Magic at Sky Tavern in Hollywood’s heyday
January 7, 2010
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two of a two-part story. Find the first installment at sierrasun.com.
The Sky Tavern ski area, located northeast of Lake Tahoe on the Mount Rose Highway, is a small, historic ski hill that was once one of the most popular destination resorts in the American West. Opened by Reno residents Keston and Carlisle Ramsey in December 1945, their goal was to promote the many benefits of skiing they enjoyed: Its physical exuberance, emotional release and sense of pure freedom.
Due to its proximity to the Reno airport, many Hollywood celebrities and famous personalities of the day enjoyed spending time at Sky Tavern. Carlisle Ramsey still fondly recalls the days when local skiers rubbed elbows with the rich and famous. Once when movie star Gary Cooper and his wife Rocky were expected for one of their frequent visits, Carlisle realized the hotel was nearly out of toilet paper. She called her neighbor Frank Leonard down at the Galena Creek Ranger Station and asked him to send some up. Leonard took a few rolls out to the highway and he flagged down the first car coming by. He told the driver the precious paper was needed for the Cooper’s room at the Sky Tavern.
As Carlisle tells it, when and#8220;Coopand#8221; arrived, he leaned on the lodge’s registration desk, put down several rolls of bathroom tissue and drawled, and#8220;I hear y’all need this.and#8221; Gary Cooper didn’t ski, claiming he had a bum hip. He preferred hunting jackrabbits with Keston in the snow-free flats below the mountain.
In the first few years of operation, Warren Hart and Dodie Post were the ski instructors at Sky Tavern. Post would go on to compete as an Olympic alpine skier and was later accepted as an honored member of the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. Codding had studied the most advanced techniques under expert Austrian and French instructors in Europe, and his excellent coaching ability elevated the skill level for skiers at the Tavern. The Ramseys raised their boys Bob and Allan on the slopes at Sky Tavern. Under Codding’s masterful coaching they developed into top-ranked competitors, winning many trophies and honors in the sport.
Over time newer, larger and more modern ski resorts opened around Lake Tahoe, which siphoned off the Tavern’s elite clientele, as well as their bread and butter local adult skiers. In 1959 the Ramseys sold the resort and eventually the City of Reno and Washoe County purchased it in 1968 for the exclusive use of teaching school children how to ski, and now snowboard, too. The nonprofit program is visionary and unique in the nation.
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The Sky Tavern’s very successful Junior Ski Program started in 1948 when a local skier and schoolteacher, Marce Herz, approached Ramsey and Codding with the idea of reducing lift prices and instruction rates for Nevada schoolchildren so they could learn how to ski. Herz fervently believed that sports were good for everyone, but especially for children. Starting with six students, the innovative program she initiated has taught skiing and snowboarding to tens of thousands of children, including those physically or economically challenged, and all at minimal cost.
In the 1990s, an Adaptive Skiers Program got underway with specially trained volunteers to serve children with various disabilities. These on-going programs are about sharing the love of skiing and winter sports with others less fortunate, something that Keston and Carlisle Ramsey put their hearts and lives into. It is a legend that suits the legacy of Sky Tavern, once a chic, destination resort and now home to a volunteer-based, nonprofit program that has enabled generations of Nevada schoolchildren and teenagers the opportunity to be all they can be.
and#8212; Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin’s newest book, and#8220;Longboards to Olympics: A Century of Tahoe Winter Sportsand#8221; is now available at local bookstores or at http://www.thestormking.com. Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Longboards to Olympics, A Century of Tahoe Winter Sports
Tuesday, Jan. 12
Resort at Squaw Creek
No-host bar opens at 6:30 p.m., lecture begins at 7 p.m.
$10 to Squaw Valley Institute
Children and students with ID are free.
For more information visit http://www.squawvalleyinstitute.org or call 581-4138
Mark McLaughlin will give an informative and entertaining slide presentation based on his new book and#8220;Longboards to Olympics: A Century of Tahoe Winter Sports.and#8221; These stories pay tribute to the character and accomplishments of the early pioneers who fired up western winter sports. Today we take for granted California’s $500 million winter sports industry, but McLaughlin will share the fascinating story of how this lucrative economy got its start and developed from 1860 to 1960.-
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