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"Doc" DesRoches and Other Laurel Mountain Questions.

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I'm looking for any information about Ralph 'Doc' DesRoches. Anybody out there have any interesting stories?

Quote:
 
Ralph A. DesRoches*
Inducted in 1977

Born: September 10, 1916     Mexico, ME

Died: June 30, 2003,               Industry, ME

Ralph "Doc" DesRoches' entire life was actively devoted to skiing and the advancement of the sport in general.  He was a true founder of sking.

Starting his ski career with a two-year stint on his high school ski team, his talents earned him a Class "A" rating as a competitor in downhill, cross-country and combined at the University of New Hampshire. 

After service with the famous 10th Mountain Division he started his working career with Laurel Mountain Shops rising to  become the CEO of the company.  This experience gave him an insight into all aspects of the ski industry, making him a great choice to be the CEO of  Ski Industries America.  He played a key role in shaping the SIA into a successful association for the industry and ran its annual trade show with a fim hand from 1963 to 1981.

He contributed his talents to the support of the U.S. Ski Team. In 1960 he helmed a successful $140,000 campaign for its development program.  With J. Negley Cook he started, in 1967, the New York Ski Ball, which continues as a key fund raising event for the USSA.  Charter Member #7 of the PSIA, he was awarded the prestigeous Blegen Award for his service to skiing.

post #2 of 10
Interesting history here Rob.  I hear you may finally be getting the Laurel Hill opened up?
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
The word is that Laurel Mountain will be open for the 2011-2012 season. As much as I would like to take credit for that, the real champions are the local politicians that worked hard to fund improvements, Governor Rendell for approving the funds and Seven Springs for stepping up to operate the facility. Also a nod to Seven Springs competitors, Hidden Valley, for taking the initial interest that really got the ball rolling. There's nothing like competition to get things moving.

I'm going to cut and paste my post from DCSki.com here to provide context to my question about Doc DesRoches. The bio above states that he was CEO of Laurel Mountain Shops that's a misprint. Doc was CEO of Laurel Mountain Slopes as Laurel was known in its heyday. The post will also asked the other Laurel Mountain questions.



Midway Cabin-Help Preserve History

As Laurel Mountain's resurrection seems all but assured by a partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Seven Springs Mountain Resort now is the time to preserve a slice of skiing history. Midway Cabin, Laurel Mountain's original ski lodge, is in need of restoration. Not only is Laurel Mountain and Midway Cabin significant to local skiing history, it is also a part of the greater story that is modern alpine skiing. One would not think of Western Pennsylvania's Laurel Mountains as among the vanguard of America's mountain communities that introduced modern alpine skiing to the public but in the 1930s alpine skiing for recreation was just a few decades old. Perhaps it is most fitting that Seven Springs and Laurel Mountain is now a joined business operation. Both ski areas trace their beginnings to the era when modern alpine technique arrived in this country from Austria between the mid1930s and 1940s. The catalyst was the annexation of Austria by Germany.

In 1938 with Hitler's Anschulss a reality Johann "Hannes" Schneider, the most famous and influential of all ski instructors, was placed under arrest for his refusal to cooperate with the Nazi Party. Schneider is widely regarded as the father of modern alpine skiing. He honed the movement patterns and teaching techniques that brought downhill skiing from the realm of high risk sport into the mainstream by enabling beginning skiers to progress faster and control decent on steeper terrain. Hannes and his Arlberg Method was the subject of the world's first ski film. Schneider helped establish the Arlberg-Kandahar combined alpine race, the forerunner of World Cup and Olympic alpine skiing. All of this popularize alpine skiing around the world and made Schneider "the biggest name in the then small ski world." With pressure brought to bear by Hanover Bank President Harvey Gibson, Schneider was released by the Nazis. He came to the US in February, 1939. Gibson also built Mount Cranmore, NH the premier eastern ski resort of that time. Not only did Hannes become the head of the ski school but also directed the development of the mountain. It is at this point that Laurel Mountain's connection with our nation's greater ski heritage begins.

The following winter Richard King Mellon, head of a vast industrial and banking business based in Western Pennsylvania, upon returning from a day of skiing at Seven Springs Farm with his bank manager Lenny Bughman decided to build a ski area of his own. Mellon called his banking friend Harvey Gibson for advice and a few days later Hannes Schneider arrived at the train station in Latrobe. Schneider designed the Broadway trail and skiing began at Laurel Mountain the next winter for members of the Rolling Rock Club. I have no other information of Hannes' visit or what other trails he designed or how long he stayed here. I would like to fill in this information gap.

