In April of 2021, Olympic Valley lost one of its earliest property owners and part-time residents, Herb Magnuson. Herb was 94 when he passed, and likely only the eldest of Olympic Valley’s residents will remember this quiet man who came to the Valley in 1955 looking for an adventure in what was then a fairly remote part of the California mountains. Herb ended up being a very active community member before, during, and after the Olympic Games, operating quietly in the background and doing his part to help create the foundation for what would become one of the most beautiful and exciting recreational areas in the country.
As the story goes, Herb arrived at Olympic Valley for the first time one beautiful Fall day in 1955. This was his chance to explore the Tahoe region more thoroughly, and see first-hand what he’d heard was an amazing valley and the new home of a couple of visionaries (Wayne Poulsen and Alex Cushing) who saw the Valley as a future world-class ski resort and new mountain community. As he drove the newly cut dirt roads above the Meadow, a Willys army Jeep and its driver came up to greet him. Wayne Poulsen jumped out of his Jeep and quickly got to the point with his new friend.
“Herb”, he said, “I just subdivided this entire hillside for as far as you can see. Interested in buying some property”? To make a very long story short, Herb purchased 3 lots and built a beautiful family home on Lanny Lane. As a tribute to my Dad’s Norwegian heritage, he managed to find the only Norwegian architect on the West Coast in 1957 (Henrik Bull) to design his mountain cabin. Henrik went on to become a famous ski area architect and actually designed the Gold Coast lodge at Palisades and many other homes in the Valley. Herb’s kids Eric, Lisa, and Elliott oversee the cabin today.
His love for the mountains and his home in Olympic Valley led to his interest in the continued growth of the Lake Tahoe region. He volunteered to serve on the founding Board of Directors of Alpine Meadows Ski Area with such area legends as John Reily and John Klaussen and helped to hire the engineers that built the road up to Alpine Meadows from highway 89. He would say that following some extensive fundraising, he remembered writing the check for $300,000 to get the project done.
Herb was also one of the first Presidents of the Squaw Valley Property Owners Association and served as an Olympic official during the 1960 Winter Olympics. He told the story of both Alpine investor meetings and Olympic planning discussions held atop KT-22 at the newly minted Cornice Restaurant where, following their meetings and one of the establishment’s famed “Alpenburgers”, he’d ski down the mountain with his leather lace-up boots, cable bindings, and screw on ski edges! When you really think about it, Herb’s generation of skiers was quite remarkable! Imagine back then if this group was handed a pair of today’s aggressive-shaped skis. Even Scott Schmidt would have had his hands full keeping up with them on West Face!
Herb was a kind man with a quick wit and a smile. He seemed to always have something nice to say about everyone. And when he spoke of Olympic Valley, sitting on his deck overlooking the Valley and KT-22, he always had a twinkle in his eye! Rest in peace Herb. You will be missed by family and friends alike.