By Tim Hauserman
Growing up in Tahoe City, I remember hearing stories from my parents about what an awesome experience it was for them to attend the 1960 Winter Olympics in what was then known as Squaw Valley. These Olympics were the first to be televised and it was somewhat of a miracle that they ever were held in the Sierra Nevada. Squaw Valley owner Alex Cushing had made the audacious proposal to bring them here when the ski area had only one chairlift and not much else. Now those Olympics, and lots of other stories about winter recreation in the Sierra Nevada, are being brought back to life at the SNOW Museum in the Boatworks in Tahoe City (Sierra Nevada Olympic Winter Museum).
Some of the exhibits at the SNOW Museum include: uniforms worn by Tahoe locals Daron Rahlves and Julia Mancuso when they skied in the Olympics; a treasure chest of 1960 Olympics memorabilia including posters and event information; exhibits on the Lake Tahoe Ski Club which has produced dozens of top winter athletes; and longboard skis similar to those used at the oldest documented ski races in the world at nearby Plumas-Eureka State Park.
One piece of information that will be of special interest to us cross-country skiing aficionados is the story of the cross-country events at the 1960 Olympics. Originally the plan was to hold the XC events in Olympic Valley, but after the bid for the games was won, real estate development in the valley caused a lack of suitable land for trails. This led to the cross-country events being held on Tahoe’s west shore. A temporary stadium was built on Gray Avenue, in what is now the Kailua Park neighborhood of Tahoma, and about 50 kilometers of trails were carved out of the pine and fir forest in the area between Tahoma and Sugar Pine Point State Park.
Most of the land used for the Olympic XC events was privately owned, and became residential development after the Olympics, but some of the trails and information about their history still exist at Sugar Pine Point State Park.
The SNOW Museum, (Sierra Nevada Olympic Winter Museum) is open every day. It is definitely worth your time to stop by and experience the exhibits. To get more information on the museum, or to be involved in their ongoing efforts to construct a permanent site in Olympic Valley, go to thesnowmuseum.org. And for information on the 1960 Olympics pick up a copy of David Antonucci’s book: “Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games Squaw Valley & Lake Tahoe.”