The Man Who Brought the Olympics to Squaw Valley, CA & Escaped the Nazis. Twice…

Miles Clark | | OlympicsOlympics
jo marillac
Jo Marillac skiing Squaw Valley, CA in the 1950s.

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.

Check out the people on the roof of the Far East Building. 1960 Winter Olympics Squaw Valley, USA.

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.

Skating rink at 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics.

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.

Fun Fact:

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.

Jo Marillac
Jo Marillac.

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11 thoughts on “The Man Who Brought the Olympics to Squaw Valley, CA & Escaped the Nazis. Twice…

  1. Joe was our neighbor in 73. He loaned my single mom 15,000 to buy the Cushing Blue house next door. Cows grazed without fences and horses roamed the valley. Joe trusted my mom to pay him back and she did over the years. My life was blessed because of his generosity. We all need to be more like Joe.

    1. Wow. Amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing. He must have been an extremely interesting guy to know. I’m so glad he was able to help your family in such a significant way.

  2. that’s all the time interesting to learn facts about what this man did. My grand-father was his cousin. I Must go one day visit Squaw Valley.

  3. What an inspiring piece about Jo Marillac & Squaw’s rich history. Thanks for bringing it to light Miles!

    1. kinda, I wrote that post for Unofficial. I love Jo Marillac and wanted to share it here as well.

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