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Betsy Snite Riley

Hall of Fame Class of 1976

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One of the outstanding women racers pf the 1950s, Betsy Snite Riley, won a silver medal in slalom at the Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley in 1960 after a brilliant racing career in the U.S. and Europe. She retired from competition at age 21, married Bill Riley of Stowe, Vermont and ran a fashion retail sports shop in that town until her untimely death in 1984 at the age of 46.

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Betsy Snite Riley was educated in the public schools of Norwich, Vermont and Hanover, New Hampshire. She began skiing as a child at the Ford Sayre Ski School in Norwich. By age 16 she had captured first place in downhill and combined races at the U.S. Eastern Amateur Ski Championships. Her competitive career was sponsored by the Dartmouth Outing Club which accepted women racers – although the college was not co-educational at the time.

In 1955 Betsy Snite won the Andrea Mead Lawrence award as U.S. Junior Woman Skier of the year. A member of the U.S. F.I.S. Team from 1954 to 1958, Betsy was a member of the Olympic team from 1950 to 1960 and competed in the 1956 Olympics in Cortina, Italy. Her younger sister, Sunny, also made the 1960 Olympic team.

Betsy Snite and Penny Pitou were America’s best women racers of that era. Snite was better known in Europe than at home, having spent the 1958 ski season with Pitou, skiing and training with the Austrian men’s team. Betsy lived in Munich where she had a job modeling skiwear for the Bogner Company. Named Captain of the U.S. Women’s World Championship Ski Team in 1958, she won the famous Arlberg-Kandahar slalom in Austria that year and again in 1959.

Snite and Pitou were America’s chief medal hopes for the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley. Betsy won a silver medal in slalom, accomplishing the feat on metal skis – one of the first times a woman had raced on metal, not wood. She came in fourth in giant slalom after Penny Pitou’s silver medal win. Betsy’s photo appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated (February, 1960) after the magazine nominated her sportswoman of the Year.

Betsy retired from competition at the age of 21 after a post-Olympic slalom victory in the American International Ski Races at Stowe, Vermont where she shaved almost ten seconds off the time of the second place finisher who had been the 1960 Olympic gold medal winner. Betsy married Bill Riley of the Mount Mansfield Corporation in Stowe in May, 1964. She owned and operated the Betsy Snite Sport Shop in Stowe from 1977 until her sudden and premature death in 1984.

Interviewed for an article in The New York Times about training for women skiers in the 1950s, Betsy once said, “We had to do it all ourselves. My father was my coach, and my neighbor was my trainer.”

Betsy Snite Riley was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1976.

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