As the Winter Games in Sochi wind to a close this week, it got us thinking about one of the great American Olympic host cities, Squaw Valley. For the January 1961 issue, Playboy sent the artist LeRoy Neiman, to the California ski resort to capture the place's essence with his beautiful paintings. Enjoy the collection in its entirety, and to read every article the magazine has ever published—from 1953 until today—visit the complete archive at iplayboy.com.
Squaw Valley, California, one of the treasures of the Sierra Nevadas, is a two-mile-long ski center flanked by three snow-clad peaks rising more than eight thousand feet above sea level. The site of the last Winter Olympic Games, Squaw Valley forms an incomparable nature amphitheatre, a superb setting for the winter sportsman. Rivaling in runs and facilities its Continental counterparts – St.-Moritz, Davos, Cortina d'Ampezzo – Squaw Valley attracts skiers – pros and weekenders alike – from Lake Tahoe, just seven miles away, to lands as distant as Norway and Peru. Squaw Valley today (thanks to the legacy of the '60 Olympics) boasts not only superior slopes for all skiers – snow bunnies to experts – but also the man-made aids to the sport left over from the Olympic installations: modern chair lifts, an immense indoor skating arena, three outdoor rinks, dormitories and dining rooms designed for the comfort of competitors and vacationers alike. The luxurious Squaw Valley lodge and inn, crowded to bursting by Olympic spectators and competitors, now serve as centers of conversation and good cheer for the smaller, gayer crowds of recreational skiers.
Playboy artist LeRoy Neiman, who tours the world in our behalf, found Squaw Valley to be a combination of awesome peaks, deep powder snow, and ruggedly rustic yet thoroughly luxurious accommodations. During his midwinter sojourn there, he chatted with skiers, scanned the slopes and roamed the premises, sketching his impressions. "The skiing society is wildly, marvelously garbed," he says. "The wardrobes are bulky, textured and brilliantly colored. The bright-patterned sweaters, ski pants, socks, caps, face masks and goggles are in vivid contrast to the starkness of the snow.
"On the slopes," Neiman recalls, "the skiers appear large and powerful in their sports attire; at night, when the valley is transformed into a world of flickering lights, the lodge and inn are warmly inviting. After the skiers' day is over, they converge on the bar, the dining room, the roaring log fires – to chat, sing and sip."
Throughout the day and evening activities, the crack skiers exist apart from the crowd. Reverently-observed heroes, they are dedicated to the sport. In them, and in the dazzling atmosphere of Squaw Valley, Neiman's search for artistic inspiration was more than satisfied, as his paintings strikingly illustrate.