Laura Spector ‘05

Five years after graduating from GMVS, Laura Spector’s dedication and commitment to the sport of Nordic skiing paid off as she was named to the US Biathlon Olympic Team. While Biathlon was not her primary discipline during her years at GMVS, she worked hard upon graduation to become more involved in the sport, ultimately earning herself the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games.

Participating in the 2010 Olympic Games in Whistler was a unique experience for Spector, as she learned to manage the distractions, developed new friendships, and saw other athletes in a new light as she lived among them in the Athlete’s Village. One of the major lessons she learned was the value of balance in life and how stepping away from one’s sport every now and then can be an invaluable part of success.

After only one full year of international racing under her belt, skiing into the Whistler Olympic Park stadium with that crowd was a rush she will always remember. Motivated by the crowd, Spector went on to set personal bests, shooting 18-for-20 in the 15K individual race. Upon completion of her Olympic journey, Spector returned to Dartmouth College where she earned a B.A. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Jewish Studies in 2011.

GMVS to Benefit from Multi-Million Dollar On-Hill Investments at Sugarbush Resort

A Portion of Sugarbush’s On-Going Capital Improvements to Enhance Snowmaking at its Inverness Peak, GMVS Training and Racing Venue.

GMVS is thrilled to learn that Sugarbush Resort, as part of its ongoing improvement initiatives, will enhance the snowmaking system at its Inverness Peak at Mt. Ellen. The project and GMVS’s renewed commitment to race-specific grooming will ensure an unparalleled training and race experience in the Kelly Brush Race Arena. The investment, totaling $3+ million, will elevate Sugarbush’s ability to open the Inverness Peak earlier in the season and recover from unfavorable weather events, which have become more prevalent in recent years. It will also expand the resort’s ability to deliver world-class training and racing experiences on the Inverness Trail and in the Kelly Brush Race Arena daily.

The cornerstone of this project is a significant $2 million investment that Sugarbush Resort is making to upgrade the snowmaking facilities on Inverness. This project involves the replacement of the current snowmaking lines on Inverness and installing new state-of-the-art towers and hydrants. By doing so, the training venue will experience an immediate and substantial positive impact.

To further enhance the effectiveness and safety of the venue, as part of this project, the lower T-bar will be removed. This improvement will optimize the snowmaking system and ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience for all athletes and visitors.

Additionally, Sugarbush Resort is investing $1 million in its pumping capacity at Mt. Ellen, further strengthening its snowmaking capabilities to the 4,083-foot summit. This investment will enable Sugarbush to produce snow more rapidly in the Kelly Brush Race Arena and across a wider area.

Once snow blankets the ground, GMVS is committed to collaborating with Sugarbush to ensure the surface is at its best for training and racing. To achieve this goal, the school will collaborate with Sugarbush Resort and introduce a new Prinoth snowcat on-site. GMVS has leased this snowcat, which will be operated by a GMVS staff member, and will be entirely dedicated to maintaining the snow surface in the Kelly Brush Race Arena. Combining the new T-Bar, improved snowmaking capacity, and a devoted winch cat will undoubtedly make the Kelly Brush Race Arena the envy of other venues around the country.

Jeff Lackie, former U.S. Ski Team Coach who joined GMVS this spring as Senior Director of High-Performance Sport, emphasizes the importance of these investments: “These multi-million dollar on-hill investments reaffirm an unwavering dedication to providing our athletes with the best training and racing experiences. We are poised to foster a culture of excellence, propelling athletes in our junior program and at the Academy to achieve their fullest potential. I couldn’t be more excited.”

“It’s great to see Alterra’s continuing support of Sugarbush,” said John Hammond, President and Chief Operating Officer at the Resort. “Since acquiring Sugarbush in 2020, Alterra Mountain Company has invested over $30 million in upgrades to Sugarbush, and the Inverness project will allow us to make snow more efficiently and provide a better ski and ride experience for the Mt. Ellen faithful along with improving the training environment for GMVS.”

