Tom Corcoran

In Loving Memory
1931—2017


Visionary, master developer of the resort of Waterville Valley, selectman for the town of Waterville Valley for 35 years, two-time Olympic skier, member of the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame, national slalom & giant slalom champion, transatlantic sailor, and mentor to a new generation of resort developers and operators. For four decades his love of the Valley, its history, the sport of skiing, and his dedication to the community have set the tone for the Resort's development.

— Jan Stearns & Bill Cantlin

Much of the timeline below is sourced directly from an autobiographical piece dictated by Tom Corcoran in the late 1990s, but it also incorporates information and reflections from archival sources, interviews, as well as stories from those who knew him best. Our goal is to honor Tom's accomplishments, influence, and sense of humor throughout his life, and recognize the admiration, respect, and love of the community that he leaves behind. This organic piece will continue to grow and evolve to represent the community. To contribute photos, quotes, sources, or to verify or correct any information, please email wvos@waterville.com.

Thank you for sharing in our celebration of the life of Tom Corcoran, our founder, fearless leader, and friend.

— Whitney Vos and Will Zimicki


1931

Born in Japan on November 16th to American parents, the family moved back to the United States when Tom was still a toddler. He started skiing in 1936, at just 5 years old, in his grandfather's backyard in New Jersey.

1939

Tom moved to St. Jovite, Quebec, in the Laurentian Mountains and called it home until 1950. He lived with his mother and her second husband, Stu Forbell, Chief Engineer for Wheeler Airlines. There, he attended tutorial school with the children of the Wheeler family and other neighborhood kids in the basement of the Gray Rocks Inn. The unconventional school produced three future Olympians, including Lucile Wheeler, Pete Kirby, and Tom Corcoran. 

 
We skied to school or rode the runners of the garbage sleigh, and skied every afternoon on the rope-tow hill behind the Gray Rocks Inn.
— Tom Corcoran
 

1944

In those early years, Tom said his parents realized that he could ski but couldn't read, write, add or subtract very well, despite his tutors best efforts. Between 1944 and 1950, Tom attended Emerson School and then Exeter Academy, both in Exeter, New Hampshire. With others, he started Exeter's first ski team.

1950

Tom attended Dartmouth College from 1950 to 1954, where he was on the ski team for three years along with Brooks Dodge, Bill Beck, Ralph Miller, Dave Lawrence, Colin Stewart, Chick Igaya, Toni Speiss, Pete Kirby, Egil Stigum, Bill Tibbits, and Peter Caldwell. Tom called it, "one of the great eras in Dartmouth skiing. Walt Prager was the coach, a great guy, and a great assist to my racing development." During his freshman year, Tom jumped from unclassified to a Class A racer by mid-season and closed out the winter by winning the Hochebirge Challenge Cup at Cannon Mountain against many Olympic skiers. He spent a summer in Portillo, Chile, racing and training under Emile Allais, who he said was the other great coaching influence on his racing career. Over the next three years, Tom would go on to win a number of the major races in North America, including the Harriman Cup at Sun Valley, the Quebec Kandahar and the Canadian Championships at Tremblant, the Gibson Trophy at North Conway, the Vic Constant at Bromley, and all of the college slaloms entered during his senior year.

1954

After graduation from Dartmouth in 1954, Tom joined the Navy for two years of active duty as a Lieutenant Junior Grade posted to a destroyer escort out of Newport, Rhode Island. His principal jobs on board were Combat Information Center (CIC) officer and assistant navigator.

 
web_sectional_tomtom_2017_mini.jpg
If you put him in an Irish fishing sweater, his firm-jawed ruddy Irish face and stocky build make him a stand-in for one of the folk singing Clancy brothers. He is voluble, with total recall, and a rolling, infectious laugh.
— Dinah Witchel, Skiing Magazine
 

1955

During the winter of 1955 the Navy allowed Tom to try out for the 1956 U.S. Olympic Team going to Cortina, Italy, which he made. During the summer prior to the Olympics, the Navy sent him down to Chile and Argentina to train and race, and he won the National Championships in both countries. Tom said that despite the Navy’s help he did poorly in the Olympic events, not finishing well in the slalom or giant slalom, although he had a 2nd and a 4th in pre-Olympic slaloms at Adelboden, Switzerland, against good competition. 

