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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

A Touch of Oz

Updated: Jun 18

The Inspirational Story of Two-Time Olympian, Osvaldo Ancinas



He's too humble to admit it, but Osvaldo's journey from his hometown of Bariloche, Argentina, nestled in the foothills of the Andes, to the majestic snowcapped mountains of Olympic Valley, CA is legendary.



Today, he and his wife Eddy have three children and three grandchildren. Osvaldo would rather be working in his garden, plowing snow, or playing tennis than speaking about himself. Known not just for his place among the elite Alpine skiers of all time, but Osvaldo is also known for his musical talent, charisma, and infectious generosity.


Eddy & Osvaldo celebrating his 90th Birthday.


At the age of 90, Osvaldo shows no signs of slowing down. This is his inspiring story and you're in for a treat.



Early Influences

In 1943, Senorita Catalina Reynal, from Buenos Aires, started a ski school in Argentina and hired an Austrian ski coach to help young children learn the sport. On August 7th, 1944, Osvaldo became one of her students. "If it wasn't for Senorita Reynal’s program,” says Osvaldo, “I would have never learned to ski." Senorita Reynal put Osvaldo on the path of becoming a two-time Olympian. Her impact in helping him and other young skiers be the best they could be was something Osvaldo never forgot.


Argentine ski coaches, Otto Jung and Carlos Oertle, recognized Osvaldo's enthusiasm for the sport and convinced him to join the ski patrol team. "My experience with ski patrol,” says Osvaldo, “and later with the ski team, helped me get more involved with the sport. I developed more discipline and learned to ski properly."

 


During the 1958 World Championships in Bad Gastein, Austria, while competing on the Argentine ski team, Osvaldo made his mark. "I beat everybody on my team," chuckled Osvaldo. "I was Numero Uno!" And two years later he competed as an Olympian.



Olympic Winter Games

Osvaldo competed for Argentina in the 1960 Olympic Winter Games held in Squaw Valley, (now called Palisades Tahoe, see photos above), finishing 14th in Alpine combined events – a record no South American has ever surpassed.


Top row: Osvaldo on L with Joan Hannah and Tom Cocoran, members of 1960 US Olympic Ski Team.


He also met his future wife, Eddy, who was a guide for the International Olympic Committee. Today, Eddy is an award-winning non-fiction author, an avid ski journalist and travel writer/photographer specializing in Argentina and Latin America ski history and the California West.


 

Osvaldo competed again in the 1964 Olympic Winter Games held in Innsbruck, Austria. He struck gold, but not in any Alpine skiing event. He earned a gold medal for a talent contest in which he sang, yodeled, and played guitar!


Eddy & Osvaldo pictured on their first date

in Lake Tahoe for the Fourth of July Race at Squaw Valley

(now Palisades Tahoe) in 1960.


Eddy & Osvaldo: An Olympic Love Story

Eddy and Osvaldo met because of the 1960 Olympics, not at the Olympics. They met at the Sugar Bowl Ski Area in Spring, connected a month later in Mammoth and married on May 5th, 1961. After visiting Argentina for their honeymoon Eddy and Osvaldo returned briefly to live in San Francisco.



In the summer of 1962, shortly after settling in the Bay Area, Osvaldo got a call from Bud Jones, head coach of the Lake Tahoe Ski Club, inviting him to move to Lake Tahoe and coach the Lake Tahoe Ski Team. Both Osvaldo and Bud Jones were passionate about ski racing and mentoring kids. It was the perfect next “turn,” and Eddy and Osvaldo moved to Tahoe City later that year.


Casa Andina Sport Shop

Eddy on far left, Osvaldo on far right.


After coaching local and Far West Ski teams for several years, Eddy and Osvaldo purchased land on Alpine Meadows Rd at the intersection with SR 89, where they considered opening an Argentine restaurant.

 

"Then Eddy's father gave me the best advice I ever received,” said Osvaldo. “He suggested we open a ski shop, not a restaurant."


Osvaldo with son, Marcos, at Casa Andina Sport Shop.

 

And they did. For more than 30 years, they owned and operated Casa Andina Sport Shop at the entrance to Alpine Meadows - as well as other shops in Palisades Tahoe (then known as Squaw Valley).


