Hosting the 1960 Winter Games certainly put Squaw Valley and the unknown Lake Tahoe region on the radar for skiers snow enthusiasts. It’s been more than five decades ago, but the resort is still collecting residuals from hosting the Games that winter.
The colorful Olympic rings reside in a prominent location for all to see, providing an unmistakable reminder that Squaw Valley ski resort once held the worldwide spotlight.
“I think Squaw is still seeing the benefits of hosting the 1960 Games,” says Amanda Richmond, public relations manager for Squaw.
Although on a much smaller scale, Squaw Valley was back in the spotlight last week when it hosted the U.S. Alpine Championships for five days. Top American skiers like World Cup champion Ted Ligety and teenage phenom Mikaela Shiffrin were among the headliners.
It was the first time in more than a decade that Squaw hosted a major event. The U.S. Alpine Championships came to the North Lake Tahoe resort in 2002. And the good news is the Alpine Championships are scheduled to return to Squaw next year as part of a two-year commitment.
“Squaw Valley provided an amazing experience for our athletes with well prepared courses, huge crowds, and the enthusiasm of hundreds of young ski racers who turned out to see their heroes,” said Bill Marolt, President and CEO, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “It’s encouraging to see how important ski racing is to the fabric of the Squaw Valley community.”
It was a challenging weather week. Snow canceled the first day of competition and succession of sun-drenched days with temperatures in the 50s put the pressure on the Squaw staff to get the courses set up for each day’s events. But judging from the comments throughout the week, the course and its set-up received high praise.
Ligety posted the best times on both his Saturday runs to easily record a Slalom victory. The Park City, Utah skier capped a career best season with a massive 1.48 second wire-to-wire slalom victory to close the men’s competition at Squaw.
“They did a great job with the course prep. The conditions were awesome, especially for the temperatures we had,” Ligety said. “You could really attack it. I’ve never skied at Squaw before, so this is definitely cool to come some place new. They did a great job on the hill. The crowd was pretty into it. It’s fun to have races in places like this.”
Will Brandenburg, who finished second to Ligety in the Slalom, was also impressed by the Squaw crowd, which numbered over 2,000 spectators several days.
“All the people were so into it. The autograph sessions were crazy, the amount of people that were there,” Brandenburg said. “And then we’re skiing into a crowd. It was raining in Kranjska this year, but there were more people here than at Kranjska Gora World Cup. It’s such an exciting experience to be able to come here at Nationals and have this. I haven’t had this before; this is the most people that have been out for Nationals.”
That type of praise certainly didn’t go unnoticed around the Village of Squaw, which was packed for the event. Wanting to put on a quality event was foremost. Yet a sidelight to hosting a high-profile event is the attention the resort receives.
By most accounts, that attention was positive for Squaw, including NBC’s (March 24) broadcast Sunday of the Alpine Championships.
“It’s great for Squaw and all the Lake Tahoe ski resorts to host world class events that bring attention and prestige to the area,” Richmond said. “We got a lot of feedback from the athletes, coaches, officials, and spectators that it was like a World Cup event.”
What it felt like to Squaw Valley products Julia Mancuso, Todd Ganong and Reno’s Tim Jitloff was home. All three benefitted from “home snow” advantage. Both Mancuso and Jitloff took gold in the Giant Slalom and Ganong won the Super G.
It was a return of sorts for Mancuso, who competed in the 2002 Alpine Championships at Squaw as a teenager when she finished third in the Super G. Her victory last week was Mancuso’s 16th U.S. title, more than any man or woman in history.
“It’s really cool to see all the great stuff happening at Squaw,” Mancuso said. “To have U.S. nationals back just shows the commitment to racing and its roots here in Squaw Valley. It’s nice to be able to stay home and race in my backyard – which I also consider to be the best resort in America – so I was psyched.”*Jeffrey Weidel