As GMVS eagerly anticipates another outstanding winter of training and racing in the Kelly Brush Race Arena, the School is confident that the improvements brought about by the collaboration with Sugarbush Resort will undoubtedly elevate the overall experience for all athletes, coaches, and visitors.


At the onset of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the world came to a crashing halt; however, GMVS continued to forge ahead thinking creatively and finding new ways to deliver on its mission. One of those creative ideas came in the form of a ski treadmill. 

Often seen in indoor spaces or areas of the world where snow is limited, our ski treadmill found a home outside the Doug Parker Center and was utilized daily in the fall of 2020 when chasing snow was no longer an option due to the shutdown of travel. Geared up in one’s own ski boots and locked into a short pair of skis, student-athletes hopped on the ski treadmill for focused periods of time, working on dialing in boot setups, ankle flexion, balance and more. 

While challenging not to be on snow when our sport necessitates logging mileage to succeed, the ski treadmill proved to be the next best alternative and provided a consistent training opportunity easily accessible by all.


Since 2019, the G7 program has worked closely with Eddie Merma of Sculpture School VT, who creates a curriculum so that every student can have a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) experience during their winter term at GMVS. Eddie works directly with the G7 students for half of the winter every year to show them how to use tools and the geometry they learn in math class to create projects. In the end, the class works together on one larger project for the Mad River Valley community and independently on a personal project. Here are the community projects the group has built over the last five years:

2019 – Moretown Library — Kids furniture, we made benches, tables, toys for the new Moretown library location at the Moretown Town Hall

2020 – Wildflowers Studio — Kids toys and furniture, we made all kinds of original toys and interactive furniture for preschool ages children

2021 – ShareMRV and MRV Libraries (Moretown, Warren, Joslin) — Seedboxes, we made plywood boxes for community seed exchange program

2022 – Joslin Library — Picnic tables, we made adult and youth size picnic tables for the outdoor community space at the Joslin library

2023 – Sculpture School — Youth makerspace, we built a 16’x20′ workspace for youth welding programs at the Sugarbush airport hanger in Warren

Independent projects have included a foosball table, basketball arcade game, ping pong table, dresser, desk, and ski lift chair bench (the students creatively come up with their own projects every year!). GMVS has been lucky to have Eddie come and work with the G7s every year and we hope it continues for years to come!


Kelley Duran ‘00

Kelley Duran, a 2000 graduate of GMVS, was born deaf but that never stopped her from pursuing her goals and dreams. One of those was ski racing, and GMVS provided that opportunity for Duran during her high school years. A resident of Fayston, VT, Duran competed in Alpine Skiing and played soccer, regularly working to read lips or teach coaches the basics of sign language in order to receive valuable feedback on and off the hill. Duran also had the help of an interpreter, Stephanie Cramer, who assisted on the hill during training. 

Duran went on to Smith College where, in 2019, she was inducted in the Smith College Athletics Hall of Fame. She was a three-time USCSA All-American, competing at the National Championships in 2001, 2002 and 2004. While she qualified for nationals in 2003, she chose instead to compete at the Deaflympics in Sweden, an honor of a lifetime. Duran went on to compete again in the Salt Lake City Deaflympics in 2007, winning five medals over the course of two Deaflympic appearances. 

After her 2004 graduation from Smith College, Duran earned a Master of Arts in Linguistics from Gallaudet University and a Master of Science in Software Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology where she was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning a master’s degree.

Duran is currently working as a software consultant starting her own business. She previously worked at Xerox, Convo Communications, and Mux.


Austin Nelson ‘03

Born with damaged cochleae, Nelson has 65% hearing loss in his left ear and 85% loss in his right. With the help of hearing aids and speech therapy that he underwent from ages 4 to 12, Nelson learned to adapt to challenges faced by the hard of hearing. He learned to read lips to decipher what people were saying and thankfully technology evolved rapidly, enabling him to hear sounds he had never heard before, like his own voice.

