(Senate - February 14, 2013)

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[Pages S754-S755]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, in Vermont, you will find any number of 
successful family-run businesses. Today, I want to recognize the 
Cochran Family and their Cochran Ski Area. This family, which has spent 
50 years on a hillside in the town of Richmond, VT, has seen 10 of its 
own compete in the Olympic Games and has brought thousands of local 
youth together to share in Vermont's rich tradition of winter sports.
  The Cochran Ski Area is truly a remarkable place in Vermont, where 
the rewards of family togetherness, community support, and shared 
knowledge have been reaped to the fullest for half a century. In the 
1960s, the Cochran slope was a skiing family's dreamland, but Mickey 
Cochran, alongside his wife Ginny and family, chose to open their home 
and their hearts to the community. Since then this slope has become a 
source of skill not only for the Cochran Olympians, but for every 
Vermonter who, with their guidance, has been helped to master the art 
of skiing. The Cochrans intensified their skiing talent and dedication 
through the application of math and physics, complementing a classroom 
education with a thrilling hands-on experience unlike any other. This 
Vermont family and their legacy are a model of community building and 
achievement. Their charity has enriched Vermont and the Cochran Ski 
Area has been cherished in return as a haven for families to enjoy 
winter traditions. Today, a new generation of Cochrans preserves their 
relationship with the land Mickey and Ginny Cochran sought to make 
their home years ago, by founding Slopeside Syrup, a maple syrup 
business. Each spring Cochran's taps more than 20,000 maple trees 
around the ski slope and opens its doors of the Slopeside Syrup 
sugarhouse to visitors and neighbors alike.
  I am proud to share the Cochran family's story with the Senate. I ask 
unanimous consent that a recent article from The New York Times about 
this incredible family be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                [From the New York Times, Jan. 23, 2013]

                      Short Hillside's Long Legacy

                          (By Bill Pennington)

       Richmond, VT.--It was 1960 in northern Vermont and Mickey 
     Cochran had a simple plan with an uncommon stipulation. A 
     former schoolteacher, Cochran would buy a house in the 
     country for his growing family, but only if the new home had 
     a pitched slope behind it where he could install a ski lift.
       Along with his wife, Ginny, whom he met while skiing, 
     Cochran found the right house and parcel of land for $10,000, 
     and soon there was a rope tow just outside the back door. 
     Educated as a mechanical engineer, Cochran affixed 
     floodlights to adjacent trees and the roof of the two-story 
     home, turning the modest rural hillside into a round-the-
     clock winter playground.
       Like a Vermont version of the movie ``Field of Dreams,'' if 
     you build and illuminate a place to ski in snow country, 
     people will come from far and wide.
       Throughout the 1960s, thousands of local schoolchildren and 
     their parents learned to ski at the Cochran hill, with Mickey 
     and Ginny providing free hands-on instruction. They did not 
     charge to use the 400-foot rope tow either. Everyone was 
     welcome, even in the kitchen of the Cochran home, which 
     served as a warming hut.
       ``It was a magical place,'' said Bob Cochran, one of Mickey 
     and Ginny's four children. ``Like a big party at your house 
     every night.''
       The ski hill, moderately expanded in subsequent decades, 
     continues to this day as a nonprofit organization and revered 
     civic resource, a tribute to Mickey Cochran's humble 1960 
       But that is not the reason Cochran's Ski Area, with its one 
     tiny roadside sign, is known throughout the racing world. It 
     is not why the one-room Cochran lodge, built in 1984, is 
     replete with pictures of international skiing stars who have 
     made the trek to this out-of-the-way little ski area next to 
     the Winooski River.
       Mickey and Ginny Cochran's children--Marilyn, Barbara Ann, 
     Bob and Lindy--all made the United States ski team and each 
     raced in the Olympics. At the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan, 
     Barbara Ann won a gold medal in slalom.
       The Skiing Cochrans, as they became known in the 1970s, 
     were an American sensation, feted at gala dinners and 
     featured in national magazines, like a sporting version of 
     the Osmonds.
       But there's more: six of Mickey and Ginny Cochran's 
     grandchildren have made the United States ski team in the 
     last decade, including Ryan Cochran-Siegle, Barbara Ann's 20-
     year-old son, who won two events at the junior world 
     championships last season. His cousin Robby Kelley, Lindy's 
     son, is the reigning national giant slalom champion, 
     extending the lineage of America's first family of ski racing 
     into a sixth decade.
       In 2005, four second-generation Cochrans were on the United 
     States ski team, matching the four Cochrans on the team 43 
     years ago. And the ski area has helped produce more than a 
     dozen United States team members who are not related to the 
     Cochrans, even if they are all embraced as Cochran racers.
       ``People have asked me if there's something in the water,'' 
     Bob, 61, said with a laugh last month, sitting at a picnic 
     table inside the unassuming Cochran lodge. ``People think we 
     have some secret. But there was no special criteria for 
     coming here except one. My father said you had to have fun.
       ``And my mother made every kid who showed up here feel like 
     a part of the family.''

