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Throwback: How Squaw Valley went from one chairlift to Olympic hosts


One man’s dream  is all it needs

February 18, 1960

There is something to be said for Alexander Cushing’s powers of persuasion.

He was the driving force behind Squaw Valley hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 1960. It was all the more remarkable as when he put in the bid in 1955, the resort barely existed.

Well, there were the bare bones of a resort: there stood a single chairlift and a 50-room lodge. But that was all Cushing had to show to the International Olympic Committee at the time to show them this was worthy of hosting the biggest winter event on the sporting calendar.

But remarkably, with his enthusiasm and innovative approach, he beat the far more established skiing resorts of St Moritz and Innsbruck to win the right to host the Games.

Getting people on the team

The years leading up to the bid he had gone into partnership with former skier Wayne Poulson, who had bought much of the land in Squaw Valley, which they turned into a resort with the help of Cushing’s money and other backers.

They were further aided by the financial backing of Laurance S. Rockefeller as well as the governor of California, who helped cajole the United States Olympic Committee into the bid.

Cushing’s success led to him making the cover of Time magazine in 1959, and Squaw Valley has undoubtedly been a triumph. Today, it is one of the biggest ski resorts in the United States.

A larger than life character, he was renowned for his parties and the trained lawyer liked to refer to his Olympic bid at the time as his “snow job”.

The Opening Ceremony was organised by none other than Walt Disney, and apparently involved 5,000 entertainers and 2,000 pigeons.


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