Cold rain and snow ushers in Olympic Heritage week |

Cold rain and snow ushers in Olympic Heritage week

West Shore Sports owner Rob Weston pours accelerant on the fussy cauldron, while park interpretor Nichole Jange and Heidi Doyle enjoy a soggy laugh. Meanwhile, back at the mic, (not shown) David Antonucci chanted a mantra while we light the cauldron, while we light the cauldron.
Photos by Amy Edgett / |

TAHOE, Calif. — Torrents of rain ushered in the Olympic Heritage Celebration opening ceremonies Saturday at Sugar Pine Point State Park, the site of the 1960 Olympics’ Nordic events.

Dignitaries included former winter Olympic athletes Joe Pete Wilson, a 1960 bronze medal winner; Joseph William Tyler, a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic bobsled team and David Antonucci, local author of “Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games — Squaw Valley & Lake Tahoe.”

In 1960, organizers of the Squaw Valley Winter Olympic games were nervous, as the world was about to show up at their doorstep during an unusually dry December and January. Walt Disney, who orchestrated the Olympic opening ceremonies, brought in tribal dancers to coax the snow to fall. After the “Snow Dance,” the weather changed, dumping more than 12 feet of snow, and the games went on as planned.

“It worked for Walt Disney back in 1960, we hope it will work for us in 2014,” said Heidi Doyle, executive director of the Sierra State Parks Foundation, a program sponsor.

The Eagle Wing Dancers, formed in 2006 to keep American Indian songs and dances alive, braved the inclement weather, offering songs and dances indigenous to the Great Basin tribes: the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe.

The powerful dances, according to dance troupe director Lois Kane, are performed in thanks for the great blessings offered to the people.

The first dance praised the deer and antelope, whose hides and meat and bones serve the tribes with sustenance, clothing and tools. Nothing on the animals is wasted, and who wouldn’t “savor the taste of a good deer steak?”

The most anticipated dance, in which observers were invited to participate, was a call for snow. Pat Hicks, a tribal member who danced in the 1960 Olympics event, advised the crowd to raise their hands and with the hard drumbeat — bring down the snow.

Soaked and ready to move, the crowd danced hand-in-hand by a flaming cauldron, as the storm stuttered into a wet snowfall.

“You’ve gotta believe in what you are praying for,” said Kane. “You have to believe the blessings are coming.”

According to Kane, a Paiute/Shoshone tribe member, who would traditionally winter in the Stillwater Mountain Range at Job’s Peak, “The last time we came and danced together (2012) it snowed that day and night. … the girls were so excited … we needed that water.”

Find a photo gallery here and watch event videos here and here.

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Thursday, Jan. 16: Museum of Sierra Ski History and 1960 Winter Olympics open house, Boatworks Mall, Tahoe City, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Meet and greet with Olympians, refreshments, display of 1960 Olympic memorabilia.

Friday, Jan. 17: Nordic Legends Dinner at Granlibakken Resort, Tahoe City, 5:30-8 p.m. Fundraiser for the Sierra State Parks Foundation to support the Olympic Snow Trails, concludes with a $100 raffle for a dinner for 24 at the Ehrman Mansion. Call 530-583-4242 for reservations.

Saturday, Jan. 18: Citizens Against the Clock, Sugar Pine Point State Park, free event, parking fee applies, 10:30 a.m.-noon. Sierra State Parks Foundation will set up a short loop course with electronic rifles.

Saturday, Jan. 18: Full Moon Hike at Sugar Pine Point State Park, 6:30 p.m. Park guides will lead people though the historic Hellman-Ehrman Estate. Snowshoe rental, park entrance and guided tour are $25. Kids under 12 are free. Reservations are required at West Shore Sports, 530-525-9920.

Sunday, Jan. 19: Squaw Valley Day, Mighty Mites race ending with participants carrying Olympic flags. Noon: Olympic Heritage Walking Tour with David Antonucci. Meet in front of the Cable Car’s 1960 dedication plaque. Free, 1-4 p.m. Live music on the KT Deck with the Nibblers. Free. 7 p.m. “Cusp of Glory” movie premiere in the Plaza Bar.

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