Growing up in Connecticut, and learning to ski on the weekends at Mohawk and Killington, Nelson soon chose to take his talents to GMVS where he began ski racing. As a junior, he heard about the Deaflympics and made it a goal to one day earn a spot on the US Deaflympic team.

The Deaflympics began in 1924 with about 1,000 athletes from all over the world and now draw more than 2,500 athletes from 30 countries. Deaflympic competitors are not permitted to wear hearing aids with countdowns and timing cues being visual. 

At the age of 17, Nelson competed in the qualifiers of the U.S. Deaf Ski & Snowboard Association and earned a spot on the U.S. Deaflympic team as a result of winning the slalom. Training at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, Nelson went on to compete at the Deaflympics in Sweden in 2003. While he fell in the first run of the slalom, he went on to win the second run, despite starting at the back of the pack. He also placed 6th in the downhill and four years later returned to the Deaflympics stage in Salt Lake City, tying for third in SG.

Nelson graduated from the University of Denver in 2008 with a degree in international business and promptly moved to Aspen where he skis over 100 days every year. Nelson now manages Surefoot Aspen, with his wife Tara, daughter Brinkley, and two French bulldogs. He is hoping to make a comeback and compete at this winter’s Deaflympics in Turkey! 


A big piece of the culture in the early years of GMVS was an annual spring trip of several weeks. The first trip, in 1976, was an 800-mile bike ride from South Carolina to the GMVS campus, then still in Moretown. Other trips, equally ambitious, would follow what was effectively Outward Bound, GMVS-style.

Any particular trip might have 20 to 25 participants, and running rivers became a common theme. Trips went to places like Big Bend in Texas, the Green River in Utah, and the Chattooga River in Georgia, where many scenes from the movie Deliverance were filmed. But, it wasn’t all about water sports, and an adventurous communion with the natural world. In 1985, Eugene Weiss, father of GMVS grad Marc Weiss, led a trip to Poland and Auschwitz. According to Alice Rodgers, who would arrive in 1984 as a teacher and coach before becoming the head of academics in 1990, the trips, as they evolved, aimed for a synthesis among education, community service, and adventure.

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast in the late summer of 2005 led the GMVS Class of 2006 to Gulf Springs, Mississippi to help the community there recover, and then this was followed by several years of partnership with Habitat for Humanity’s New Orleans chapter as the rebuilding efforts continued.

In recent years, as the GMVS lacrosse programs grew more competitive and the state playoffs became more of a focus, the window of time for the senior trip shrank, and the school began to look for more local opportunities, placing a greater emphasis on giving back within the state of Vermont. Since 2013 the seniors’ have partnered with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp’s farm program, based in Richmond, Vermont. Here GMVS seniors help the farm program staff at a crucial juncture in the year as they get the growing season started. The food produced on the farm goes to the VYCC’s Health Care Share program, a partnership with eleven different medical centers throughout the state, where healthcare professionals identify families that have food insecurity and/or issues with access to nutritional food. This year’s senior class spent two days working in Richmond, preparing vegetable beds and helping to hand plant over a thousand Shishito, Ancho Poblano and Jimmy Nardello peppers. 


Dark. Deep. Cold. Rocky. Slippery. These are just a few adjectives to describe the caves that many GMVS alumni remember fondly from their time exploring in the Middlebury area.

A 30-foot entrance is so narrow that it required one to scooch, feet-first, underground until space opened up and darkness set in. Another 30-foot free climb down into greater depths of darkness and cold with no rope, a flashlight typically in hand and only jagged rock to hang onto led the students into deeper darkness. One slip and it was a long fall down, but fortunately, the athleticism of the GMVS student-athletes prevailed.

With headlamps on and flashlights in hand, these explorers would continue on down another 50-60 feet by belay into the cavernous space below. Dark, muddy and cold, students discovered an entire underground world deep in the earth, crawling on hands and knees and finding new places to explore. Covered in dirt, hungry, and perhaps a little eager for sunlight, the Gumbies would then make their way back up the near 100-feet they had descended and, “When you crawled out and saw the light of day, it was a very good feeling” exclaimed Cindy Mumford. She went on to say the whole experience was “cold, muddy, slippery and took a lot of courage.”



