Cushing leaves a legacy and question: Whats next?
August 21, 2006
Squaw Valleys visionary and founder, Alex Cushing, passed away over the weekend at the age of 92, leaving behind an unparalleled legacy and one big unanswered question: Whats next? Alex was really the first one that put winter tourism on the map for the Tahoe area, said Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. There is no question that Alex was a pioneer and that his vision for the mountain made it possible for others who came later to be successful.Now, more than half a century since its inception, Squaw Valley USA has grown to become one of the top ski destinations in the world, and a vital asset to the North Lake Tahoe region. His impact on the Lake Tahoe region cannot be overstated. Through his leadership, Squaw Valley Resort grew from a fledgling facility into one of the worlds most premier resorts, said state Senator Dave Cox. I believe that ultimately his legacy will be symbolized by the millions of families to whom he introduced the sport of skiing. The California State Senate adjourned momentarily Monday in Cushings memory.Cushing is survived by three daughters and his wife Nancy Wendt, president of Squaw Valley Ski Corp. The future of the mountain is now in the familys hands, but they have yet to release a confirmed plan to the public.I really dont think that anybody knows (what will happen). Its a wait and see kind of situation, said Bill Murphy, a real estate agent with Pinnacle Real Estate in Squaw Valley who has skied the mountain since the 1960s and has been living in the valley since the early 90s. I think that whatever happens is going to surprise everybody. But the bottom line here is that they aint gonna make anymore people like Alex Cushing.His vision for hosting the 1960 Olympic Winter Games was both lofty and pragmatic; Cushing originally bid for the games as a way to gain publicity for his young resort. Instead, Squaw Valley ended up hosting the Games. But where Cushing excelled in business tenacity, some say he lacked in personalbility, noting that he was frequently at odds with environmentalists and government officials over everything from ski runs to soil contamination.In 1989, the Sierra Club and Hewlett-Packard Co. co-founder William Hewlett sued Cushing for $4.5 million, claiming he cut down thousands of trees for a new ski run without permits. In 1999, the resort was accused of blasting on the mountain and allowing the excavated material to wash into a sensitive stream without permits.Cushing died of pneumonia on Saturday at his summer home in Newport, RI. His wife was at his side when he passed, according to resort spokesperson Savannah Cowley. A memorial service will be held at the resort at a later date. The Associated Press contributed to this report