1956

After the 1956 Olympics, Tom returned to the U.S. and won the National Slalom and Giant Slalom Championships at Squaw Valley.  In the fall of 1956 he enrolled in the Harvard Business School. 

1957

During the winter of 1957 Tom tried out for, and made, the 1958 FIS World Championship Team.  In the tryouts at Aspen, Colorado, he won the Roch Cup, the National Slalom Championships for the second year in a row, and the National Combined Championships. He also won most of the major races in the Eastern U.S. The following year Tom took a leave of absence from the Harvard Business School in order to participate in the 1958 FIS World Championships in Bad Gastein, Austria, in which he said he again "did poorly".

 
tom1_mini.jpg
Corcoran split his ski pants at the finish of one memorable GS run, and the national media seized upon the young racer with red underwear flapping at the finish line as a symbol of the U.S.’s poor performance. Corcoran laughed and set off adventuring again.
— Dinah Witchel, Skiing Magazine
 

1958

After the World Championships, he came 2nd in the Tre’ Tre’ at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy, and 4th in the international races at Zakopane in Poland.  He also came 9th in the Arlberg Kandahar at St. Anton, a significant achievement. In the fall of 1958, Tom returned for his second year at the Harvard Business School.

1959

Tom tried out for the 1960 Olympic Team during the 1959 winter, which he made. He graduated from the Harvard Business School with a master's degree in business in the spring of 1959, and spent the next summer working in Alaska.

 
Photo Courtesy of the Aspen Historical Society. Corcoran is pictured in the back row, second from the left.

Photo Courtesy of the Aspen Historical Society. Corcoran is pictured in the back row, second from the left.

I’m rather proud of the fact that I made two international teams while attending Harvard Business School, and still managed to graduate. I don’t think the school saw it the same way.
— Tom Corcoran
 

1960

In pre-Olympic meets in Europe, Tom says he "finally figured out how to run efficient giant slalom", winning the Parsenn Gold Cup in Davos, and placing 2nd in the Philips Giant Slalom Derby in Lenzerheide, both in Switzerland. In pre-Olympic warm-ups in the United States, he won the Roch Cup at Aspen for the second time.

At Squaw Valley, Tom placed 4th in the Olympic Giant Slalom and 9th in the Olympic Slalom.  Until Bode Miller came along with a Silver medal performance in 2002, his 4th place in the 1960 Olympic Giant Slalom was the best placing for an American man in that event. Tom retired from serious racing in 1960, although he managed to enter at least one major event each year through 1965.

 
Untitled-7_mini.jpg
In 1963, I won the first Olympic Slalom Trial at Vail, CO, scaring the hell out of Bob Beattie, coach of the 1964 Olympic Team, who worried that I might be encouraged to reconsider my retirement from international racing.
— Tom Corcoran
 

1964

With the full Olympic teams for the United States and Switzerland racing, Tom still managed to place 3rd in the Roch Cup Giant Slalom in 1964 and 2nd in the North American Championships at Cannon Mountain in 1965, one of the last major races of his skiing career before turning his sights toward development.

At the end of the summer of 1964, Tom moved to Vermont to begin scouting mountains to establish a ski area. Based in Franconia, NH, an old acquaintence, Sel Hannah, provided a feasibility study and arranged a fly-over of Mt. Tecumseh in Waterville Valley.

 
Waterville Valley Resort 2017

Waterville Valley Resort 2017

When we flew over Waterville Valley, all the bells went off in my mind. It was exactly what I was looking for. From the air it was obvious how it should be laid out, and I could see its potential for great skiing.
— Tom Corcoran
 

1965

Tom formed the Waterville Company to purchase the private land on Waterville’s valley floor, including the old Waterville Inn, the 9-hole golf course, tennis court, and swimming pool, and secured the appropriate approvals from the Forest Service for development of the ski area on Mount Tecumseh. 

Tom envisioned a European/alpine-style pedestrian village – a full service destination resort.  He worked closely with town officials to create a comprehensive set of zoning and planning regulations, which would ensure a community free from heavily commercialized or haphazard growth.  "

1966

Waterville Valley Resort opens on Mt. Tecumseh with 4 double chairlifts for the 1966/67 winter season.