Paralympians: Sarah Billmeier ‘95 & Thomas Walsh ‘13

Sarah Billmeier ‘95 and Thomas Walsh ‘13 represent all that makes GMVS the unique place that it is as they each have overcome adversity, pursuing goals and dreams along the way, and displaying the type of grit, perseverance, and athleticism that is at the core of the GMVS student-athlete.

At the age of five, Billmeier’s left leg was amputated above the knee as a result of bone cancer. With bone cancer defeated, she learned to ski, on one leg, at age eight; she was racing by ten. Now, somewhere in the bottom of her closet, there is a shoebox containing 13 Olympic medals (seven Gold, five Silver, one Bronze) earned in four Paralympic Games (she shares the record for most medals won in four games; Billmeier earned hers in France, Norway, Japan and Salt Lake City). No doubt there is other hardware in the box as well, from her six World Championship titles, the first of which she won at age fourteen.

After graduating from GMVS in 1995, Billmeier went on to Dartmouth College, continuing to compete (and win), and developing herself as a whole person – recognizing that ski racing was just one temporary aspect of her life. She started whitewater paddling and rock climbing; she took art and literature classes. She traveled. In 2001, Billmeier graduated cum laude from Dartmouth, and, in 2002, she retired from ski racing in order to pursue the medical career she had long been planning at Harvard Medical School.

Billmeier is now a surgeon out of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center specializing in minimally invasive surgery.

Sarah Billmeier not only pursued her own dreams, but she also paved the way for others in similar situations. Eighteen years after Billmeier graduated from GMVS, Thomas Walsh did the same.

Walsh’s journey was a bit different, as he was scheduled to enter GMVS in the fall of 2009 at the age of 14, but days before he began, he was diagnosed with stage IV Ewing Sarcoma, a rare cancer in which cells are found in the bone and soft tissue. For the next year, Walsh endured countless surgeries going under anesthesia at least 30 times which included lung resections where tumors were removed from both of his lungs, as well as a pelvic resection where his primary tumor was removed. His pelvic resection is ultimately what classified him as an adaptive athlete due to his limb impairment.

After surviving cancer, Walsh, who thought skiing was a thing of the past, realized that his dreams of ski racing and attending GMVS were still alive when Headmaster Dave Gavett welcomed him in. Despite his physical limitations – reduced lung capacity and an impaired right leg – Walsh did all the things other kids did. He acted in three GMVS theater productions and competed against able-bodied athletes.

Walsh graduated from GMVS in 2013 and headed off to Savannah College of Art and Design to study performing arts, but he soon realized he could ski as an adaptive athlete. After a year of school, Walsh went on to continue to follow his ski racing dreams. Lessons of perseverance, determination, and grit learned from his time at GMVS served him well as he went after his dreams of becoming a professional ski racer. During his first year on the Paralympic circuit, he earned a spot on the US Paralympic Alpine National Team and has since earned multiple World Cup wins, a SL Crystal Globe, two World Championship bronze medals, and competed at the 2018 and 2022 Paralympic Games, earning a Silver Medal in 2022.

While continuing to primarily focus on his racing career, Walsh holds a BFA in performing arts as well as an MBA with a focus in marketing. He looks towards the coming seasons and aims to compete in the Milano-Cortina 2026 Winter Paralympic Games.

Together, Sarah Billmeier and Thomas Walsh are the epitome of what GMVS student-athletes can achieve with dedication, determination, and dreams. They each truly represent the very best of Green Mountain Valley School.


