(This story was first published in the Dec. 19, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
HARTLAND — Inside Lauren Anderson’s home, there is a picture of eight grown children hanging underneath the stairwell. Two of the children in the photograph made it to a national snowboarding championship, another was a top slopestyle competitor, another won gold in snowboard cross at the Winter X Games two years ago. Another — Jamie Anderson — is the top woman slopestyle competitor in the world and is set on competing for the Olympic team in Russia this winter.
Anderson’s Hartland home is a long way from the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort in California, where she devoted her life to raising a team of professional skiers and snowboarders. Now, Anderson’s devoted to the three alpacas in her farmhouse garage.
|Lauren Anderson feeds grain to her three alpacas during a snowstorm. Soon she plans to open a store, selling hats and sweaters made with alpaca fiber.
Katy Savage Photo
“My mom has always loved Vermont and she’s been talking about it my whole life,” Jamie said. “When she had the motivation to pick up and move and make the journey all the way across the country…I was surprised, but I also 100 percent supported her to follow her heart and do what makes her happy.”
In September, Anderson drove across the country in her Mini Cooper that Jamie won in the U.S. Open the year before. She moved into a small farmhouse off Rice Road in Hartland to follow a new passion: alpaca farmer.
Anderson works at a farm a halfmile down the road from her house. Everyday, she works to pay off three alpacas she bought from Barron Hill Alpacas. Soon, she hopes to turn the farm into a thriving business. She’s already working with New England Fiber Pool Inc., which uses Anderson’s alpaca fiber to make hats, mittens and sweaters.
Anderson, who was born in Burlington and then lived in Bennington for six years, doesn’t have any prior experience with livestock, but she lives her life with a “go with the flow” mentality.
Two years ago on a rainy day in May, she visited an alpaca farm in Lake Tahoe with her daughter, Summer. It was sheering season at the farm.
“I looked at Summer and I said, ‘I can do this,’” she said. “I think subconsciously I was looking for a new passion because the mom thing was pretty much ending…I wanted my life. I wanted to know what I would love to do.”
She packed a few belongings and moved into a house in Hartland. In a day, she was settled in.
“That’s how life is for me,” she said. “It just opens up. It’s like not me doing it. It just shows me the way and I just follow.”
Anderson watched Jamie last week on her iPhone win the slopestyle event at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colo. Jamie scored a 96 and won the event — even after falling on the first run. It was the first Olympic qualifier.
“I knew how badly she wanted to win,” said Anderson.
Even though she hasn’t made the Olympics yet, Jamie is a favorite to qualify for the team. Her entire family is planning the trip to Sochi. This winter, Anderson is selling Christmas trees she grew on her land to help pay for travel expenses.
Though all of Anderson’s children have a knack for skiing and snowboarding — it was never a passion she shared with them.
“Honestly I never thought about my kids snowboarding,” said Anderson, who only skis twice a year.
While living in Lake Tahoe, most of Anderson’s time was spent as the family teacher — the Andersons homeschooled their eight children. When the kids weren’t at home, they were on the mountain at the nearby ski resort.
Every morning, her children walked from their house to a bus stop. The ski area bus would take them to the mountain, where they’d ski or snowboard all day. They’d come off the bus in the afternoon and walk home where Anderson would have dinner ready.
“They got fed up there and they ate up there and they grew up, up there and everybody watched out for them and everyone knew them,” she said. “It was like a family.”
After dinner, the kids worked on their schoolwork. They started the next day the same way: at the mountain.
“Life was just fun and that’s how it should be,” Anderson said. “It was just happy.”
Jamie, 23, started snowboarding when she was nine, following in her older sisters’ footsteps.
“I remember I just fell in love with it right way,” Jamie said. “The first day on the mountain.”
The entire family — 10 people — was living off of one income (Anderson’s ex-husband was a firefighter). Jamie used hand-medown gear from her sisters.
Eventually, the family’s hard work helped each child earn a sponsorship from local snowboarding companies, which paid for new gear and contest fees.
“They were fast, they were really good,” she said.
Jamie started competing in the Winter X games when she was 13. In 2011, she and her older sister, Joanie became the first sisters to win gold at the Winter X games in 2011. Now Jamie has the opportunity to be on the U.S. Olympic team in Sochi.
“It’s my passion and it really just makes my heart tick and I feel so blessed and so grateful to follow my dream and have the possibility to go to the Olympics,” Jamie said.
While her daughter follows her dream, Anderson is following her own. As you walk in the front door of her Hartland home, there are sweaters and hats with price tags hanging on the walls. Soon, Anderson says, she plans to open up a store.
“I raised eight kids, I think I can do alpacas,” Anderson said.
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