As you're driving along Route 49 and about to enter the village of Waterville Valley, you're greeted by this sign:
If you Google "birthplace of freestyle skiing," you won't find Waterville Valley or resort founder Tom Corcoran mentioned anywhere. Instead, those bigger, glitzier, more famous areas -- Sun Valley & Heavenly Valley -- get all the recognition and glory.
Waterville Valley Resort has always been a bit of a secret to the greater world (shhhhh...that's how many of us like it!). This is apparently the case with the world's understanding of where freestyle skiing was born!
In author Grace Bean's history of Waterville Valley, The Town at the end of the road, she wrote that "Waterville Valley became the first [ski] area to offer freestyle instruction. A freestyle program was started in 1969-70...Freestyle classes were offered at all levels, including the Kids' Ski School..."
Bean also noted that "Tom Corcoran and Doug Pfeiffer, editor of Skiing Magazine, organized the First National Open Championships of Freestyle Skiing at Waterville Valley (February 28-March 1, 1970)...Herman Goellner, an experienced skier from Vermont, was the 1970 winner. The event was so successful that in 1972 two other areas offered freestyle competitions - Vail and Sun Valley."
"...Probably the most excitement engendered for freestyle in Waterville was the presence of Wayne Wong, a remarkable twenty-two-year-old acrobatic skier from Vancouver, BC, who came east in the spring of 1971 to participate in Waterville's National Championships of Exhibition Skiing. He had started skiing at age eleven and continued as a teenager but found it "too expensive." His school friends had talked him into coming to Waterville, just to see how he would do. The student council had collected $200 to send him...He finished third in the Waterville Competition. Within a year he was a national phenomenon. The next winter he returned to Waterville as an instructor and headed up the junior freestyle program. In 1972 he was named by Skiing Magazine as "Hot Shot Skier of the Year."
Well, there you have it. Waterville Valley IS the birthplace of freestyle skiing. Harumph...So there Sun Valley and Heavenly Valley.
Photo below: Wayne Wong