While GMVS is focused on ski racing as the primary student pursuit, the school has had a girls’ lacrosse program since 1992 and a boys’ lacrosse program since 1993. Both programs have managed to achieve impressive success on the field, but the real value of lacrosse at GMVS is found not in the wins and losses column, but in the opportunity to work towards a collective goal with other like minded, passionate people. The timing of the lacrosse season is another piece of the magic, coming on the heels of a long winter season focused on racing as an individual. Being able to close out the year competing in collaborative effort, both pushing and, even more importantly, supporting each other, always brings students together, and the athletes bring the best out in each other. The mix of ages, ability and experience also add to the unique quality of lacrosse at GMVS, as the game bridges the gaps that might exist at other points in the year.

In addition to the role that lacrosse plays in bringing students together, there have been notable successes. Both the boys and girls programs have won state championships at the Division II level, and a number of players have gone on to play collegiately, despite logging far fewer hours on a lacrosse field than their future college teammates.

Thanks to GMVS alumna Sarah Billmeier’s passion for team sports and her vision for the future, GMVS started a girls’ lacrosse team. A perfect spring sport that brings the girls together after the rigors of ski season and the individual focus it requires. Sarah played lacrosse in her hometown and wanted to continue at GMVS. She found a program that provided a whole team worth of girls’ sticks for a minimal fee and approached Dave Gavett, Head of School at the time. He agreed and eventually found a coach and, as they say, the rest is history!

With multiple coaches throughout the years who have kept the program going strong, Head Coaches Lauren Ayotte and Bowen Holden are the two most recent who have celebrated big by leading the program to State Championship wins in 2017 (Lauren) and 2021 (Bowen). The team also finished as runners-up in 2018. GMVS has also produced two All-American lacrosse players: Emma Austin ’20 and Erika Wiebe ’21. Emma has since gone on to play lacrosse at Bates College.

The boys’ lacrosse team has also experienced success in the Vermont state playoffs, making it to the Division II championship game in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The boys followed up a heartbreaking one goal loss to Rice (8-7) in the 2011 state championship game with a stunning last second goal in the 2012 state championship game against Colchester High School that pushed the game into overtime, where the Gumbies won with a beautiful transition goal. “What has stuck with me from that game is the way the GMVS players on that team simply refused to give up,” says long time coach Sam Jackson. The team fought hard in another one-goal loss in the championship game in 2014, and then, after divisional realignments in 2020, made it to the Division III championship game in 2021. Notable alumni who have gone on to play at the collegiate level include Dan Bell ‘11 (Bates College), Hans Halvorsen ‘12 (Williams College), Neil Gallagher ‘14 (St. Michael’s College), Justin Boes ‘17 (Connecticut College), Raymo Blancato ‘19 (Hope College), and Jonathan Davis ‘21 (Colby College).

A final key element of the GMVS lacrosse programs is the way that the sense of community and bonding experienced by the players also goes beyond the field. Lacrosse games have become one of those rituals of the spring; as other students, the staff, and friends and family assemble on the sidelines on a sunny spring day to watch the teams compete, the entire campus seems to revolve around the field. Like the unique light of an evening in late May, or the specific shade of the leaves on the trees, lacrosse is a harbinger of spring, and its power to renew, on Moulton Road.


Pomp and Circumstance and caps and gowns are synonymous with graduation at a traditional high school, but anyone who has attended graduation at GMVS knows that the annual ceremony is uniquely different. Graduating seniors are given ownership to determine the way in which they enter graduation and their attire. While girls have traditionally worn white dresses and boys wear button down shirts and pants, classes continue to find new ways to enter. Below are some of the ways in which graduates have made their grand entrance:

  • Vans on tow trucks
  • Four Wheeled Vehicles
  • Motocross motorcycles
  • Construction equipment
  • Walking
  • RVs
  • Tractors
  • Fire Truck
  • Repelling from the top of the climbing wall
  • Helicopter
  • Harley Davidson motorcycles–Harley Club of Vermont
  • A school bus (GMVS’s old one) that had been modified by Tiger Baird and re-lettered to say “NO SCHOOL” on the side (this vehicle still resides at the Defreest farm on East Warren Road)
  • Vintage sports cars/muscle cars