Andrea Mead Lawrence, former Aspenite and Olympic medalist, dies at 76
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Former Aspen resident Andrea Mead Lawrence, winner of two Olympic gold medals and a former member of the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission, died March 30 in Mammoth, Calif., after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 76.
She was born Andrea Mead in Vermont on April 19, 1932, to an alpine skiing family who owned the Pico Peak ski area, one of the first established in the state but now part of the Killington Ski Resort.
At the age of 14, in 1948, she became the youngest female skier to be chosen for the U.S. Olympic team, an accomplishment she repeated in 1952 and 1956, according to the Snow Sports Industries of America.
She competed in both national and international events in those years, winning awards in the 1948 Austrian National Championships, the 1950 National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho, and the 1950 World Championships in Aspen, according to published accounts.
It was at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo that Lawrence, as captain of the U.S. women’s team, won both the slalom and giant slalom. She was the first American alpine skier to win two Olympic gold medals.
Aspenite Merrill Ford, who was close to Lawrence, said of her triumph in Oslo: “She made the most famous run in skiing ever made.”
Ford said on her first run of the slalom, Lawrence fell below a gate and had to climb back up to make the correct turn and finish the run, albeit with a poor time.
But on the second run, Ford said, Lawrence overcame all odds and skied faster anyone else in the field of 67, and fast enough to overcome her deficit from the first run.
“She was an extraordinary human being,” Ford said.
She said she later asked Lawrence about the slalom run, “And she said to me, ‘I was in a circle of quiet, and I knew it was going to happen.’
“Fear was not one of her qualities.”
Another Aspenite who knew Lawrence well is Dave Durrance, whose mother and father, the late Miggs and Dick Durrance, were well-known skiers, ski racers, photographers and neighbors of the Lawrence family.
“I really liked her,” Durrance said. “She was, oh, hard as nails and a heart of gold. If you were talking to her, it didn’t matter if you were old or young, you had her complete focus.”
Durrance pointed out that Lawrence compiled a record of 10 national ski racing titles, a record that was unmatched until the very day she died.
On March 30, Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley, Calif., tied Lawrence’s record with a win on the final day of the U.S. Alpine Championships in Alyeska, Alaska.
In February, U.S. racer Lindsey Vonn tied another of Lawrence’s records, winning two gold medals in a single world championship event.
According to published biographies, Lawrence kept racing until the 1956 Olympics, where she finished fourth in the giant slalom and then retired. She married U.S. Ski Team member Dave Lawrence and the couple moved to Aspen in the 1960s.
While in Aspen, as her family grew to include five children, she was appointed to the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
She and her husband divorced in 1967, and she moved to Mammoth, Calif., where she became active in environmental causes and, in 2003, founded the Andrea Lawrence Institute for Mountains and Rivers with the goal of preserving the ecology of the Eastern Slope of the Sierra Nevada range. She also helped raise funds for the U.S. Olympic Committee, according to the International Skiing History Association.
Coincidentally, the association was in Mammoth at the time of Lawrence’s death, holding a board of directors meeting at which members planned to view an advance screening of “The Andrea Mead Lawrence Story,” a film directed by Allison Pobrislo.
No information was available Wednesday regarding memorial services.