                       No Discussion of Olympics

       Each of the original skiing Cochrans insisted that making 
     the Olympics was never discussed by their father, who died in 
     1998 at age 74, or by their mother, who was 76 when she died 
     in 2005.
       ``Even making the national team was never envisioned,'' 
     said Lindy, now 59. ``That was some mystical place and the 
     farthest thing from my father's mind. He did, however, 
     believe that you needed a lot of repetition to get good at 
       So what better way than to grab the rope tow just outside 
     your bedroom window?
       The usual Cochran winter day would have the children doing 
     their homework after

[[Page S755]]

     school, then awaiting their father, who had left teaching to 
     take an engineering job at a General Electric plant in nearby 
       ``He would get home around 6 p.m. and we'd be waiting to 
     get out there,'' said Bob, who became a physician after his 
     amateur and professional ski racing career ended. ``My mom 
     would give my dad something to eat, and then he'd go fire up 
     the old gas-powered engine that ran the rope tow.''
       Gates would be set on the hill, and if there were not 
     enough gates, saplings cut from the adjacent woods would be 
     used instead.
       ``It would hurt hitting those saplings,'' said Marilyn, 62. 
     ``But you couldn't get us off that hill. We'd be out there 
     five nights a week, and the only way to get us to go to bed 
     was to flip off the lights.''
       When Marilyn and Barbara Ann, who was 11 months younger, 
     began winning regional and national-level races, their 
     celebrity spread in the pastoral remote villages of northern 
     New England, but they remained something of a curiosity at 
     the extravagant Alps resorts that hosted the top 
     international ski races. That was true even after they each 
     won a medal at the 1970 world championships.
       ``I recall the Europeans saying: `Who are these Cochrans? 
     From where?' '' Marilyn said. ``But you know, they started 
     thinking of us as kids to be reckoned with.''
       Their father was their coach and, they said, an innovator. 
     Relying on his engineering background, he introduced 
     scientific methods to racing tactics, turning a mountain 
     descent into a conversation about vectors and ski path 
     velocity. He taught his children to chart the number of gates 
     in a racecourse and to memorize it using visualization 
     techniques. He was also a master sports psychologist, an 
     underappreciated part of coaching at the time.
       ``He was a teacher at heart, and he knew how to keep you 
     focused on your performance and not the outcome,'' Bob said. 
     ``He was years ahead of his time.''
       If there is a shared trait from generation to generation of 
     Cochran Olympians, it is the powerful benefit of basic 
     homework, or time on the snow in ski racing parlance. The 
     emphasis has always been on the value of dedicated, 
     enthusiastic preparation, even in modest circumstances. The 
     Cochran race training course is far from steep and only 
     several hundred feet long. But Cochran racers for multiple 
     decades have completed lap after lap, smiling as they go.
       ``There was never pressure on us,'' said Ryan Cochran-
     Siegle, who is now racing at the highest levels of the World 
     Cup circuit, a path his cousins blazed before him. ``I never 
     felt any expectations. I wanted to do well, but winning was 
     never the central goal. We were urged to just get better and 
       Marilyn, who became a World Cup giant slalom champion, 
     recalled that her father always deflected questions about 
     success, even as it became common to the household.
       ``Acknowledging medals and things like that seemed arrogant 
     to him,'' she said recently, sitting with her sisters and 
     brother. ``Although I know he was proud of us.''
       Marilyn then explained that her parents could not afford to 
     attend the 1972 Sapporo Olympics, where three of their 
     children competed, but they stayed up late to watch the races 
     from Japan. The living room scene, just feet from the 
     backyard rope tow, was later recreated for her.
       ``My father cried twice in his life--when his mother died 
     and when this one won the gold medal,'' Marilyn said, tapping 
     the shoulder of Barbara Ann.
       ``I didn't know that,'' Barbara Ann said, turning with a 
     look of surprise. ``Now I'm going to cry.''
       Marilyn said, ``Me, too.''

