Ski industry pioneer Tom Corcoran dies at age 85
Olympian Tom Corcoran, an early U.S. Ski Team pioneer and founder of New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley Resort, died Tuesday at his home in Seabrook Island, S.C. at the age of 85. Corcoran was one of the most decorated skiers of his era, moving on to become a pioneer in the ski industry and a longtime U.S. Ski & Snowboard leader. He was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1978.
Corcoran was born Nov. 16, 1931 in Japan and grew up skiing at Quebec’s Mt. Tremblant. He went to high school in New Hampshire and later competed for the U.S. Ski Team at both the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. He narrowly missed a medal in giant slalom at Squaw Valley, finishing fourth.
Corcoran’s brilliant performance in the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley saw him come within six-tenths of a second from becoming America’s first man to win a medal. His fourth place finish was the best for an American in giant slalom until Bode Miller won silver in 2002.
In his career he won four U.S. titles, the famed Roch Cup in Aspen twice, Sun Valley’s Harriman Cup and many other honors. After retirement he remained extremely active in the sport as a leader with the then U.S. Ski Association and the U.S. Ski Team Education Foundation. He was awarded U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Julius Blegen Award in 1991 for his lifetime service to the sport.
Corcoran graduated from Dartmouth College in 1954 and later earned a master’s degree in business from Harvard. After retirement, he worked in Aspen before moving back to New Hampshire where he founded Waterville Valley in 1965. The resort opened on Mt. Tecumseh in 1966 with four chairlifts.
Corcoran’s Waterville Valley also became a popular spot for politicians and celebrities from the Kennedy family to New Hampshire’s Sununu family. Over the decades he played a pivotal role in the American ski industry, also serving as a very active director and chairman of the National Ski Areas Association. He also played a key role in the startup of the recreational racing program NASTAR in the late ’60s. He stepped down from management in 1999.
During his three decades managing Waterville Valley, it became a core resort for ski racing. The legendary Waterville Valley Black and Blue Trail Smashers were a central part of racing in New England, playing host to all levels of competition from kids and junior races right up to World Cup racing, playing host to 11 races. America’s Julie Parisien made history at Waterville Valley in 1991 winning a World Cup giant slalom. The resort also played a pioneering role in the formative years of freestyle skiing, as well as in cross country as race site in the U.S. Ski Association’s Great American Ski Chase.
“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,” said U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO Tiger Shaw. “He was the consummate visionary and volunteer for our sport – always looking at ways he could give back.”
After his retirement from Waterville Valley, Corcoran and his late wife Daphne, an accomplished sailor, spent time at their home in South Carolina as well as sailing around the world. In 1999, Tom and 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 ports of call. He remained an active follower of the U.S. Ski Team and an engaged advocate for the sport.
Daphne passed away this past February. The Corcorans left behind six children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Information on services is pending.
Release courtesy of U.S. Ski & Snowboard