The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - 54

This photo
of John
Reily,
President
of Alpine
Meadows
of Tahoe, Inc.,
was taken in
May, 1960
as he was
proudly
looking over
the resort
terrain.
Don Wolter
Photography
back side of KT22 and Papoose, which included the terminal towers of both lifts and control of the future
road into the valley. He had an option to renew in 1983.
Later that summer, Reily invited Peter Klaussen, a Harvard Business School graduate, experienced
skier and local contractor to accompany him on an excursion into Bear Valley and to give an opinion on
his plan to build two lifts on the back sides of KT and Papoose. Skiers could ski down from Squaw and
ride the lift back. While searching for a biathlon course for the coming Olympics, Klaussen had surveyed
the ridge between the two valleys for avalanches and had skied the surrounding mountains. He told Reily
that the slopes on the backside of KT were too steep and not suitable for teaching. With its southern exposure,
slides were frequent and snow would disappear early in the season. Klaussen suggested that a better
choice would be farther up the valley on Ward Peak, independent from Squaw Valley. Reily thought a gondola
from the top of KT to Ward Peak would be spectacular.
In the summer of 1959, Squaw Valley was under construction from peak to valIey, in preparation
for the coming Oylympics. During that summer, Reily built the cornice restaurant on top of KT and two
A-frame houses in Alpine Meadows to show off his proposed ski area. He would use them as offices and
a place to greet skiers after skiing down from KT. Renowned ski area consultants, John Graham and Company,
began preparing a planning and feasibility report for potential investors. When it was completed,
the report stated, " The high valley floor of 1,690 feet from base to the top of the main lift, combined with unusual ridge
formations of the four bowls, make possible some of the best skiing in the United States. "
Additional affirmation came from Willi Schaeffler, U.S. Ski Team Coach, Chief of Courses for the
1960 Olympics and ski area designer, who had visited Alpine Meadows in summer and winter, and wrote
" the ski terrain on Ward Peak is more varied and suited for all types of skiers than in any area I know in the U.S.A " . He
later predicted that, " over sixty million people saw the Olympics on TV. I believe the number of skiers will double over
the next ten years. "
The USFS granted Reily and his son, John Jr., a permit to build a ski area in October, 1959, and Alpine
Meadows of Tahoe (AMOT) became a California corporation in December of that year. With an
impressive Board of Directors that included lawyers, bankers, business men and influencers from National
and Olympic ski organizations, AMOT had until August, 1960, to raise the capital to build the ski area.
They all shared John Reily's dream to create a ski area owned and operated by skiers whose families
would enjoy the sport without the distraction of commercial activities.
The Cornice restaurant opened in the spring of 1960 and soon became a hub for local skiers and a
place where Reily and Cushing often met to discuss their two valleys and the pros and cons of joining
them. The top of KT was also a viewpoint and the starting gate for Alpine's future investors. In spite of
spring ski tours, summer jeep tours, meetings, mailings - even the offer of a lot for $5,000 with ten years
of lift privileges; AMOT could not raise the required funds by August 28, the date set by the California
Department of Corporations.
A year later, they tried again with a revised budget and more vigorous fundraising. Again, they failed
This map of the different 1960 Olympic venues
appeared in the official event program.
Illustration courtesy of Squaw Valley Ski Corp.
to reach their April, 1961 goal in time for summer construction. A new plan offered membership in the
Bear Creek Association to the first 130 investors of 500 or more shares and included choice of a lot in an
area leased from Southern Pacific Land Company. The promise of an exclusive mountain retreat - much
like Sugar Bowl - attracted wealthy San Francisco investors who purchased all the remaining shares in the
Bear Creek Association. Reily's dream of a ski area was saved, but he had no control of its future. Byron
Nishkian, past president of FWSA, was elected president of AMOT and Reily remained chairman of the
Board.
About the Author:
Eddy Ancinas grew up in the Bay Area where
she learned to ski at Badger Pass and Sugar Bowl. After
volunteering at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw
Valley, she met her future husband, Osvaldo, a member
of the Argentine Olympic Team. They built a home in
Alpine Meadows in 1965, where they lived with their
three children while operating their three Casa Andina
Ski shops in Alpine and Squaw Valley. Eddy has been
on the board of Lake Tahoe Ski Club Foundation, the
Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the SNOW
Museum Foundation. She is a non-fiction travel and ski
history writer. Her book, Tales from Two ValleysSquaw
Valley and Alpine Meadows was awarded the
Skade Award for best regional ski history book (2013) by
International Ski History Association. A second edition
was published in October, 2019. She has written articles
on Skiing and Ski History in The Atlantic and Ski History
Magazine. To know more about Eddy, visit
www.EddyAncinas.com and
www.TalesfromTwoValleysbook.com.
Alpine Meadows opened December 28, 1961 with one chairlift and a lodge under construction. In
their first year of operation revenue exceeded expectations. Snow was good and abundant. Enthusiastic
skiers praised the variety of terrain, the excellent ski school and the friendly family vibe. The following
winter (62-63) was the driest in 100 years. Snow didn't fall until late February. With revenue down 60%,
Nishkian, Larry Metcalf and other investors once again rescued Alpine to survive another season. Luckily,
the next season lasted from November to May.
The 1960s began with optimism and growth. Alpine added six lifts and access to Ward Valley. Squaw
Valley added ten lifts, a gondola and a Tram. However, by the end of the decade, skier numbers plunged.
Alpine was on the verge of bankruptcy, and Squaw Valley's reputation plummeted with reports of surly
personnel and a lack of concern for skier's safety, as lift and ski accidents occurred with alarming frequency.
Throughout the 70s and into the 80s the news from Squaw Valley was all about conflict and controversy,
as Cushing blasted rocks, cut trees and diverted streams to build more lifts, resulting in lawsuits filed by
county, state and environmentalist groups.
Nick Badami took over management of Alpine Meadows in 1971 and bought the area in 1975. His
attention to fiscal discipline and his focus on skiers' experience (groomed slopes, good food, clean facilities, courteous
employees) lead him to invest heavily in snowmaking, grooming and lift improvements throughout the 80s
54 FWSA 90th Anniversary Booklet / 1930 - 2020
http://www.EddyAncinas.com http://www.TalesfromTwoValleysbook.com

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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