a friend’s garage as a gang headed for the local sliding hill. He just stood with both feet balancing upon the ski to slide down the hill. When he saw the Snurfer the next year he got one and was hooked! He pursued the sport, hiking to Snurf first up backyard hills and then mountains. Within a few years he was riding for Snurfer as a rep

He first met Jake Carpenter at a sporting goods show in New York in 1978. The next year, in 1979 at the Snurfer Championships in Miskan, Michigan, Jake arrived with his own prototype board and Paul helped persuade the Snurfer officials to let him compete with the board of his own design. Paul won the competition which lead to a contract to star in a Labatt Beer commercial.

In 1980 Paul moved to Woodstock, Vermont, and worked with Phil Camp. In 1982 they staged the first National Snowboard championships on the steep face of Suicide 6. In subsequent years Paul continued to organize the event which was renamed the US Snowboard Open and moved to Snow Valley and eventually Stratton Mountain in Manchester.

Paul advocated for Snowboarding to be allowed at lift-served ski areas helping build the acceptance of the sport. At Suicide Six he started one of the first Snowboarding Schools and became one of the first Snowboarding instructors in the United States. Also in Woodstock, Paul opened one of the first Snowboard shops in the United States.

Paul was a pioneer Snowboarder, riding with it for some 18 years, from its surfer beginnings into its modern form.

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Rosie Fortna

Rosie and her brother were adopted in the early 1950s from Italy by her parents Trodd and Lixi Fortna when they were living in Colorado where her Dad was teaching skiing at the Loveland Area.

The family moved to Moretown, Vermont and bought a farm in 1954. Trodd taught skiing with the Bud Phillips ski school at Mad River Glen and it was there that Rosie first really learned how to ski earning the coveted gold “no stop no fall” pin when she was just 10 years old!

Trodd moved over to teach at Sugarbush when it opened in 1959 but by then Rosie was training and racing for the Mt. Mansfield Club, the best youth ski racing program in Vermont at that time. And she was winning races, winning not only at Stowe but throughout New England. And recalls winning the Sugar Slalom when Sepp Ruschp gave winners a season’s pass for the coming year. In 1964 she was on the Jr Olympic team with fellow Vermonters Suzy Chaffee and Rebel Ryan.

A group of veteran Mad River Racers, including Jack Tobin and Roland Palmedo offered to send her to the summer racing Camp at Mt. Hood. Rosie credits it with changing her life. There she was training with Anderl Molterer, Eric Sailer, and Pepi Gramshammer. The US Team was also training there. She was not invited to join, but she met Dennis and Penny McCoy, and in turn their dad, Dave McCoy, owner and founder of Mammoth Mountain. Dave McCoy took care of good racers and Rosie moved to Mammoth Lakes and was nurtured by his program.

In1965 she was invited by Coach Bob Beattie, to join the US team. She won the Far West Kandahar Slalom in 1966, beating her team and Canada’s Nancy Green. In the 1968 Olympics at Grenoble she had the fastest first run in the Slalom, only to face a protested gate and be disqualified.

Her best racing year was in 1970, when she won 3 gold medals at the University Games in Finland, and both US and the Canadian Nationals. During her ski racing career she had 8 top ten finishes in Slalom.

A fall in a Downhill at Whistler shattered her knee and ended her ski racing although she coached in Colorado and raced again in 1973, winning the early Woman’s Pro racing circuit at Snowmass. Along with fellow Olympic skier Suzy Chaffee, Fortna co-founded the Native Voices Foundaton, which seeks to develop Olympic athletes from among Native Americans. She is currently competing on the Master Woman’s tennis circuit.