In the Tracks of a Legend

On December 10, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

One of the delights of early-season skiing is getting to enjoy deep, soft snow before the inevitable January Thaw turns the underlayment to slippery, barely edgable steel. I’ve been sneaking out as many mornings as I can lately for “coffee runs” — but I don’t waste any time on coffee, no matter how good the Starbucks at Schwendi tastes. This morning I caught up with my neighbor Eric for some high-speed cruising on seemingly bottomless corduroy. It was absolutely the stuff of summer dreams, and we were both grinning like fools even as we reminded ourselves on the chairlift that men of certain age probably don’t really want to be taking a 30-plus-mile-per-hour tumble.

I also enjoyed an early chair with (as Hunter Thompson would say) my attorney, John. He caught me up on his children’s great successes — congratulations to WVES graduates Eliza, who will be gracing the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula next fall, and Ian, who was elected president of his freshman class at Pemi-Baker Regional High School in Plymouth. It’s just more evidence that Waterville Valley and WVES are a factory of sorts, putting out both Olympic-caliber skiers and great leaders to boot. As we crossed over the flats by the top of the triple chair, John pointed out legendary Olympian and Waterville Valley founder, Tom Corcoran, out for a morning of skiing with the new resort management team. As you’d expect of someone of his pedigree, his skiing is still impeccable, and he clearly was enjoying himself every bit as much as I was.

As luck would have it, a few runs later, I caught up with Mr. Corcoran, along with Chris Sununu, Bob Fries, Tom Gross, and Bill Cantlin. I risked looking like a star-struck goofball and skied over to introduce myself to Mr. Corcoran. I was anxious to pay my respects to this icon of the ski industry who had the vision some 45 years ago to see a top-notch ski area carved out of the rugged wilderness of the White Mountains.

Think about it for a moment: in 1965, ski areas were popping up on every hillside all around New England — but most were built with the aesthetic sensitivity of your average strip mall. In 1965, green was just a color (and not even a Pantone-shade, Martha Stewart-swatch color; Kelly green was about as exotic as it got), and very few people were thinking about the environment or about master-planning a community that would sit graciously on the land rather than imposing upon it.

Tom Corcoran and his team had a vision of a four-season resort that was a true village, nestled in the valley and surrounded by wild peaks. They insisted on a sustainable infrastructure and maintained design standards that still look fresh nearly half a century later. As Bill Cantlin said when he and I caught a chair up a few moments later, that vision hasn’t been fully realized yet, but thanks to the stewardship of Mr. Corcoran — and I would add, people like Bill Cantlin himself — we also haven’t managed to screw it up. In the mean time, it was exciting to see Tom out with the new management team, infusing them further with his sense of vision, to say nothing of sharing the delight of a perfect early-winter morning on the snow.