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Tahoe Nugget #52:

Selling the Sizzle of Snow in Sunny California (3 photographs)
March 2, 2006

March 3 is my birthday, but more importantly for Lake Tahoe, it's the official start of the annual 10-day winter carnival, the North Lake Tahoe Snow Festival. Touted as a "mountain Mardi Gras, the festival opens with a fireworks display and torchlight parade at Squaw Valley ski area. The days that follow offer many entertaining events for the public that include a polar bear swim in Lake Tahoe, ski races, concerts, dog pulls, snow sculpture contests and much more. Hopefully, the very active weather pattern that has blessed us with lots of perfect powder recently won't put too much of a damper on the upcoming week's festivities. More cold snowstorms are forecasted for early next week.

The North Tahoe Snow Festival is the modern incarnation of what has been a 80 year effort at encouraging people to visit the Sierra for winter fun. Before all-weather superhighways and all-wheel drive vehicles, marketing the winter sports experience meant taking the action to the cities. And in sunny California, that means literally, taking the snow to the people. In January 1934, the Auburn Ski Club first introduced ski jumping to the San Francisco Bay area by co-hosting an event on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. To prepare for the exhibition, 43,000 cubic feet of snow were packed into six Southern Pacific boxcars and then hauled down from the mountains. Ski jumpers from the Truckee and Auburn ski clubs and around the country entertained an estimated 50,000 spectators with tremendous leaps from a scaffold jump 85 feet high.

Among the jumpers were Roy Mikkelsen (twice the U.S. national ski jumping champ and member of the 1936 Olympic team) and Wayne Poulsen, founder of Squaw Valley and a great jumper in his own right. The event was a huge success for getting city folk all fired up about skiing and winter sports. California ski clubs wanted to make the spectacular jumping exhibition an annual event so another demonstration was held the following year, also in Berkeley. Unfortunately, neither event raised much money for the ski club promoters and both ended in chaos with huge, free-for-all snowball fights among 5,000 "college boys and youngsters."

Photo #1: Roy Mikkelsen uncorks a 139 feet leap at 1935 Berkeley ski jumping tournament
Photo #2: Auburn Ski Club promoting Berkeley ski event
Photo #3: Jumping into the crowd in 1934

Nugget #52 A 1935 Berkeley ski Mikkelsen ID 600

Nugget #52 B 1934Ski Tourn02

Nugget #52 C 1934 Berkeley ski jump ID

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