Osvaldo the Innovator

Osvaldo wasn't just good at "making good turns," he was also good at innovating retail operations. One such innovation was a layaway plan, where locals working during the summer months could make down payments on the skis they would use that winter.

 

As a racer, coach and parent himself, Osvaldo realized how fast children grew out of their expensive boots, so he developed a trade-in program. Parents bought boots for their children that fit at the beginning of the season. At the end of the season, when their feet grew bigger, parents brought back their children's boots to the Casa Andina Sport Shop. The boots went into a rental program and the following season these same parents were given a deep discount on new-fitting boots for their children



Lake Tahoe Ski Club Foundation

Shortly after the 1960 Olympics, Tom Corcoran, four-time US national champion in Alpine skiing and a two-time Olympian, invited Osvaldo to be a guest coach at the Reno Ski School. This was Osvaldo's first official coaching experience.

 

Founded in 1929, the Lake Tahoe Ski Club (now called the Lake Tahoe Ski Club Foundation) is one of the oldest ski clubs in the country. The club has produced more National and Olympic ski competitors than any other club in the nation.

 

Osvaldo had the Midas touch for coaching and developing champions. His ski team included siblings Sandra, Eric, Lance and Russell Poulsen. Sandra, Eric and Lance would later become Olympians on the US team on the World Cup circuit. He coached Greg Jones, son of Bud Jones. Greg, at age 25, had become only the third American in the 40 years of Olympic and F.I.S. World Championship alpine ski competition to earn a medal and he was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1978. And he coached Greg’s sister, Vicki Jones, Cheryl Bechdolt, Dick Neilson, Danny Mooney, Larry Young, Mitch Packard, and Gary Nagle – all of whom became well known in Far West Skiing.


"We need to keep children busy. They should go up the mountain, be with nature and discover the joy of skiing," says Osvaldo.


In the early '60s Osvaldo couldn't speak much English, but he could say, "Follow Me!" His coaching method was "show, don’t tell." During the fall season, for example, Osvaldo’s team did fun and natural things. Their dryland training included chasing him down the mountain through the forest while dodging rocks and tree stumps. His coaching method helped develop their strength, endurance and situational awareness. Osvaldo evolved from coach to president of the Lake Tahoe Ski Club where he served from 1989 to 1998.



Osvaldo's Asado

In recent years the Lake Tahoe Ski Club Foundation has shifted from operating a ski team to raising and distributing funds to competitive skiers in the North Lake Tahoe & Truckee area. Among the most significant fund raisers for the club is the Annual Asado, an Argentine barbeque, which Osvaldo introduced to the club more than 30 years ago in his own backyard. Since then, the Asado has moved each year to different locations near Olympic Valley, generating tens of thousands of dollars for the club.

 

The next Asado is on July 13th, 2024, at Olympic Valley Stables. (For more information visit: https://laketahoeskiclub.com/events/)



Osvaldo Today

Family has always been at the center of Osvaldo's world. He's proud of representing his country. He's enjoyed coaching and fund-raising for young athletes. All of which makes him the happiest, healthiest and youngest 90-year-old I've ever known. If you ask him how he stays so fit and energetic, Osvaldo will tell you, "I stay busy." 

 

He has the strength, grace, and perseverance of an Olympian. His accomplishments on and off the hill are permanently recorded in the record books of Alpine lore. But for Osvaldo, it's never been about the hardware or accolades. The arc of his life from Bariloche to Olympic Valley has been and continues to be about elevating the spirits of others and helping people be the best they can be. Those people touched by Osvaldo’s personality and encouragement are the lucky ones.


***


Note: This article is also featured in the just released Palisades Press Summer 2024 issue.


From OVPOA’s Fireside Chats: Click here.


***



I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident, married to Nicola Kennedy (in photo above). I’m a writer, photographer and property caretaker. I just want to say thanks for your attention - I appreciate it in such a noisy world. If you enjoyed it, please share with others. It means a lot to me and it helps others see the story.


If you're interested in owning any photos in my gallery: click here, call or text me at 530.608.9150 with inquiries. My email: michael.kennedy999@gmail.com. 




 

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