 
Waterville Company, Inc. (WCI) was formed in 1965 to plan and build a high quality, self-contained, year-round mountain resort community, with a family and skiing emphasis.
— Tom Corcoran
 

1968

While developing Waterville Valley, Tom's passion for skiing remained at the forefront and he continued to do a considerable amount of masters racing, winning many regional races and three out of four events in the U.S. National Masters Championships in 1968.

 
bwrace3_mini.jpg
Tom Corcoran was a real catalyst behind the prominence of alpine ski racing when I was growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s in New England. He was the consummate visionary and volunteer for our sport - always looking at ways he could give back.”
— Tiger Shaw, U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO
 

1978

Tom was inducted into the U.S. National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1978 for both his success as a ski athlete and his contributions as a ski sport builder.

1988

Tom received the Sherman Adams Award in 1988 for outstanding contributions to Eastern skiing.

 
Every single time he got on a lift, he and his family would always greet us and wave. He knew my whole story and always asked after me.
— Hilton Vos, Former South African Exchange Student and Lift Attendant
 

1991

Tom received the Blegen Award in 1991, the highest award given by the U.S. Ski Association. In the same year, Waterville Valley Resort hosted U.S. skier Julie Parisien during her historic World Cup Giant Slalom win.

1995

Tom was elected to the Rolex International Ski Racing Hall of Fame in 1995.

1999

In 1999 Tom stepped down from day-to-day management at Waterville Valley Resort and he and his wife, Daphne, completed a four-year circumnavigation of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea that covered 20,000 sea miles, with visits to 26 countries and over 200 foreign harbors and anchorages.

 
A plaque placed on the shore of Corcoran Pond in Town Square in 2002 in honor of Tom's life's work and dedication to the Town and Resort.

A plaque placed on the shore of Corcoran Pond in Town Square in 2002 in honor of Tom's life's work and dedication to the Town and Resort.

He very much led the building of the town. There’s no question Waterville Valley is what it is today because of him.
— Sally Harris, Former Long-Time Town Administrator
 

2006

The New England Ski Museum honored Tom with the first Spirit of Skiing award in 2006.  In the same year, New Hampshire Business Review magazine inducted Tom into the Business Excellence Hall of Fame, and alongside his wife, Daphne, received the  “Rich Wilson Blue Water Trophy” from Eastern Yacht Club, Marblehead, MA for extended ocean sailing.

2017

Tom was inducted into the Waterville Valley Hall of Fame, alongside another notable industry legend and one of the Fathers of Freestyle Skiing, Wayne Wong.

 
Tom touched many lives around the world. Lucky for all of us his legacy lives on in Waterville Valley — his dream, his vision, his creation, his hard work.
— Jan Stearns, Former Long-Time Executive Assistant and Friend
 

Notable Affiliations

  • Past-Chairman and Director for 20 years of the National Ski Areas Association.
  • Elected Director for 18 years for the U.S. Ski Association, U.S. Ski Team & U.S. Skiing.
  • Past-Chairman: American Ski Federation.
  • Past President: Eastern Ski Areas Ass’n., NH Ski Areas Ass’n., and Ski 93 Ass’n.
  • Past-Director for 7 years of the American Land Development Ass’n.
  • Started Alta Sport, a specialty ski shop in Pasadena, CA, in 1961 with 2 partners.
  • Owned 20% of Scott USA (ski poles) from 1965 until company was sold in 1970.
  • Racing Editor (part-time) for Ski Magazine for 7 years.
  • PSIA fully-certified ski instructor in CO, 1964.

 

 

Awards & Accomplishments

  • Served as an elected Selectman (3-person governing board), Town of Waterville Valley, for 35 years (12 terms, longest serving Selectman at the time in NH).

  • Elected Director for 18 years: US Ski Association, US Ski Team & US Skiing.

  • Elected to U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1978 as both a ski athlete and ski sport builder.
  • Received Sherman Adams Award in 1988 for outstanding contributions to eastern skiing.
  • Received Blegen Award in 1991, highest award of the U.S. Ski Association.
  • Elected to Rolex International Ski Racing Hall of Fame in 1995.
  • Selected as first recipient of New England Ski Museum “Spirit of Skiing” Award in 2006.
  • Inducted in NH Business Review’s “Business Excellence Hall of Fame” in 2006.
  • Received with Daphne “Rich Wilson Blue Water Trophy” from Eastern Yacht Club, Marblehead, MA for extended ocean sailing, in 2006.

 


In Loving Memory of Tom Corcoran.

Waterville Valley Resort in Waterville Valley, NH  June 2017

Waterville Valley Resort in Waterville Valley, NH  June 2017