Never heard of Jo Marillac? Not many around here have. He is far and away the most bad-ass man to have ever graced the slopes of Squaw Valley, CA. Here’s why:
– One of the best mountaineers in the world in the 1940s & 50s.
– Record-setting speed ascents of most challenging peaks in Chamonix as a teenager.
– The youngest person to receive High Mountain Guide certification in the European Alps.
– Guided downed bomber pilots back to safety in the French Alps.
– War hero in World War II and leader of the French Resistance to the Nazis.
– Captured twice by the Nazis in WWII and escaped twice.
“After his first capture, the Gestapo imprisoned him in an “impenetrable” fortress, but Marillac got away by scaling a vertical prison wall just before he was to be executed by firing squads” – Mark McLaughlin
– French Congressional Medal of Honor from General Charles de Gaulle himself.
– Credited with convincing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to bring the 8th Winter Olympics to Squaw Valley.
Jo Marillac moved to Squaw Valley after the war in the early 1950s, became the Squaw Valley ski school director for 17 years,, and befriended Alex Cushing. Alex recruited Jo to help him win the 1960 Winter Olympics Games for Squaw Valley. This was a very strategic maneuver considering Jo’s reputation in Europe was that of a hero. Everyone in Europe knew of his mountaineering and war successes, and he was widely considered a living legend, even as a young man.
Jo knew the layout of many major European ski resorts in addition to knowing Squaw inside and out. With all this knowledge, he could confidently testify to the IOC that Squaw’s terrain and topography were comparable to some of its European counterparts.
“I have come here to tell you we can.”– Jo Marrilac’s response to the IOC protesting Squaw Valley as the site of the 8th Winter Olympic Games.
Initially, the IOC was opposed to having the Olympics in Squaw Valley. Cushing was a brilliant businessman, but it was Jo’s “golden word” that changed minds in the IOC vote and eventually got the Olympics to California via a 32-30 vote.
Having had Jo live in Squaw Valley makes Squaw look world-class by basic association. Squaw is what it is today, thanks to Jo Marillac. We love it. Thanks, Jo.
Jo Marillac was born in France in 1922 and passed away at the age of 79 in Sparks, Nevada.
Jo taught French parallel at Squaw Valley to groups for $5 per day, $3 for a half-day. Private lessons cost $8.50 per lesson, with $3 added for each additional person.