Ralph A. “Doc” DesRoches, 86, died peacefully on June 30, 2003, at his home on Clearwater Lake in Industry, ME.
Doc was born in 1916 in Mexico, ME, the son of Alec and Angelina Des Roches of Prince Edward Island. He was educated at Mexico schools and Fryeburg Academy and attended the University of New Hampshire in the class of 1943, where he participated in intercollegiate, national and regional ski meets, achieving Class A Downhill, Cross-Country and Combined. During World War II, Doc served in the 10th Mountain Division, training ski troops at Camp Hale, Colorado and Lake Placid, New York.
Doc’s collegiate and Army ski experiences led him to a distinguished lifetime career in skiing. In 1946, Doc married Yvonne “Toby” Stone and taught her how to ski, and they worked side-by-side in ski area management at Laurel Mountain Slopes in Ligonier, PA, from 1946-1963, where Doc was ski school director, mountain manager and ultimately president and CEO, while Toby taught skiing and raised four children.
From 1963-1981, Doc served as executive vice president and CEO of Ski Industries America (now SnowSports Industries America), the national trade association of manufacturers, importers and distributors of consumer ski products, again with Toby working by his side. “When we hired Doc, he told us in his gruff manner, You make the rules and Ill make sure they will be followed by everyone, and he did. He saw to it that every member big or small had the same level playing field and rules. Doc was a man among men,” stated Jim Woolner of Beconta Inc., and president of SIA from 1967-69.
Doc managed the organization and its respective trade shows in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and its now permanent home, Las Vegas. He played an integral role in shaping the association as the industry knows it today. “Doc was SIA. He was responsible for developing the organizational foundation that saw SIA grow into its leadership role in the ski industry. Doc’s background as a retailer, ski instructor, racer and mountain manager was perfect to be able to communicate and understand all segments of the industry. He leaves a legacy of leadership from his insight and honesty in dealing with people. He was a great inspiration to me and others in the industry. SIA would not be where it is today without Doc DesRoches,” said David Ingemie, current president of SIA. “It is with great sadness that I have to say goodbye to Doc DesRoches. I never worked with another man with his character which was absolutely honest above everything else. He was a true friend of mine for forty years and we worked together through many difficulties in the early years of SIA. Every problem was overcome with Doc’s leadership. He was truly Mr. Ski. I salute a real gentleman,” said Jim Weinstein, SIA’s general counsel from it’s inception in 1954 to 1983.
During his tenure at SIA, he was named national chairman of the US Ski Team Fund Committee in 1963, and in 1964 finance chairman of the Olympic Ski Games Committee. Asked to raise $100,000 for the nascent US Ski Team, Doc produced over $140,000. In 1967, he teamed with J. Negley Cook to found the New York Ski Ball. “The team wouldnt have gotten off the ground without him,” says Bob Beattie, head coach of the team through the 60s. “We were desperate for money, but Doc told me, Well find the money if youll find the team. We were joined at the hip, traveling everywhere together. And he did all this work gratis.”
When Doc “retired,” he moved to Clearwater Lake in Industry and developed the UMF Ski Industry Program, serving as coordinator from 1982-1992, and remained a consultant to the program till his death.
Among his many working and honorary memberships, Doc was Charter Member #7 of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, an FIS member (Federation Internationale de Ski), and helped to found the Eastern Ski Writers Association (1962) and the U.S. Ski Writers Association (1963), now called the North American Ski Journalists Association. His work with the United States Ski Association included Board of Directors, Alpine Official, U.S. Ski Team Fund Finance Chairman, TV representative, Press Officer and representative at several Winter Olympic Games. Doc was the permanent Honorary Chairman of the U.S. Ski Team Fund, a lifetime honorary member of the U.S. Ski Team, the PSIA and the U.S. Ski Writers Association.
Doc received many national and state awards for his outstanding contributions to the sport and industry of skiing, including the Julius P. Blegen Memorial Award of the U.S. Ski Association, the Golden Quill Award of the U.S. Ski Writers Association, the John Clair Award for outstanding service to the U.S. Ski Team, and the Darien, CT, Oldtimers Athletic Award. He was recognized as a “Founder of Skiing,” for leadership in setting the high standards skiing enjoys today. He was inducted into both the National Ski Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Ski Hall of Fame’s Inaugural Class; and was also named Distinguished Lifetime Member of International Association of Exposition Managers Emeritus. The University of Maine at Farmington recognized Doc “in grateful appreciation for his contribution in developing the UMF Ski Industries Program.” And shortly before his death, Doc was notified that he was to be inducted into the first class of the Maine Ski Museum’s Hall of Fame later this year.
He was survived by Toby, his wife of 57 years, four children, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, one brother-in-law and two sister-in-laws. He was predeceased by four brothers and three sisters.