Remembering Kevin Murnane (1970-2015)
A Powerful Presence in Our Hearts
Six years ago, on March 15, 2015, nearly a thousand people filled the Tahoe XC parking lot to pay tribute to Kevin Murnane, who passed away a few weeks earlier. To those who worked with Kevin or were part of the Tahoe XC community between 1999-2015, Kevin is still a powerful presence in our hearts. I realize, however, that time has moved along so swiftly that many people who now enjoy sliding on snow at Tahoe XC might not have known Kevin, or what he means to us.
Ski Area Manager, 1999-2015
Kevin and his wife Valli Murnane arrived in Tahoe City in 1999 to run what soon became Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area. For the next 15 years they ran the ski area together: Kevin in charge of the day-to-day functions and Valli supervising the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association programs such as Strider Gliders and the Winter Discovery Center.
Kevin’s attitude and leadership made Tahoe XC friendly and relaxed—a real community meeting place. He was ingenious, always coming up with interesting ideas to improve the skiing experience. He thought, “Let’s have food in the middle of nowhere out on the trails,” and had a mini-kitchen built on skis to be dragged anywhere a party was needed.
He created the mountain biking trail intersection signs to help people navigate the complicated summer trail network. He saw a mom struggling to carry a heavy pulk to the snow and built pulk sled lockers on skis for parents.
He Was Funny, Friendly, and Smart
For those of us who worked with Kevin, he was an interesting and fun character to hang out with. He made you laugh one minute and shake your head the next. He had every aspect of Tahoe XC in his brain, so when you needed something, which was about 20 times a day, you asked Kevin and most likely he knew where it was. For the most part, this system worked. Although ironically, I do remember telling him several times, “Kevin, you need to write this stuff down. If something happens to you, we will not know where to find anything.”
I asked Board President Jim Robins what he remembers most about Kevin and he said, “Kevin was the friendliest person I ever met. He always took time for everyone else.” Jim continued, “He was a mathematical savant. It never ceased to amaze me. I would ask things like, ‘Hey Kev, what’s 3267 x 5418,’ and he could tell you the answer in less than 2 seconds. Simply amazing.”
Kevin created a playful, light-hearted atmosphere at Tahoe XC. Once he and I decided we had been eating too many cookies out of the cookie jar (maybe he saw how many cookies I was eating and decided to get me in check). So we had a competition of who could go the longest without eating any. We, of course, would torture each other as often as possible. “Ummm, Kevin…wouldn’t a chocolate chip cookie just melt in your mouth!?” At home one day I received an email from him: “I just ate four cookies.”
The Result of His Illness
Kevin was a genuinely warm and caring guy, who loved his family and all the people at Tahoe XC. He also suffered from depression; and unfortunately, he was quite adept at keeping the depth of his misery hidden. On Feb 24, 2015, he took his own life as a result of his illness.
After his death, the Tahoe XC Board of Directors developed the Kevin Murnane Student Scholarship and Kevin Murnane Coaches Grant to honor his legacy by encouraging the next generations of Tahoe XC skiers and coaches. Kevin was a strong supporter of the youth skiing programs at Tahoe XC and of encouraging others to continue to pursue their love of Nordic skiing by coaching.
Memorial Scholarship & Grant
Every year, two Kevin Murnane Student Scholarships are awarded to seniors at North Tahoe High School who have been part of a Tahoe XC, North Tahoe High School or Middle School, Auburn Ski Club or Far West ski program. The Kevin Murnane Coaches Grant has two application cycles due November 1st and May 1st, for coaches to receive financial help with training, classes, and certifications. The students applying for the Student Scholarship this year most likely knew Kevin when they were in Strider Gliders. In the next blog post I will relay some of the memories of the class of 2021, a class which includes Kevin’s daughter Lily Murnane.
P.S. How many of you after reading this went to the kitchen to get yourself a delicious chocolate chip cookie? You are welcome.
If You're Struggling
You are not alone in helping yourself or someone else in crisis. Reach out and find resources at the Tahoe Truckee Suicide Prevention Coalition, whose goal is to prevent suicide through education and community outreach in the Tahoe-Truckee area.
Contribute to the Kevin Murnane Memorial Scholarship & Grant
Every year from March 15-31st, we ask for donations during the Kevin Murnane Scholarship & Grant Fund Drive. If you would like to contribute to this memorial fund, please do so any time of year. Thank you for helping us continue the passion and enthusiasm for Nordic skiing that Kevin embodied.