Re-kindling the Olympic flame in Squaw Valley, CA; Part III of III

During the 1960 Olympics, a compact Olympic Village had been constructed at the north end of Squaw Valley, CA, consisting of four dormitories for athletes, the Blyth Memorial Ice Arena, three outdoor skating rinks and a 400 meter outdoor speed-skating rink.  But, Squaw Valley did not easily offer the terrain for world-class cross country skiing or biathlon, so a site on Lake Tahoe’s western shore was identified and developed.

Cross country skiers in the 10K race head off at the VIII games

This Olympic skier's bib is part of the 1960s Olympics display at the Carriage House in Sugar Pine Point State Park

CA State Parks Ranger Randy Randar is one of the staff at Sugar Pine Point State Park who can give you directions to Olympic XC and Biathlon trails

 

This Olympic's Official's Jacket is part of the VIII Olympics display at Sugar Pine Point State Park

The cross country/biathlon venues at McKinney Creek Stadium (now Sugar Pine Point State Park) were just 15 miles south of Squaw Valley on Highway 89.  McKinney Creek Stadium was a 1,000 seat temporary arena where six cross country races started and finished, as well as the biathlon event (a 20 km skiing/shooting event, making its Olympic debut).  The VIII Olympics would offer four men’s events, and two for women.

Over 18 Km of the Olympic trails and the biathlon rifle ranges remain, marked with a series of plaques.  One can cross country ski or snowshoe in the tracks of the Soviets, Swedes and Finns who dominated these events.  Soviet women swept the 10K cross country event, a first for a nation’s sweep.  Sweden’s Sixten Jernberg would win a gold and silver medal; added to those he won in the 1956 and 1964 Olympics, he would total nine medals, the most of any winter athlete.

The biathlon took its place as a full Olympic sport in this Olympics.  The course was a 20 K ski track, with four rifle ranges from 100 m 250 m.  Klas Lestander, a Swede, became the first Olympic biathlon champion, followed by a Finn and a Soviet athlete.  The four rifle ranges can still be found in Sugar Pine Point Park.  Today, the cross country trails are groomed weekly and the park charges a $10 parking fee.

Where to stay: Squaw Valley offers a variety of accommodations; nearby Tahoe City and Truckee over many more choices.

Where to eat: within the Squaw Valley Resort are the upscale Plumpjack Restaurant, homey Graham’s Restaurant and the Cornice Cantina.  A mile up Highway 89 is the River Ranch Lodge right on the Truckee River.  In Tahoe City, Rosie’s offers marvelous breakfasts and lunches in a lodge-type setting.

How to get there: Squaw Valley/Olympic Valley, USA is 150 miles from Stockton; take either US Highway 50 to S. Lake Tahoe, then north on Highway 89; or Interstate 80 from Sacramento, exit at Truckee and go south on Highway 89 to Squaw Valley.   From Squaw Valley, Truckee is just 12 miles away; Tahoe City is 6 miles; Tahoe City to Sugar Pine Point State Park is just 10 miles south on Hwy 89.

For more information: See Squaw Valley’s web site, www.squaw.com.  For insight into the cross country skiing at Sugar Pine Point State Park; http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=510.

Tim Viall is a local travel writer and can be reached at tviall@msn.com.  He writes a weekly travel blog for the Record; http://blogs.esanjoaquin.com/valleytravel/.

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