Mead was born in Rutland County, Vermont, to an alpine skiing family that owned and operated the Pico Peak ski area. At age 14 she made the national team, and at age 15 competed in the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where she placed eighth in the slalom, and sixth at the 1950 World Championships in Aspen.
At the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, she was selected as captain of the U.S. women's team at age 19. She won both the slalom and the giant slalom events. She succeeded Gretchen Fraser, who had won gold in the slalom in 1948, as the top American woman ski racer. She also competed at the 1956 Winter Olympics, placing fourth in the giant slalom. Between the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, she gave birth to three children, and was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1958 and carried the torch at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, passed it to America gold medalist speed skater Ken Henry, who circled the ice rink then ascended the Tribune of Honor and ignited the Olympic flame.
From 1948 through 1980, the Winter Olympics were also the World Championships for alpine skiing.
After fighting against development at Mammoth Mountain ski area, she was elected as a Mono County supervisor in 1982, and served for 16 years.
In 2003, she founded the Andrea Lawrence Institute for Mountains and Rivers, a non-profit organization committed to conservation, specifically in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains. A resident of the area for over 40 years, she was also a long-time advocate for the preservation of Mono Lake and other environmental concerns.
On April 29, 2010 U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and U.S. Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon announced legislation to rename Peak 12,240 in Mono County “Mt. Andrea Lawrence,” in memory of Lawrence.
On January 10, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Mt. Andrea Lawrence Designation Act of 2011, naming peak 12,240 near Donahue Pass on the John Muir Trail, “Mt. Andrea Lawrence”.
Lawrence is a member of the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in the first class of 2012.
On November 8, 2013, two Vermont non-profit organizations opened a new multi-use adaptive sports and youth skiing center at Andrea Mead Lawrence's home mountain of Pico Peak, Vermont. The Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge at Pico will serve as the permanent home and base camp for the non-profit missions of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and the Pico Ski Education Foundation.
Mead married fellow U.S. Ski Team member David Lawrence in Switzerland in March 1951. They moved to a ranch in Parshall, Colorado in 1954 and then to Aspen in the 1960s, where she became a member of the town's planning board. The couple separated and divorced in 1967. With five young children and little money, she moved her family in 1968 to Mammoth Lakes, California, near Mammoth Mountain. Her nephew is current Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.
Lawrence was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in 2000, from which she died on March 30, 2009, several weeks before her 77th birthday.