Locals intend to keep the Games alive
Where would you celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Winter Olympics?
Local residents Russell Poulsen, George Koster and Bill Clark want to commemorate not only the Squaw Valley Olympic Games but the history of Western ski and snow sports in a new museum in Squaw Valley.
“There is such a fantastic history and heritage we have of winter sports in this part of the country … it’s time to find an appropriate location to be enjoyed by more visitors,” said Bill Clark, executive director of the Auburn Ski Club, which owns and operates the Western SkiSport Museum located on Donner Summit near Boreal ski resort.
The ski history museum has an extensive collection encompassing winter sports from 1853 to the present, but doesn’t get the level of traffic it merits. The club is looking to combine efforts with those proposing an Olympic museum.
“It seems like a win-win thing to partner with folks who want to do an [Olympic] museum in Squaw,” Clark said.
Under a sub-committee of Placer County’s Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council, members of the Truckee-Tahoe community are beginning to plan for a Squaw Valley Olympic museum. The group has met a few times and is looking to form a nonprofit organization.
Russell Poulsen grew up in Squaw Valley and was born just after the 1960 Olympics. He has been the driving force in bringing together organizations such as the Auburn Ski Club, the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society and Placer County to form a group dedicated to bringing an Olympic and ski history museum to the valley.
“It’s an idea whose time has come,” Poulsen said.
A number of people in the region have personal Olympic collections, and both Poulsen and Placer County District V Supervisor Bruce Kranz fear it will soon be too late to acquire the memorabilia and verbal history from the athletes and attendees of the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.
“We’re losing a lot of those folks who have knowledge of how it was all put together,” Kranz said. “We should be capturing all this.”
Both local Olympic history and regional ski history will be centerpieces of the museum, but Poulsen also wants to ensure the display is not stagnant, including some discussion of partnering with other community organizations like the Squaw Valley Institute.
“We don’t want [the museum] to be a dust collector, we want it to be more of a dynamic thing to keep people interested and keep them coming back,” Poulsen said.
Since the museum idea is still in its infancy, proponents have more questions than answers. For one: Where will the museum be located?
The committee is currently looking at a few places throughout Squaw Valley, naming the Placer County-owned property at the entrance to Squaw Valley off Highway 89 as the ideal location. Not only is the Squaw Valley Park area already located next to the rings and torch monument, it can be accessed from the bike path and lends itself to tourism that doesn’t cause parking problems, Poulsen said.
Organizers must also consider the museum’s cost and who will pay for it.
Looking at similar museums, Kranz estimates museum costs will be no less than $10 million.
Some have encouraged combining a Squaw Valley information center with the museum to help fund the project, but others say the visitor center site is too small.
Donations will be the key to getting set up financially, committee members say.
Following establishment as a nonprofit organization, the museum can look to large companies like local ski resorts and airports for contributions.
Kranz said the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association will likely use transient occupancy tax (TOT) money to fund a study to nail down preliminary museum details, such as the best location and size for the facility.
The Olympics have garnered recent regional media attention for the Reno-Tahoe Winter Games Coalition’s efforts to land the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Kranz said he would like a proposal for the museum to be incorporated into the coalition’s work.
“I think if we get the Olympics here we darn well better have a museum ahead of it,” he said.
In a perfect world, the Olympic museum committee would have displays up and running before the 50th anniversary of the Squaw Valley Games in 2010.
“The Olympics are a big thing for this county … It would be a great hook to get people to come and visit the community,” Kranz said.