Olympic fans can keep the cross country skis in the garage for now and instead get out the hiking boots.
A lack of snowpack threatened to cancel biathlon and cross country events at Lake Tahoe’s West Shore at the 1960 Olympic Games. But a major snowstorm a week before the competitions saved the day.
Olympic Heritage Celebration Week organizers were hoping for similar fortuitousness but finally on Jan. 2 adjusted the itinerary for the third annual event which is spread across two weekends. Ten of the 11 events will go on as scheduled, albeit the activities for skiing will now be for hiking.
“That comes with being mountain people,” said Heidi Doyle, a state parks spokeswoman. “You just go with it and learn to adapt. Maybe it will draw some people who have an aversion to snow. Everybody can hike it now.”
David C. Antonucci, who was instrumental in gathering the artifacts that line the course and for restoring about 10 kilometers of trails, will preside over two of the events, and 1960 United States team cross country skier Joe Pete Wilson will appear at a trail-restoration fundraiser at the West Shore Cafe in Homewood.
The only event that was canceled was Citizens Against the Clock, in which participants recreate a biathlon experience by skiing the course and shooting an electronic rifle, receiving a score.
The event annually begins the second weekend of January, a time of the winter when Tahoe normally plenty of snow to groom the old course. This year a company in Reno planned to prepare the course for free. During Olympic years, extra activities will be planned. The next Winter Olympics will be in 2014, when the host city is Sochi, Russia.
A Tahoma resident, Antonucci discovered the historic area in the late 1980s while skiing behind his house.
“I noticed corridors cut through the forest and they weren’t Forest Service roads or logging skid trails,” he said. “I knew about the 1960 Olympics, but like everybody else thought all of the events were up at Squaw Valley.”
Over the next couple of decades, Antonucci met Olympic officials and athletes, learned the history and acquired memorabilia.
Nearly all of the Olympic structures at Tahoma were torn down soon after the games. However, a chapel “the size of an outhouse” and a timing/aide shack were discovered.
Timing shacks were located 5 kilometers apart on the courses during the races, adorned with telephone lines connected to McKinney Stadium, between McKinney and General creeks.
Antonucci will discuss the 12-year cross country rivalry between Finn Veikko Hakulinen and Swede Sixten Jernberg, who won the most medals at Tahoe. He described his events, which will be Sunday, Jan. 8 and Sunday, Jan. 15.
“We will make this an easy hike of about 3.5 miles round trip,” he said. “They will learn what innovations were invented here that still find widespread use in the ski industry today. We’ll walk along routes that were hotly contested by Olympic skiers and where the Scandinavian countries and the former Soviet Union dominated.
“Hikers will learn about the birthplace of Olympic biathlon right here at Lake Tahoe and what bad advice was given to a Soviet biathlete that cost him the gold medal. Hikers will actually stand on the firing line of the 250 meter shooting range to see how far contestants had to shoot after skiing a heart-pounding 10 kilometers.”
Wilson will give personal accounts of the 1960 Games, after which he became coach of the U.S. team. He also started the nation’s first cross county ski area.
11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7
Olympic Snow Trails Open
The 13 kilometer blue, red and green ski trail systems located at Sugar Pine Point State Park was to be professionally groomed for the duration of our Olympic Heritage Celebration week thanks to the generous donation of grooming equipment from Kasshohrer All Terrain Vehicles. A series of interpretive signage will for now guide hikers though the historic Olympic trails contained in the park. Free trail maps are available at the park entrance station and there is no fee for trail use. Parking fees $8. Once the snow falls, check trail conditions on the snow phone: 530-525-7982.
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7
Full Moon Snowshoe Hike
Instead of a tour, California State Park rangers will be leading full moon snowshoe hikes at Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park. Tours will be conducted throughout the winter months. Tours begin on the lake side of the park (Day Use Area) and explore the natural and cultural history around the Hellman-Ehrman estate. Space is limited and reservations are required through West Shore Sports at 530-525- 9920. Wear warm, layered clothing, waterproof shoes and bring a flashlight.
Noon-2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8
Historic Cross Country Hike
David Antonucci, author of “A Snowballs Chance: The Story of the 1960 Winter Olympics”, will lead hikers on a interpretive tour of the Olympic Ski Trails located at Sugar Pine Point State Park.
2:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8
Olympic Heritage Celebration Opening Ceremonies
Join past Olympians and local dignitaries as we commemorate the official start of the Olympic Heritage Celebration events with the lighting of an Olympic caldron. The ceremony will take place in front of a replica of the Tower of Nations that stood at the entrance of Squaw Valley to welcome visitors to the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. This free event will be held near the campground entrance of Sugar Pine Point State Park. Hot cider and cookies will be provided.
5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10
Reception with Olympians at Gatekeepers Museum
Welcome Olympians at the Gatekeepers Museum in Tahoe City (next to Fanny Bridge). Sip hot cider, or enjoy the no host bar. This event is free, but donations are welcome. For more information call 530-583-1762 or email info@northtahoe
10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11
Scholastic Day, Tahoe City
In celebration of our Lake Tahoe snow heritage, the Olympic Heritage Celebration committee will visit North Lake Tahoe third grade students. This event was originally to be held at the course.
6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11
Nordic Olympic Trails Fundraiser at West Shore Cafe
The evening will feature a Meet and Greet with past Olympians, live music, ski and historic Olympic memorabilia from 1960, a silent auction, and surprise special presentations. H’orderves and non-alcoholic beverages will be served. No host bar. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door and are available at the North Lake Chamber Visitor Center in Tahoe City, Gatekeepers Museum, Granlibakken Resort and West Shore Sports. For more information call 530-583-3074.
6-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13
Olympian Dinner at Granlibakken
Cedar House Pub, at Granlibakken Resort is sponsoring an evening in honor of Olympic Heritage Celebration week by offering 50 percent of the evening’s profits to be donated towards the Olympic Trails restoration efforts. Call 530-581-7307 for reservations.
Noon-2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15
David Antonucci will lead Nordic hikers on a 10-K interpretive tour of the Olympic Ski Trails located at Sugar Pine Point State Park.
2:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15
Olympic Heritage Celebration Closing Ceremonies
Join past Olympians and local dignitaries as we commemorate the official end of the Olympic Heritage Celebration events with the extinguishing of the Olympic caldron. The ceremony will take place in front of a replica of the Tower of Nations that stood at the entrance of Squaw Valley to welcome visitors to the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. The free event will be held near the campground entrance of Sugar Pine Point State Park. Hot cider and cookies will be provided.