The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - 53

" Kit " Carson White skis the slopes at Alpine Meadows in the early 1960s. Prior to opening the
Sherwood Forest Lift in 1965, Reily, Carson and guides often skied from the top of Ward Peak to
Sunnyside overlooking Lake Tahoe. photo courtesy of Ingrid P. Wicken, California Ski Library
640 acres at the head of the valley and his dream to own the ski area. However, he owned everything else
in the valley, and would go on to develop an entire community, raise a family and save 150 acres of his beloved
meadow from destruction by state and local officials who wanted to build a sewage plant at the east
end and pave 50 acres for parking for the 1960 Olympics.
Squaw Valley opened in 1949 with a double chairlift ( " The world's longest ski lift " ), a rope tow and a
50 room lodge. The fledgling ski area was a great success with East and West coast socialites, movie stars
and the skiing elite. Financially, it was a disaster. Revenue for the first year of operation was reported at
$28,000. Over the first five years, three avalanches destroyed the only chairlift on three occasions. Floods
closed the lodge and washed out bridges on the dirt road, leaving guests stranded on either side. In 1955
the lodge burned down.
An article in the San Francisco Chronicle announcing that Reno was a candidate for the 1960 Winter
Olympics inspired Cushing to consider a bid for the Olympics - a preposterous idea, but it might give
Squaw Valley a more positive image. After convincing the state of California to sponsor it, the United
States Olympic Committee to choose an unknown ski area with one lift, one lodge and a dirt road over
Aspen, Sun Valley, Lake Placid, Alaska and Reno and the International Olympic Committee to even take
him seriously; Cushing was on his way to not only make Squaw Valley famous, but also to stage " the best
Olympics ever " and to forever change skiing in California and the West. Today, the Tahoe area has the
highest concentration of winter sports facilities in the western hemisphere, and the area has produced
more Winter Olympians and World Cup athletes than any region in the USA.
When John Reily, a Los Angeles businessman and weekend skier, heard that Squaw Valley was a
candidate for the 1960 Winter Olympics, he and his wife, Winnie, made a spring ski trip to the area in
1955. They liked what they saw and built a cabin on the main road. As Reily explored the area - first on
skis and later on horseback - he discovered another valley just over the ridge from Squaw. It didn't take
him long, as Wayne Poulsen had, to fall in love with the idea of developing a ski area.
In the spring of 1957, Reily drove up a logging road in his jeep to get a better look at the valley floor,
and throughout the following winter, he led ski tours down the back side of KT22 to a spot where a weasel
waited to ferry skiers out of the valley to Deer Park Lodge on Highway 89. Encouraged by the enthusiasm
of all who had made this journey, Reily signed a 25 year lease with Southern Pacific for 56 acres on the
The Alpine Meadows Lodge - surrounded
by beautiful pine trees - was constructed in
1961. Don Wolter Photography
A " Weasel " Snow Cat pulls skiers to Reily's
cabin at Alpine Meadows as they were
looking for expansion possibilities.
Don Wolter Photography
FWSA 90th Anniversary Booklet / 1930 - 2020 53

The Far West Ski Association Turns 90

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Far West Ski Association Turns 90

Index
The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - Cover1
The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - Cover2
The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - 1
The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - 2
The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - 3
The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - Index
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