Famous Skiers from Tahoe
Trying to choose a Tahoe, all-star team can give anybody indigestion, especially when the selection criteria are vague. No doubt it's a testament to the strength of the local breeding grounds when Eric and Sandra Poulsen, two of America's greatest racers in the past, don't even end up on the list of twenty. Anytime an effort to complete such a list is attempted, it leaves open the possibility of slight. But here goes.
In alpine events alone, no fewer than 50 U.S. Ski Team members, 20 Olympians, and a dozen National Champions have come from the Tahoe Basin. More than a few have their names honored in the National Ski Hall Of Fame.
That said, for better or worse, gallows or otherwise, here are my thoughts on the all-time, All-Tahoe Ski Team:
DICK BUEK: This Soda Springs' native was a top ski athlete, twice winner of the National Downhill Championship (1952 and 1954), and an Olympian in l952. A superlative downhill racer, he became legendary as the "Mad Dog" of Donner Summit.
DICK DORWORTH: One more in a long line of Tahoe's groundbreaking skiers, Dorworth grew up in Glenbrook and raced for the Reno Ski Club. He was a superb down-hiller and Far West Champion. Dorworth was chosen, by then coach Bob Beattie, to the first ever U.S. National Development Team. He put pure ego and speed on the map in 1963 by breaking all existing world speed skiing records, inspiring a generation of speed skiers. A former U.S. Ski Team coach, Director of Skiing at Aspen, Dorworth, now resides in Ketchum ID.
LUGGI FOEGER: He was an international competitor and ski instructor-turned-American-ski-area-manager-and-developer. Though he helped create Badger Pass, Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Ski Incline (now Diamond Peak), and the Olympic Village Inn, being on skis remained his passion. Considered a top racer, especially in slalom, Foeger was a member of the famed group of instructors from St. Anton who became disciples of Hannes Schneider. He also developed the first modern-day safety binding.
LARS HAUGEN: A member of the Lake Tahoe Ski Club, Lars won the Class A National Ski Jumping Championship seven times. His brother, Anders, wasn't so bad either. He won three National titles and earned America's first Olympic Medal in winter sports, the Bronze at Chamonix in 1924.
JIMMIE HEUGA: Another skier from the Lake Tahoe Ski Club, Heuga was a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1959 to 1968, and he skied in two World Championships and two Olympics. Though most remember the Tahoe City resident for winning the Bronze in slalom at Innsbruck, Heuga also placed fifth in the combined at the 1962 Worlds, and fourth and sixth four years later at the Worlds in Chile. To the end of his shortened career, due to multiple sclerosis, Heuga competed strongly, finishing in the top ten in the slalom and GS at the Grenoble Olympics.
BOB HOWARD: This Reno native was a three-time World Ballet freestyle Champ from 1979 to 1981. He's gone on to coach top ballet skiers such as Lane Spina, Ellen Breen, and Roberto Franco. He continues to promote and choreograph ski shows around the world.
GREG JONES: A National Champion in the 1976 downhill event, this Lake Tahoe Ski Club member is revered for his giant slalom racing. He took several first place victories on the Europa Cup and a victory in World Cup at Copper Mountain. He participated in the 1974 Worlds and in 1976 won Olympic Bronze in the combined.
STEVE McKINNEY: "Racing for pure speed is uncomplicated, straightforward, and decisive," he once wrote, and for more than a decade Stevie backed it up. He posted, over and over, unheard of times in world speed skiing competitions, breaking five world records. A gifted all-around athlete, he also hang-glided off Mt. Everest and was a member of the U.S. Ski Team. Later, in his all but too short life, he was chosen to be an FIS Delegate representing the United States.
TAMARA McKINNEY: McKinney's 14-year career on the National Team saw her capture nine national titles, three World Cup discipline titles, the overall World Cup title, 18 World Cup races, and one Gold and two Bronzes in World Championship competition. Breaking her leg in 10 places, which forced her to end her amateur racing career, the three-time Olympian soon after made one of her noted comebacks by winning the overall, Jeep/Eagle Tournament of Champions.
ROY MIKKELSEN: A U.S. Olympic ski jumper in 1932 and 1936, Mikkelsen was national jumping champion in 1933 and 1935, and he also rated among the nation_s top downhill and slalom competitors from 1933-42.
LYLE NELSON: Far from a household word, biathlete Nelson nevertheless represented the United States in four Olympics. A Smithsonan rarity who fed off aggressiveness and drive the way others feed off vitamin C, this West Point grad and longtime Donner Summit resident won the 10K Nationals at age 39 and competed internationally well into his 40's.
