Chronicles of Cushing | SierraSun.com

Chronicles of Cushing

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun
Ryan Salm/Sierra SunA Truckee youngster, Sasha Penwarden, listens to a speech by former Squaw Valley general manager and close friend of Alex Cushing, Hans Burkhart. Many of the speakers at the memorial spoke of how Cushing's legacy will be passed to future
ALL |

More than 1,000 friends, family members, employees and admirers gathered Saturday at the base of Squaw Valley USA to chronicle and celebrate the life of Alex Cushing.

Alex Cushing is regarded as a legend in the ski industry for transforming a fledgling ski mountain into an Olympic host in 1960 and internationally acclaimed resort known as Squaw Valley USA.

On Saturday, attendees mingled before the memorial service sharing memories of their times with him. Friends, family, colleagues and the Navy Region Brass Quintet performed under a backdrop of the rugged mountains that inspired Cushing’s vision for Squaw Valley.

Capt. Scott Ryder, commanding officer of the Fallon, Nev., Naval Air Station, praised Cushing’s five years of service during World War II and offer of free lift tickets to service members. Cushing joined the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor.

Cushing led a long, full life as a Harvard graduate, Wall Street lawyer, five-year Navy officer, father, husband, friend and a visionary. That’s not to mention the stories of Christmas with Bing Crosby and gracing the cover of Time magazine.

“His vision and tenacity created Squaw,” said former Squaw Valley USA Board of Directors President, Tom Richardson, in his commemorative speech at Cushing’s memorial.

The ceremony closed with a moment of silence followed by a 21-gun salute, carried out by explosives experts on surrounding ridges and peaks. The blasts echoed through the valley, and were followed by two F-16s and two F-18s that flew by in formation.

Cushing brought international light to Lake Tahoe with the 1960 Olympics. The Games brought exposure, infrastructure and a building boom to the Tahoe region.

Following the international prestige, Cushing was heralded the pioneer of U.S. skiing by Time magazine. He installed North America’s largest aerial cable car as well as the first and only Funitel. And in Spring 2000 Intrawest broke ground for the resort’s first pedestrian village, changing the complexion of Squaw Valley and ushering in yet another era.

Cushing was born in November 1913 and died of pneumonia in his Newport, Rhode Island summer home on Aug. 20, 2006 at age 92. He is survived by three daughters, six grandchildren, three great grandchildren and his wife, Nancy Cushing, president of Squaw Valley Ski Corp.

Friends, family, employers and admirers gathered on Saturday to remember the life, times and visions of Alex Cushing – here is what some offered to say about him.

– “Alex is the reason why my life is what it is today . . . those that execute ideas are hard to come by. I will never forget him as my mentor.” Jim Mott, Former Squaw Valley USA President/General Manager

– “‘No’ was not an answer for Alex . . . we will do everything we can to keep his dream alive.” Ernst Hager, Squaw Valley USA General Manager

– “[He was] a voracious reader, a jazz fanatic . . . a very loving grandfather.” Charlotte Howard, New York

– “His love of life came from his love of Squaw Valley.” Alexander Kunczynski, grandson of Cushing.

– “Fair winds and following seas; you will not be forgotten.” Captain W. Scott Ryder, Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station Fallon

– “Big Al, the skiers pal.” Hans Burkhart, Former Squaw Valley USA General Manager

1946 – Alexander Cushing first set eyes on Squaw Valley, void of roads, bridges and houses.

1949 – Opening Day. Squaw One was the “World’s Largest Double Chairlift,” built by Robert Heron

1955 – While in Paris, Cushing secured Squaw Valley as the site for VIII Olympic Winter Games.

1960 – The Olympics were held in Squaw Valley, the first Games hosted in the Western United States and the first to be televised.

1960 – The Olympic Village Inn was built to house more than 750 athletes

1960 – Visitors and locals enjoyed 35-cent beers and 60-cent cocktails

1968 – The cable car opened on Christmas Day

1990 – High Camp Bath and Tennis Club was unveiled

1998 – Squaw Valley USA opened the North America’s first Funitel, an enclosed aerial transportation system

Information for the timeline compiled from Squaw Valley USA: The First Fifty Years, produced by Squaw Valley Ski Corporation.