‘It’s the people that make the history interesting’: author, ski legend releases book on Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Much has changed at Squaw Valley since a young ski competitor from Reno named Wayne Poulsen realized the area’s potential while on a fishing trip as a boy in 1931.
Since then Squaw Valley has been developed into a world-class resort, hosting the Olympics in 1960; while neighboring Alpine Meadows has undergone its own transformation since a San Bernardino man named John Reily and others opened the area in 1961 as an alternative to skiing at Squaw.
Local writer and longtime skier Eddy Ancinas has detailed the history of the two mountains in her book “Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows: Tales from Two Mountains,” which captures the spirit of those early pioneers skiing the Sierra and tells the story of two of Tahoe’s most iconic ski areas through the decades.
“We lived in Alpine Meadows, and at that time we were the only people there — us and maybe two other families. One of those families was John Reily Jr., whose father was the man behind Alpine Meadows. We really lived the history of Alpine Meadows and obviously Squaw Valley is just over the hill,” Ancinas said of the early days of Alpine Meadows.
“I had thought about writing about Alpine Meadows, because nobody ever wrote about it,” Ancinas said. “Everybody always wrote about Squaw … but as soon as I thought about writing a book, and making a proposal to a publisher, I knew, realistically, nobody would publish a book that was only about Alpine Meadows. Squaw Valley has much more of a world-wide presence for obvious reasons.”
Ancinas, who was a guide for the International Olympic Committee in Squaw Valley at the 1960 Olympics, offers readers of the book a glimpse into what life and ski culture was like during the early days of the two resorts.
“Alpine had this sort of, ‘We’ll never be commercial. We’ll never have a town,’” she said on the difference between the two resorts in the ’60s and ’70s. “Of course all of that’s changed.”
Ancinas’ book was first published in 2013, and was then revised this year in honor of Squaw Valley’s 70th anniversary. The resort first opened in 1959.
The new edition includes a foreword by two-time Olympian Edie Thys Morgan, and an epilogue written by Ancinas.
“Other than that, I changed the front photos,” Ancinas said of the cover, which now shows Wayne and Sandy Poulsen contemplating how and where to build the ski area.
The book goes into detail about the early days of skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and the ambitious few people who built the resorts, including Poulsen, Reily, and Alex Cushing. From there, Ancinas describes the 1960 Olympics, accidents on the mountain, the sale of the two resorts to KSL Capital Partners, and everything in between.
“It was fun writing about it, and it’s fun talking with all of the people that were involved,” said Ancinas. “It’s the people that make the history interesting.”
Though much development has occurred at the two areas, resulting in hordes of visitors to the mountains each year, and prompting criticism from nostalgic skiers who long for the “good ole days,” Ancinas contends there are traits about Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows that can never be stripped away.
“They always have been really good ski areas,” she said. “They always will be. Mountains never change.”
“Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows: Tales from Two Mountains” is available for purchase at EddyAncinas.com or locally in Truckee at Word After Word Bookshop.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.