With the Sochi Winter Olympics just weeks away, interest is heating up for some of the lesser known winter sports. On a recent trip to Lake Tahoe, California for some winter fun, I was thrilled to find a cross country skiing venue with an Olympic pedigree.
Despite the disturbing lack of snow this year, Sugar Pine Point State Park, on Tahoe’s West Shore and home to the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Nordic Ski courses, was a great option to find pristine trails. More than 50 years ago, when the Olympics were less of a circus, the land that is now Sugar Pine Point State Park welcomed athletes from around the world, promoting international goodwill and the majesty of the sport.
Athletes raced over 35.4 miles of trail through the General and McKinney Creek areas. The stadium was a temporary facility and was removed soon after the closing ceremony, restoring the land to its natural state. But the Olympic sign still stands at the entrance to what is now a picnic area and campground.
I have my own gear which I have used for many years, but my friends rented their skis, poles and boots at Tahoe Dave’s in Tahoe City. We packed a picnic and set off. Once out of the campground, we headed for a lovely bridge, enjoying the peace and quiet and the surprisingly good snow despite the dry winter. We had our lunch in the sunshine on the bridge, some sandwiches, carrots, hard-boiled eggs, clementines and Swedish fish, perhaps homage to the Swedes and other Scandinavians and Soviets who won in 1960.
The State Park encompasses a lakeside area, home to Pine Lodge. Built in 1903 by Isaias Hellman, a San Francisco financier, it helped usher in the gilded age of Lake Tahoe. Sold in the mid sixties, it is now a part of the state park. After finishing our cross country tour, we took a walk at dusk by the lake, admiring the pink light and fullish moon as it rose.
After 5 days in the mountains and the hat trick of snowshoeing, cross country and downhill skiing (with a mini sledding attempt), I was fully satisfied with my winter wonderland adventure. How wonderful it would be to snowshoe or cross-country ski every day for an hour or so, but given the Polar Vortex hitting the rest of the country, I’m pretty happy, warm and cozy in the temperate Bay Area.
As an enthusiastic fan of the Winter Olympics, I’ve been gearing up, watching some Olympic trials on TV and catching up on some reading about the controversial Sochi locale. Triporati has a Sochi destination to explore if you too are an Olympic venue fan, and I can recommend a recent National Geographic article to flesh out some of the historical context and controversy surrounding the choice of Sochi.
Also, a recent documentary on the punk band Pussy Riot illuminated more of the back story leading up to the games. Amidst recent anti-gay, Greenpeace Arctic 30 detention and and other human rights questions, some have been calling for a boycott or protests, and the specter of terrorism has loomed in recent weeks.
Even so, the world will gather as it does every four years to celebrate sport and the spirit of global competition in a winter wonderland, and soon all eyes will be on Sochi, Russia.