South Lake Tahoe Olympians
By: Trent Unruh
Clearly, Tahoe is home to champions. Perfectly positioned at more than 6,200 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is the perfect place for Olympians to live, train, and explore.
With the 2022 Winter Olympics approaching quicker than Usain Bolt with an energy drink, here is a list of Olympic Athletes that call Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area home as well as a list of places to visit and take in Lake Tahoe’s Olympic legacy.
Starting off the list is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and South Lake Tahoe local, and defending champion, Jamie Anderson. Anderson is entering her third Olympic Games after winning gold in the slopestyle competition in 2014 and 2018. While Jamie Anderson may be known for her long, cerebral slopestyle runs, she has plenty of big air tricks in her bag as well.
Anderson is coming to Beijing with plenty of momentum as she swept the slopestyle and big air events at the 2021 X Games in Aspen and recently won the slopestyle events at the Mammoth World Cup in early January. Considered a favorite by many, this South Lake Tahoe local is certainly deserving of a few cheers.
Another two-time defending Olympic champion, David Wise, will also be making the journey to Beijing. After already making history as the only back-to-back, two-time men’s freeskier champion, Wise returns with plenty of experience as he looks to record a three-peat.
Wise secured his ticket to the 2022 Olympics after finishing as runner-up at the U.S. Grand Prix in Mammoth Mountain and is a Reno, Nevada native.
Returning to make his second Olympic appearance, Team Palisades Tahoe team member, Travis Ganong is coming off a successful World Cup season which included a third-place finish in super-G. A veteran of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Ganong missed the 2018 Winter Olympics after suffering a torn ACL. Not to be underestimated, Ganong can be found exploring the Sierra Nevada and is an easy athlete to root for.
Eyeing his second Olympic appearance, Truckee’s Bryce Bennett is hoping to hoist the gold medal in downhill. The 6’ 7” skier is hitting all of his marks at the perfect time after claiming his first career downhill victory in December 2021. A former BMX racer, Bennett’s attraction to speed has successfully transcended onto the slopes.
Already a national and junior champion and hailing from Strawberry, California, alpine skier Keely Cashman is looking to make her Olympic debut after posting a season-best 23rd place in super-G in Zauchensee, Austria. Doubling as a barista at her family’s coffee shop, this olympian can be found paddle boarding, biking, hiking, and camping on and around Lake Tahoe
Also making her Olympic debut is Team Palisades Tahoe team member and alpine skier, Nina O’Brien. Specializing in the technical events of giant slalom and slalom, Nina had the best season of her career in 2021, securing a career-best ninth place in slalom and a top 10 in the giant slalom at the World Championships. When away from the slopes, Nina enjoys hiking, biking, collaging and working to elevate women’s voices in sport with Voice in Sport.
With what has to be the coolest last name of any Winter Olympics athlete, Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy’s Luke Winters officially punched his ticket to Beijing after securing a career-best 10th place in Slalom racing. In 2019 Luke won his first national championship title at the alpine combined at Sugarloaf, Maine. He followed that performance up with a second national title in slalom at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.
A member of the United States cross-country team, North Lake Tahoe’s JC Schoonmaker is entering his first-ever Olympics with a full head of steam after securing a pair of top-10 finishes and a national title at Soldier Hallow, Utah.
A California native and Alaska resident, Hannah Halvorsen is headed to her first Winter Games two years after suffering a traumatic brain injury from a crash. Halvorsen is hoping her comeback story ends with a gold medal win. Halvorsen recently posted a career-best seventh place at a World Cup event in Dresden, Germany.
Hailing from Truckee and growing up in a family of skiers, the multi-talented athlete, Maureen Lebel has competed in all ski disciplines and finished third overall at the North American Cup. A student at the University of Utah, Lebel hasn’t seen much action due to injuries and the unfortunate passing of her father, but you can expect a strong showing.
Last but not least is North Tahoe’s AJ Hurt making her Olympic debut. The Team Palisades Tahoe skier scored points in four disciplines (parallel, slalom, giant slalom, and downhill) in the 2020-21 season. AJ joined the Squaw Valley Ski Team at the age of four and fell in love with the sport. When she’s not skiing, there’s a good chance you can find her at one of the many beaches around Lake Tahoe.
The Squaw Valley Winter Olympics in 1960 are remembered by many as the last of the small Olympics. Originally standing a “snowball’s chance”, the Olympic event near Tahoe’s north shore could have arguably never happened if not for a tie-breaking vote by World War II hero, Jo Marillac.
The legacy of the 1960 Olympics continues into the present. When officials were unsure if a skier had missed a gate in the men’s slalom, they asked CBS-TV if they could review a videotape of the race, giving CBS the idea of inventing “instant replay”.
Next time you’re driving through South Lake Tahoe, be sure to swing by the Champions Plaza, located on the corner of U.S. 50 and Lakeview Avenue across from Lakeview Commons and take a selfie with the 11-foot bronze sculpture inspired by local Olympic athletes.
You might not be good enough to qualify to represent your country during the Olympics, but your family can start their own Olympic games in South Lake Tahoe each winter. With thousands of acres of skiable terrain at local ski resorts to a massive backcountry with never-ending progression, and even ice skating rinks, you don’t have to look far to find a worthwhile and memorable experience along Lake Tahoe’s south shore.