Ann Bonfoey Taylor: Skier, Sportswoman, and Style Icon

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Ann Bonfoey Taylor’s son, Vernon III, remembers coming home from school one day to find his mother dressed to the nines “simply because she felt like it.” Wearing a chinchilla-trimmed silk-satin dress by Madame Grès, Ms. Bonfoey Taylor lingered in the hallway of her Denver home in 1967 (green was Bonfoey Taylor’s favorite palette for evening). Described by acquaintances and family as beautiful, fashionable, and gracious, Taylor was known for entertaining friends, including Britain’s Prince Philip, as well as his daughter, Princess Anne, when they made separate visits to Denver. She was also chosen to host the wives of world leaders when they were in town for 1997’s economic Summit of the Eight.

But Ann Bonfoey Taylor’s accomplishments went far beyond hostessing. Born December 3, 1910, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and raised in Quincy, Illinois, Ann fashioned a life of adventure. In the 1920s, at the age of 12, she began taking flight lessons—a skill she later applied during World War II, when she served as a flight instructor for Army and Navy air cadets. In 1928, Ann married James Negley Cooke, vice president of Roland Palmedo’s Mt. Mansfield Lift Company, and moved to Vermont (an early investor in Stowe, Palmedo went on to found Mad River Glen). Ever the sportswoman, the newly named Ann Cooke started competitive skiing in Stowe and acquired the nickname “Nose-Dive Annie” after mastering Stowe’s precipitous Nose Dive Trail. Living up to her name, Ann joined the U.S. Women’s Olympic Ski Team in 1939.

Widely known and complimented for her stylish looks on the ski slopes (Taylor pioneered the fanny pack for skiing!), Ann started her own line of innovative skiwear in the 1930s called Ann Cooke. Her designs appeared in many of the day’s most prominent fashion magazines, and even graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1946. In addition to her pilot skills and dexterity on the slopes, Taylor’s extraordinary aptitude for tennis led her to compete at Wimbledon. She was also an accomplished equestrian and regularly went fox hunting in England.

After divorcing Cooke in 1947, Ann married oilman Vernon “Moose” Taylor, Jr., of Pennsylvania and Texas. The couple moved to Denver, and Ann became a full-time wife and mother. Described as “absolutely the most glamorous couple in Denver” by close friend Harriet Kelly, the Taylors maintained several homes in Montana and Colorado, and were legendary around the world for their graciousness and expertise as hosts. In 1963 they were among the founders of Vail, and built one of the first chalets in town, which became a favorite watering hole for the British Royal family. Together, they lived there with family and friends for 40 years.

Said former U.S. Olympian and freestyle ballet skier Suzy Chaffee, “Nose-dive Annie—the self-made, gutsy liberator of women, conqueror of Forest Hills, Vogue, and the Irish Fox Hunt, with a slightly naughty influence befitting a ski goddess, wife, and supermom—lives on in the hearts of Vermonters, Americans, and me… A little Vermont spitfire, she rose to become the Queen of the Downhill Dance.”

Ann Bonfoey Taylor was regularly featured in Vogue, Town & Country, and Harper’s Bazaar from the 1930s through the 1970s, captured in photos by artists such as Edward Steichen, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, and Toni Frissell. In 2008, her collection of couture and custom-designed “sporting ensembles” was donated to Phoenix Art Museum. Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Madame Grès were among the many top names in fashion who helped bring Bonfoey Taylor’s unique and widely admired style into being. A book has also been published about her—Fashion Independent: The Original Style of Ann Bonfoey Taylor.