The original lodge, now Midway Cabin, was presumably built at this time. I say presumably because there are stories I have not been able to confirm that skiing was happening at Laurel before 1939. Midway was accessed by Locust Camp Road, a dirt road that descends from the Summit Road. When Laurel was opened to the public, buses brought skiers from their Pullman sleeper cars sided at Ligonier Station down the narrow lane to the lodge. From here a surface lift began its uphill journey through the trees beside Broadway. A stone wall built to bridge a dip in the hill on the tow line still stands. Below the Midway Cabin a rope tow serviced Timber Top slope. Pulleys and footers are still evident. Since the original structure was built there were two additions, a front entrance area and a back dormitory that became the home of the Pittsburgh Ski Club which built and maintained its own rope tow. (The ski club also began in the mid-1930s.) The lodge had no indoor plumbing. Heat was provided by two large stone fireplaces that were on the original outside walls. Lenny Bughman, now Laurel's manager, arranged to have Lowell Thomas, the most prominent newscaster of that time, do his Friday night nationwide radio newscast from the Midway Cabin just as he had done from other ski resorts throughout the country. The Sunday before the scheduled event the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and, of course, the Thomas broadcast never occurred.

After the war a Tenth Mountain Division veteran, Ralph "Doc" DesRoches, came to Laurel from Lake Placid to become the head of the ski school and later was made the mountain manager. Doc went on to become the president of the Ski Industries of America, the industry's trade association. He also became the head of fundraising for the US Ski Team and Olympic Committee. I digress, there is so much more to this story and other events at Laurel that should be told but, back to Midway.

Midway Cabin presents the DCNR with a great opportunity to tell the tale of the early days of alpine skiing. The cabin is still owned by the State and under DCNR control. At this time Midway is in fair condition and was in use when Laurel re-opened in 1999. The roof is in good condition but there are leaks around the two chimneys. The greatest structural threat is the uphill wall, the floor behind it, and floor joists joined at that wall. Pressure and moister from the earth against the side is rotting the wood and must be repaired. A professional assessment of the structural integrity should soon be made. The stone gatehouse at the entrance of the ski area is another structure that is still standing and is in very good condition. A date on the gatehouse fixes its construction at 1941. Midway could again be placed in service as a secondary lodge in addition to being the focal point of historical interpretation.

Prompt action should be taken to preserve for reuse these historic structures. It is to this end that I make this plea. I am in the process of gathering information to place Midway Cabin on the National Historic Register (I thought it already was but found it was not.) with the hope that such designation would help secure funding to do the renovation. I need more leads to reveal a more detailed account including construction date, Schneider's visit, and the very earliest days of skiing at Laurel Mountain. So I ask you readers to help out. Post your thoughts and stories here or send me a private message through this message board. Ask the DCNR to help preserve Midway at Laurel Mountain so future generations can understand and appreciate the roots of our local skiing heritage and its context in the our country's skiing history.
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 






post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

Here's a trail map from 1947 about the time Doc came to Laurel.

 

1947 Trail Map.pdf

post #6 of 10
This thread needs to be Wikied.
post #7 of 10

I got an email recently claiming Laurel won't be oppening until at least '12-'13 if ever.  The lift is supposedly in need of major overhaul or replacement.  Hopefully the info is wrong but I have my doubts.

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by PaSucks View Post

I got an email recently claiming Laurel won't be oppening until at least '12-'13 if ever.  The lift is supposedly in need of major overhaul or replacement.  Hopefully the info is wrong but I have my doubts.



with how bad the Nutting's run things I got to think that Buncher group would be a better owner to get it open.

 

Nutting are trying their best to ruin springs like they have the Pirates. Buncher on the other hand has done some good things.

 

post #9 of 10

I'm not a fan of the Nuttings but in fairness since they took over they have spent some money at Seven Springs. They purchased more air compressors for the snow making plant and they have installed fan guns on the headwalls on the front runs.. They used to lease the additional compressors they required and these units had to go back early.

 

They also build a "big time" half pipe for the parkers every season since they took over and the amount of snow they blow on that hill to support that can't be too cheap. Last year's snowfall was so extraordinary that it probably could have masked a lot of things.

 

Nutting also raised the prices of the cafeteria food that was already too expensive. They remodeled the rooms in the hotel.

 

I think the long time employees were happier before, have no idea what the mindset is with the patrol and instructors. I know some guys were upset with the late morning openings in the early season.   Time will tell . I'm just amazed at how well the new condos sold on top of Wagner. People are plucking down a half a million and up to own units up there. To me that's just nuts even if I had the financial where with all to do this, I could think of a better way to spend money on skiing.

 

post #10 of 10


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by roundturns View Post

I'm not a fan of the Nuttings but in fairness since they took over they have spent some money at Seven Springs. They purchased more air compressors for the snow making plant and they have installed fan guns on the headwalls on the front runs.. They used to lease the additional compressors they required and these units had to go back early.

 

They also build a "big time" half pipe for the parkers every season since they took over and the amount of snow they blow on that hill to support that can't be too cheap. Last year's snowfall was so extraordinary that it probably could have masked a lot of things.

 

Nutting also raised the prices of the cafeteria food that was already too expensive. They remodeled the rooms in the hotel.

 

I think the long time employees were happier before, have no idea what the mindset is with the patrol and instructors. I know some guys were upset with the late morning openings in the early season.   Time will tell . I'm just amazed at how well the new condos sold on top of Wagner. People are plucking down a half a million and up to own units up there. To me that's just nuts even if I had the financial where with all to do this, I could think of a better way to spend money on skiing.

 


If i had enough money to buy an condo on top of wagner. I wouldnt so many other place you could go:).

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