WAYNE POULSEN: Famous as the original developer of Palisades Tahoe, Poulsen was also owner/operator pf Nevada's first ski resort a decade before, in 1939, on Mt. Rose. As a surveyor for Dr. James Church's snow studies, at age 16, Poulsen would ski up Mt. Rose and spend a good portion of the winter on top. Founder and coach of the championship University of Reno ski team, the strong-minded, strong-bodied Poulsen was one of the best jumpers of his era, winning the overall California State Championship in 1932.
REED ROBINSON: A member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team for over a decade, Robinson made skiing history several years back by winning medals in both the alpine and Nordic, World Disabled Ski Championships. The Incline Village native won over 10 national titles in addition to taking Gold in slalom in the Worlds in 1990. A former speed skier, the one-armed Robinson still races Monday Motivation at Alpine Meadows.
SPIDER SABICH: This native of Kyburz, off Highway 50, learned to ski on Echo Summit. Although he had nine operations on his legs during the short span of his time as a U.S. Ski Team member, Sabich still captured several World Cup races, a national title in downhill, and he placed fifth in the 1968 Olympic slalom. Retiring as an amateur in 1971, he went on to win the World Pro Ski title two years in a row.
SCOT SCHMIDT: OK, so nobody freak! Maybe Scot can't hang in on a turn in World Cup GS or compete today on the level of today's extremists, but this former Far West racer and Tahoe resident put the word "extreme" on the map. Absolutely fearless, Schmdt has performed amazing jumps and turns in too many ski films to name. A complete skier and good alpinist, few, if any, Americans did it better in chutes, powder, or in the air.
HANS STANDTEINER: Which one, senior or junior? Hey, how about both? The Austrian born, Hans senior, has been a coach or instructor in Turkey, Iran, Austria, Italy, Chile, Sugarbush, Indianhead, Sugar Bowl, Alpine Meadows, and Palisades Tahoe. So he can't hold a job. Who cares? This wonderful man has influenced many who have gone on to compete successfully abroad.
As for his son, Hansi, he didn't do too bad either. Hansi won several FIS races around the world, including an Europa Cup as a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1979 to 1985. Hansi then went on to beat up on the pros. In 1985 he finished fifth overall, earned Rookie Of The Year honors, and he was a top money winner for the next six years.
JACK STARRETT: Most folks around here remember Jack for starting the Village Store in Tahoe City. Few, however, recall that it was Starrett in the 1940s and 50s who would cross-country to Truckee and back when the roads were closed, with the mail. The route he traveled over is now the course for the 18-mile, Great Ski Race.
FRANK STEWART: A member of the Alturas Ski Club in Plumas County, Stewart still reigns as hero of the "Lost Sierra." An authentic ski pioneer, Stewart was a long-board champion obtaining speeds close to 100 mph in the late 1800s. He was one of the few who not only raced, but also made his own skis and dope (wax). His head-to-head victory in Johnsville over Snow-Shoe Thompson is truly the stuff of legends.
JOHN "SNOW-SHOE" THOMPSON: He has to be mentioned mainly because so many still do not realize his accomplishments. For 20 years, beginning in 1856, this pioneer tracked the Sierra-Nevada to carry mail between California and Western Utah Territory (Nevada). He skied on groove less but cambered skis known as "Norwegian Snow-Shoes," and he also wrote quasi-scientific articles defining ski contests and ski techniques that are remarkably similar to today's slalom, downhill, and recreational skiing formats. Buried in 1876 in Genoa NV, this fellow was truly a king of the hill, and one grand dude.
STAN TOMLINSON: Known as the "Maestro," the affable Tomlinson taught skiing at Palisades Tahoe for 50 years. Raised in British Columbia, Tomlinson began skiing in 1932. After WWII he became a patrolman at Sun Valley, then he came to Squaw with Emile Allais. Effortless on his skis, whether in powder or bumps, Stan was poetry in motion.
That's twenty...as of January 2006. Julia Mancuso went on to Olympic Gold the next month.
And...among those who have every right to feel slighted for not being on the list above are extreme adventurer, Shane McConkey, current World Cup champion, Daron Rahlves, freestyler, Jonny Moseley, Olympic slalom skier, Bob Ormsby, former National Champ and '64 Olympian, Starr Walton, and Olympians Edith Thys, Kristin Krone, Eva Twardokens, and Bill Hudson.
There are a host of others who are deserving, too. Where does one draw the line?