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Best Moments of Alpine Skiing in the Winter Games. Squaw Valley 1960

The 1960 Olympic Winter Games were held at the Squaw Valley Resort (since 2021 known as Palisades Tahoe) in California. Squaw Valley was an undeveloped resort in 1955, so the infrastructure and all of the venues were built at a cost of US$ 80 million between 1956 and 1960.

The town of Squaw Valley won the right to host the VIII Winter Games at the 51st IOC Session in Paris, after a very close vote against the Austrian city of Innsbruck. The other candidates were St Moritz (Switzerland) and Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany).

The Squaw Valley Winter Olympics were held from 18 to 28 February 1960 and attracted 665 participants (521 men and 144 women) representing 30 different countries (NOCs). The program consisted of four sports and 27 separate events.

Television was not new to the Olympic Winter Games; broadcasts of events to European audiences had begun in Cortina 1956. What was unprecedented was the sale of exclusive United States television rights to broadcast the Games. The Organizing Committee decided to sell the television broadcast rights to CBS for $50,000.

During the Games when officials became unsure as to whether a skier had missed a gate in the men's Slalom, they asked CBS-TV if they could review a videotape of the race. This gave CBS the idea of inventing the now ubiquitous "instant replay".

Competing at a time when the Alpine Skiing World Cup had yet to come into existence (it made its debut in 1967), the Bavarian-born Heidi Biebl was one of the greatest skiers of her generation and the finest German since Christl Cranz, the queen of the slopes in the 1930s who had been crowned the first female Olympic Alpine skiing champion at Garmisch-Partenkichen 1936. In Oslo, in 1960 Biebl won the gold medal in the Downhill as the youngest female ski gold medalist of all time (through 2013).

The best moments of Alpine Skiing in the Winter Games in Squaw Valley 1960 were starred by Jean Vuarnet. In a bid to increase his speed, Vuarnet then honed his revolutionary “egg position”, now known as the tuck, a lower stance in which he squatted down with knees bent, arms outstretched and fists clasped together.

Though the position would be adopted by every downhill skier in the years that followed, Vuarnet was the only competitor to use it in Squaw Valley.

The Frenchman became also the first skier to win a medal on metal skis, instead of the traditional wooden ones.

During the 1959-1960 season, the French ski manufacturer that supplied the national team had provided Vuarnet with wooden skis that he found far too flexible. “It was a disaster”, he said in an interview. “So I went to their factory in Voiron and had a good look around. I came across a pair of metal skis that were just my size. They’d been tossed aside but they looked okay to me. I took them and tried them out in the Émile Allais Cup in Megève. One of the skis got bent but I still managed to finish fifth. So I called the manufacturer and asked them to send me a new pair because the Games were coming up”.

He got his hands on his new skis just a few days before the Downhill at Squaw Valley. Clocking a speed of 115 km/h over the fastest section of the course, Vuarnet crossed the finish line in a time of 2:06.0, beating German Hans Peter Lanig by half a second, with teammate Guy Périllat taking the bronze a further four-tenths of a second behind.


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