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Reader Participation Day: Should A National Park Ever Host Winter Olympics Events?


This two track toboggan run was located in a national park in 1928. NPS photo.

With all the current attention on the Winter Olympics, we have a two-part question for this week's Reader Participation Day: In an earlier era, a U. S. National Park was one of three finalists vying for the right to host the 1932 Winter Olympics. Do you know which park was in contention then...and should an NPS site ever be considered for some events for a future Winter Games?

The Winter Olympics have changed almost beyond recognition since the 1932 games, which included athletes from only 17 countries competing in 14 events. This year's version reportedly involve 88 nations and competition in nearly a hundred events, with billions of dollars spent on elaborate facilities for everything from ski jumping and luge to bobsleds and figure skating.

Bids are already in for the 2022 edition of the Olympics, but the hopes by some in a previous generation for a winter games in a U. S. national park brings us to our second question of the day: Should a future bid by a U. S. city for a Winter Olympics include the possibility of holding any activities in an NPS area?

Events which require enormous facilities, such as stadiums seating tens of thousands of spectators, would seem to be a non-starter for a park, but what about competitions such as cross country skiing or even the biathlon? Proposals to host even more events were made in 1932, when supporters suggested a major role for a national park in that year's games.

In today's world, where some suggest parks need to find new ways to attract visitors—and sources of revenue—the idea could arise again if cities such as Seattle (near Mount Rainier N.P.) or Denver (near Rocky Mountain N.P.) decided to bid for a future Winter Olympics.

So, can you identify the national park that was a finalist for the 1932 winter games ...and should the idea be considered again on even a limited basis in the future?



Yosemite was the park proposed for a few venues in 1932; speed skating tryouts were actually held there, "...the best ice rink on the West coast":


Although an almost lifelong skier, I voted against the proposed Colorado Olympics many years ago, and would oppose any attempt to hold Olympic events in a US national park, summer or winter. Mount Rainier is totally unsuitable for modern Winter Olympics venues (ie. 9 feet of snow this past week), but does have connections to games after 1932:


"In April 1934, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer sponsored an event at Paradise that definitely put Mount Rainier on the map of national ski competition. The first annual Silver Skis race featured a five-mile course from Camp Muir to Paradise Valley, with an elevation drop of approximately 5,000 feet. Sixty contestents made the arduous trek from the end of the road up the slope of Mount Rainier, then came racing down before a large crowd of spectators. The route was thought to be one of the most challenging in ski competition. Eight months after the race, in December 1934, the National Ski Association voted to use the lower part of the Silver Skis course for the site of its national championship downhill and slalom ski races, to be held the next spring.


This contest attracted more than the usual amount of interest because it also served as the occasion for the Olympic ski team tryouts. The downhill race course started at Sugar Loaf at 8,500 feet elevation and descended past Panorama Point into Edith Creek Basin, near the Paradise Inn. The course had an overall pitch of 33 percent. The slalom course was set up on the uphill side of Alta Vista, a prominence above the Paradise Lodge. Sportscasters from the Columbia Broadcasting System provided live coverage for radio listeners throughout the United States, while three wire services described the event for newspapers. Moving-picture photographers documented the contest for newsreels. An estimated 7,500 spectators drove approximately 2,000 automobiles into the park and hiked up to the Paradise meadows to get a view. [Supt.] Tomlinson had the road plowed a mile above Narada Falls to provide extra parking space. It was the busiest weekend in the park's history up to that time."


"Gretchen Kunigk was born in Tacoma, Washington, to a Norwegian immigrant mother and German immigrant father. Her mother was a skier. Gretchen first skied at Paradise on Mt Rainier during Christmas, 1932 at age 13. After skiing and racing for a few years she took lessons from Otto Lang after he started teaching at Paradise. Through Lang she got involved in several Hollywood films, doubling for Sonja Henie in the ski scenes of Thin Ice and Sun Valley Serenade.

In 1938 she and Don Fraser won the Northwest women's and men's combined ski championships, respectively. Their racing encounters led to romance and they were married in 1939. Gretchen continued to race and improve, and in 1941 she became the U.S. alpine women's combined champion. She won the U.S. women's slalom championship in 1942 before World War II shut down racing for the duration. In 1947, after not racing for four years, she qualified for the U.S. Olympic team. In the 1948 Games at St Moritz she won the silver medal in the women's alpine combined and a gold medal in the special slalom, the first Olympic alpine skiing medals won by an American."

Good job, tahoma, on being the first to identify Yosemite as the candidate for the 1932 Winter Olympics.

Thanks for sharing the other information!


I vote "NO!", but I guess the key word here is "Ever".

We now have national park units dedicated to American history associated with railroads, the cattle industry, jazz music, etc. Civil War "re-enactments" also occur at several NPS historical sites.

So, in 500 years or so, why not have Vail, CO, Aspen, CO, Sun Valley, ID, or Squaw Valley, CA designated as a National Historic Site, and hold the Olympics there as a form of a "living history" celebation?

Yosemite, yes great job tahoma. I also vote no on holding a winter Olympics in a National Park. Owen has it right, there are already great areas in which to hold the event.

AACK!  NO!  Ditto tahoma, Owen Hoffman, and rmackie.  The mere thought makes me shudder.

Please, please no. I'd think after what happened in the 70s that Denver would be a non-starter, anyway (what happens if they change their minds again?), which is good.

But please don't try to hold the Olympics on my beloved Mt. Rainier.

Besides, if Seattle was to host the games (heaven forbid), there are much better (already commercialized) places in the Cascades to hold skiing events of any kind, cross-country or downhill.

Glad to see that so far, everyone agrees on this one!

I recently stumbled onto a photo essay from Reuters of the relics of Olympic facilities in and around Sarajevo. It was a pictorial of the worst you could hope for in such a case.

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