                           More Room to Teach

       The Cochran's Ski Area of today has moved about 150 yards 
     from the original home, which has remained in the family. An 
     adjacent 140-acre parcel of land, bought years ago for 
     $4,000, allows more room to teach beginners, which comes in 
     handy with more than 700 students enrolled in after-school 
       Hundreds of local youth and Vermont high school racers also 
     train and compete on the main trail next to a busy T-bar.
       ``It's just an extension of when the local parent-teacher 
     organization came to my mom and asked if she would teach the 
     kids on our hill,'' said Barbara Ann, who heads the current 
     instruction program. ``Mom always said skiing was the best 
     way to keep parents and their kids together in the 
       On a bluff overlooking a dirt and cinder parking lot, the 
     Cochran lodge is festooned with dozens of numbered racing 
     bibs from championship races. The oldest are from New England 
     in the mid-1960s and the newest were proudly spirited home 
     from top international competitions last winter.
       The skis Barbara Ann used to win her gold medal hang from 
     the ceiling, and photos celebrating the careers of nearly 
     every Cochran are tacked to the walls, which takes up a lot 
     of room given the breadth of the accomplishments. From Bob's 
     1973 win in the famed Hahnenkamm combined in Austria to 
     Lindy's top American finish for a woman in the 1976 Olympic 
     slalom and giant slalom, to N.C.A.A. championships by the 
     grandchildren, the Mickey and Ginny Cochran racing pedigree 
     is long and full. And all of it from a hill that is a 
     miniature of a major ski resort.
       Simplicity and unpretentiousness have remained hallmarks of 
     the Cochran way. So has affordability. A junior weekend lift 
     ticket is $14. Children pay about $40 for a season of after-
     school lessons $90 with rentals.
       ``And we give scholarships if someone can't afford that,'' 
     Lindy said. ``If you really want to learn to ski, you won't 
     be turned away.''
       The ski area may have registered as a nonprofit 
     organization only after Mickey's death, but as Ginny told her 
     children at the time, ``It was always a nonprofit.''

                       Viability and Availability

       The current ski area, with its gaggle of instructors, 
     coaches and lift operators, is overseen by a board that has 
     had to raise money for improvements like top-to-bottom snow-
     making. The bills are paid, the lodge picnic tables overflow 
     in the winter with excited, red-cheeked children, and warm 
     food is doled out of a tiny kitchen. But donations are 
     continually sought to keep Cochran's Ski Area viable and 
     available to the next generation.
       On a stormy Friday four days before Christmas, rain pelted 
     the tin roof of the Cochran lodge and gusts knocked out the 
     electrical power. Man-made snow was on the slopes, but the 
     downpour threatened the anticipated opening of the ski area 
     the next day.
       The four children of Mickey and Ginny Cochran, who live not 
     far from Richmond, happily gathered inside the lodge 
     nonetheless, reminiscing and finishing each other's sentences 
     as if they were at the dining room table in 1960.
       They discussed the Olympics and world championships like 
     run-of-the-mill high school events. When shown black-and-
     white pictures of their Olympic media appearances, the 
     Cochrans hardly seemed impressed; they were too busy teasing 
     one another about their 1970s hairdos.
       One by one, recollections from decades past were summoned 
     with ease and spontaneity, and almost every story began with 
     a Cochran turning and pointing at the ski trails beyond the 
     lodge window and saying:
       ``We were on the hill. . . .''
       The weather that day may have been cold and blustery. The 
     Cochran memories are forever warm and genuine.
       After a few hours, the siblings departed wondering when the 
     ski area--a Vermont cultural landmark--might open for another 
       ``If it stops raining, we've still got a chance tomorrow,'' 
     Lindy said.
       The next day, the rain had ceased but the snow beneath the 
     T-bar lift was too irregular for Cochran's to open as 
       About 25 youngsters from the weekend race program showed up 
     anyway. So did some coaches and the three Cochran sisters. 
     Pulling into the muddy parking lot, they got out of their 
     cars to gaze uphill at the swath of good snow that remained 
     on the central trail.
       A procession soon began hiking up the hill carrying skis. 
     Gates were set in the snow. Racers skied down.
       Smiling, they walked back up the hill. Over and over.
       It snowed soon after. Three days later, Cochran's Ski Area 
     officially opened for another winter.