Every four years, the Winter Olympics stir a lot of good memories for me. It’s when I recall the annual winter carnivals and L-A’s exceptional impact on skiing and other sports on ice and snow.

I’m remembering some Olympians from this area whose names are listed among the world’s most famous winter athletes. There’s John Bower, Tom Upham and Julie Parisien. That’s just three who come quickly to my mind, and I also would add Linwood “Zeke” Dwelley and Otto Wallingford as individuals whose unique efforts paved the way for those champions.

I also rank two hills in Auburn for major contributions to the record books … Pettingill Park and Lost Valley.

Pettingill Park was a center of wintertime recreation in my late-1950s high school years. It’s there that I remember watching Edward Little High School’s remarkable skiers of that time soaring off the towering wooden ski jump atop a modest hill.

Dwelley was the ELHS coach who shaped the competitive accomplishments of John Bower and Tom Upham.

Bower gained international fame as the first American to win the Holmenkollen combined Nordic event in Norway in 1968. While at ELHS, he had scored a perfect 400 when he won slalom, downhill, cross country and jumping in the high school championships in 1959. As a U.S. Nordic Team member, he competed in two Olympics (1964 in Innsbruck, Austria, and 1968 in Grenoble, France) and won four national Nordic Combined titles.

Upham also was an Olympian at the Grenoble games, competing in cross-country and jumping. In his junior year, he won the junior nationals championship in Nordic combined and in his senior year he came in third.

In later years, Lost Valley became the focal point for skiers of L-A area families. The pioneering inventions of Otto Wallingford made the local ski area a proving-ground for talented young skiers.

In 1962, Wallingford, a co-founder of Lost Valley Ski Area, developed his own machinery to make and blow snow over the 240-foot hill. He refined it by setting up pole guns, which raised the hoses 20 feet above the trails. That design, now known as tower guns, is used at ski resorts worldwide.

He also developed revolutionary snow grooming equipment that turned crusty snow into a powdery surface. His “Powdermaker” was a large roller with openings like a chain-link fence that was hauled at an angle up and down the trails, and it’s the basis for snow-grooming equipment everywhere today.

Julie Parisien was one of those young people whose downhill and slalom skills developed over many days at Lost Valley.

She became a three-time Olympian (1992 in Albertville, France, 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway, and 1998 in Nagano, Japan) along with younger sister, Anna (1994) and brother Rob (1992). She is the first person ever (male or female) to be ranked number one in the world both as an amateur and professional. She won three World Cups, finished fourth in the 1992 Olympic competition at Albertville and won a silver medal at the 1993 world championships.

These memories of locations in Auburn and champions with Auburn ties are most vivid in my mind, but Lewiston people and places also figure importantly in the winter lore of the Twin Cities. About 50 years ago, there were colorful conventions of snowshoe clubs in Lewiston with many Canadian visitors participating in the parades and races. There once was a huge ice palace built each year in the Lewiston park (now Kennedy Park), and there were legendary hockey teams from St. Dominic High School and Bates Manufacturing Co.

For the past 10 years, the city of Auburn has organized a Winter Festival, and this year’s events run from Jan. 29 to Feb. 7. There will be snow rafting rides, groomer rides, 3-on-3 pond hockey, snowshoeing, ice sculpting, skiing, races, ice skating, a giant snow playground, shovel races, Really Ridiculous Relay Races, a torch-light parade, and fireworks over Lost Valley.

This is the kind of community event where memories will be made for future generations.


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