Squaw Valley’s Jimmy King earns lifetime achievement award
Squaw Valley is home to Olympic champions, ski and snowboard icons, and some of the most legendary moments in winter sports.
For nearly the past half century one man has labored away at the resort behind the scenes, rarely if ever missing a day, in pursuit of keeping lifts spinning, and guests and employees safe.
Last week during a ceremony at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, mountain manager Jimmy King was recognized for his work and awarded the Dave McCoy Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Ski Industry Association.
“In my 40-plus years of being in this industry, I cannot think of anybody more deserving and worthy as the recipient of the Dave McCoy Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Casey Blann, the resort’s vice president of mountain operations, during the ceremony. “He’s the go-to guy of everything Squaw.
“From his lift maintenance background and acumen to lift construction to jumping in a snow cat and doing things that most people would not even dream of doing, he’s got the most can-do attitude of anyone I’ve ever met.”
King first started at Squaw in 1973 as a seasonal lift operator, and was later given a year-round position by Alex Cushing. He went on to work with Hans Burkhart in developing more lifts at the resort, mastered driving grooming machines on some of Squaw’s steepest terrain, and then became mountain manager in 1991.
“Chris Woo, he and I built this Far East lift over here in 60 days,” said King while pointing toward the lift during his address to the crowd. “Nobody thought we could do it … those were the kinds of things we were able to do, but it was all because of the team, it was because of the crew. The biggest thing about it — as I look at the team and the crew — is safety. Safety is so important to all of you guys and all of you girls out there. You just have no idea, because many of us like myself we have seen the really good, the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
During nearly 50 years with the resort, King has seen everything from epic blizzards, lift accidents — he was an instrumental part of the rescue effort following the 1978 tram accident that claimed the lives of four people — to changes in the mountain’s landscape and its ownership.
It’s been King’s interactions with employees over the years, however, that have garnered adoration from those that have worked with and under him.
“He will do anything, anytime for anyone who works for him,” said Blann. “He’s got this hard-guy nature, and this tough-guy kind of attitude, but the guy is the most sensitive dude in the world underneath all of that.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.