Auburn’s first Olympian was ski jumping star in 1930s, mayor of city in 1950s

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Ski jumper Roy Mikkelsen was Auburn’s sporting pride in the 1930s, participating in both the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. Mikkelsen honed his jumping skills in his native Norway and came to the United States as a young man. Auburn ski pioneer Wendell Robie recruited him to work at his Auburn Lumber Co. and Mikkelsen was soon an integral part of efforts to promote the area as a ski destination. The flying Norwegian finished out of the medals in both 1932 at Lake Placid, N.Y. and at the 1936 games in Germany. But he was thought of so highly by the team in 1936 that he was named its captain. Mikkelsen was poised to participate in a third Olympics in 1940 but the event was cancelled because of the outbreak of World War II. During the war, he would put his ski and snow experience to good use as a member of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, fighting from Normandy to Norway with the 99th Norwegian Battalion. Back in Auburn, he would manage millwork and lumber departments at the lumberyard, which is now used by the Auburn Boys & Girls Club. He served on the Auburn City Council, including two years as mayor in 1952 and 1953. And 24 years after his last Olympic Games as a skier, Mikkelsen was the center of attention again when he lit a torch in Auburn’s Central Square to mark the coming of the Olympics to Placer County – up the newly paved Interstate 80 at Squaw Valley. Mikkelsen died in 1967 at 60, three years after being elected to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame. He was instrumental in the Auburn Ski Club purchase and development of Boreal Ridge. In Auburn, Mikkelsen Drive was named after one of the city’s most illustrious sportsmen. And at Boreal ski resort, a statue of Mikkelsen has been erected outside the Western Ski Sport Museum.