Part I: Tahoe’s Top 25 Skiers in History
In alpine events alone, no fewer than 50 U.S. Ski Team members, 20 Olympians, and dozens of national champions have come from the Tahoe Basin. A number have their names in the National Ski Hall of Fame. Tahoe is a major source of competitive skiers.
Who are the greatest of all?
The selection criteria are somewhat subjective. There are so many wonderful skiers that some must be left of a "Top 25" list, including both Mancuso and Marco Sullivan. Those two current U.S Alpine Ski Team stars haven't even come close to the apex of their superb careers at this time.
That said, here is my choice for the Region's all-time ski team. Some of the named skiers weren't born or raised in the Sierra Nevada, but all made their mark here. As much as epic peaks, reliable snowfall, and mild winter temperatures, they've made a name for Tahoe. They are listed in a random order.
LUGGI FOEGER 1906-1992: Luggi 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 under Hannes Schneider who pied piper skiing in America. Luggi also invented the first modern day safety binding and helped developed modern-day snowmaking.
GEORGENE BIHLMAN 1925: She devoted herself to skiing both as a competitor and teacher for over 50 years. Overcoming crippling injuries and near fatal illnesses, she rose to the top as a masters racer. She won over 800 trophies and awards in all parts of the world. An injury kept her from the 1960 Olympics, but didn't stop her from being elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 2002.
DICK BUEK 1929-1957: 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 for his unbridled skiing style. He invented the phrase, "extreme sports."
Dick flew his plane under the Squaw One Lift and under the Donner-Summit Bridge. He did Acapulco cliff diving and motorcycle racing. He crashed his plane twice in Donner Lake. The first time he was towing water skiers; the second time he crashed and killed himself two days before his 28th birthday.
TAMARA McKINNEY 1962: 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, one gold and two bronzes in World Championship competition. She broke her leg in 10 places, which forced her to end her amateur racing career. But the three-time Olympian soon after made one of her noted comebacks by winning the overall Jeep/Eagle Tournament of Champions.
LARS HAUGEN 1888-1984: Lars was a member of the Lake Tahoe Ski Club, He 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.
DICK DORWORTH 1939: Dick is one more in a long line of Tahoe groundbreaking skiers; Dorworth grew up in Glenbrook and raced for the Reno Ski Club. He was a superb downhiller and Far West Champion who captured the famed Silver Dollar Derby several times. Dorworth was chosen by then coach Bob Beattie to be on 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 and Director of Skiing at Aspen, Dorworth continues to coach, instruct, and write insightful stories for national publications.
CANDACE CABLE 1954: This determined Truckee resident was an alpine mono skier and triple medalist at the 1992 Paralympics in France, but she switched to Nordic and has dominated her sit-skiing class ever since. In 1996 she captured two medals at the World Championships. Four years later she won three medals at the Worlds and competed in her fourth Paralympics at the 2002 Soldier Hollow, Utah. She has also won six Boston Marathon wheelchair titles and competed in the Summer Paralympics from 1980-96.
BABBETTE HAUEISEN 1931: A former ski racer who won the Roche Cup at Aspen, the Silver Belt at Sugar Bowl, and the Harriman Cup in Sun Valley, all in 1955, the precocious Haueisen dominated Tahoe events during the 1950s against the likes of Olympians Andrea Mead Lawrence, Sally Hudson, Jill Kinmont and Gretchen Fraser. An injury forced her off the U.S. Olympic Team in 1956.
She learned to teach at the instructor's college in St. Christophe, Austria, a first for any American. "Miss B" taught full time well into her 70s. In 1995, she was selected by Skiing magazine as one of the top 100 instructors in North America.
JIMMIE HEUGA 1943: Here is another skier from the Lake Tahoe Ski Club. Heuga was a member of the U.S. Ski Team from 1959 to 1968 and 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 1968 Grenoble Olympics. He's inspired countless MS sufferers as the founder of the Jimmie Heuga rehabilitation center in Vail, Colorado.
BOB HOWARD 1955: This Reno native was a three-time World Ballet freestyle Champ from 1979 to 1981. He went 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.
STEVE McKINNEY 1953-1990: "Racing for pure speed is uncomplicated, straight forward, and decisive," he once wrote, and for more than a decade Stevie backed it up, posting time and again 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.
GREG JONES 1953: This Lake Tahoe Ski Club member is revered for his giant slalom racing and he won the National Champion in the 1976 downhill event. 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. In 1976 he won the World Championship Bronze in the Combined at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics. A Palisades Tahoe race team coach, Jones has influenced three generations of racers, and more than a few have gone on to international acclaim.
This is the first half of the "Top 25" list. In addition, here are some skiers who have every right to be sore at me for not being on the list: Olympic Freestyle Silver Medalist Shannon Bahrke: South Lake Tahoe's Travis Cabral and Jonna Mendes; speed skiers Franz Weber and Jeff Hamilton; Olympians Eric and Sandra Poulsen, Dodie Post, Starr Walton, Edith Thys, Kristin Krone, Eva Twardokens, and Bill Hudson; and top pro skiers Hansi Standteiner, Jim Hudson, Bob Ormsby, and Dan Mooney.
Coming up, Part II: The rest of the list.