Winter Sports

Winters in Lake Tahoe surpass the summers in popularity.  Between the dozens of ski resorts and hundreds of lodging options, Tahoe is famous for its world-class snow sports.  Truckee Ski Hill opened in 1910. The first ski resort in Lake Tahoe was built in 1924 in Tahoe City near the Tahoe Tavern Hotel. At first it was named Olympic Hill, however, now it is now known as Granlibakken, which in Norwegian means “a hillside sheltered by fir trees.”  The major ski areas in Lake Tahoe are Heavenly Mountain Resort & Squaw Valley Ski Resort.  Heavenly Mountain Resort is the largest ski area, and it is located in South Lake Tahoe.  Squaw Valley Ski Resort is the second-largest ski area, after Heavenly, and it is located in North Lake Tahoe.  In 1960, Sqaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympics.  The history and culture around Tahoe winters is an integral part of the surrounding communities and culture.

Image Courtesy of UNR Special Collections

Image Courtesy of UNR Special Collections


“He flew down the mountainside. He did not ride astride his pole or drag it to one side as was the practice of other snowshoers, but held it horizontally before him after the manner of a tightrope walker. His appearance was graceful, swaying his balance pole to one side and the other in the manner that a soaring eagle dips its wings.”  -Comstock journalist Dan De Quille, Snowshoe Thompson

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Image Courtesy of UNR Special Collections

One such legend of Tahoe’s winters is John A. “Snowshoe” Thompson.  Thompson became an avid skier when he was a local postman in 1856 and carried upwards of 60 pounds of mail across the Sierra.  His snowshoes (skis) were 9 feet long.  His trail was along the Mormon Emigrant Trail from Placerville to Genoa and back.  This took him 3 days on the way, east, and 2 days coming back.  He also rescued stranded people along his way.


“The tradition of cross-country skiing began many years ago, and it is the original form of skiing. Cross-country skiing is “skiing on lightweight equipment, where your heels aren’t attached to the ski – they lift up and down as you ski, so the motion is like you’re walking. All you need is snow and ski equipment.” -Cross Country Ski Areas Association

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Image Courtesy of UNR Special Collections

“I have heard many of my friends say they have traveled thirty and forty miles on snow-shoes, over snow ten and fifteen feet deep, where it was impossible for a horse to go. This was the only way that they had to get to towns and villages from the mountains to obtain food, or trade…The snow-shoe is a long, slim piece of timber about eight feet in length, two inches wide, and half an inch thick…I have been told that persons can travel as fast with them as they can with a horse…” -Mary McNair Mathews, Ten Years in Nevada

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Image Courtesy of UNR Special Collections

How would you describe skiing? “Freedom! It’s a chance to express yourself….Skiing is Fun! It’s all about fun!” -David Achey

Bill Aten skiing. Image Courtesy of Bill Aten