California and Nevada officials announced Thursday that they are joining forces in their effort to lure the Winter Games back to the Lake Tahoe area in 2022, forming an exploratory committee to start the process.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki announced the merger of two separate state committees that had been exploring a possible bid for the Olympics.

"Our new committee is the evolution of years of work by many people, and if the United States Olympic Committee decides to bid on the 2022 Winter Games, we will be ready to showcase the Tahoe region's scenic majesty and winter games capabilities," Krolicki said in a statement.

If successful, the games would return to the United States for the first time since Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002. Squaw Valley, a resort on the California side of Lake Tahoe, hosted the Winter games in 1960. The lake is ringed by ski resorts on or near its shores, on both sides of the state line.

Salt Lake City and Denver also are vying for the 2022 Winter Games. U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Scott Blackmun said in February that Bozeman, Mont., also has expressed an interest in bidding for 2022.

Tamara McKinney, a three-time Olympian from Squaw Valley who has been helping efforts to bring the Games back to the Lake Tahoe area, said the 1960 Olympic Games left a huge legacy that has shaped the area's development.

"I live here, I grew up skiing these mountains, and I can genuinely say that we have some incredible mountains and areas to show the world, and it's all within a relatively short distance," said McKinney, the winner of more World Cup Alpine ski races than any other American at the time of her retirement in 1990.

"It's an incredible honor to host an Olympic Games and to be around the energy and feel the thousands of athletes that are really fulfilling their dreams," she said in a telephone interview.

Newsom said it's important that leaders from both states work together. He said the Lake Tahoe Winter Games Exploratory Committee will include top ski resort executives, former Olympians, business, civic and political leaders, as well as an environmental leadership team.

Lake Tahoe has stringent guidelines for any kind of development and a special regional planning board that includes members from California and Nevada. Restrictions on development could pose a challenge for expanding Olympic venues unless the issue is addressed early.

"We can't do this without the environment being front of mind for us," Newsom said in a statement.

Andy Wirth, president and chief executive of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings LLC, which operates Squaw and neighboring Alpine Meadows, will be the committee's interim chairman.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has to decide by 2013 whether to submit a formal bid and promote a single nominee for 2022.

Officials have said the committee will not bid for any Games until it agrees on a new revenue-sharing deal with the International Olympic Committee. The U.S. lost bids for the 2012 games in New York and 2016 games in Chicago.

Negotiations aimed at resolving the dispute over the U.S. share of Olympic television and marketing revenues began more than a year ago. The IOC believes the American cut is excessive and should be redistributed. Under the current deal, the USOC receives a 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.7 percent share of U.S. broadcast rights deals.

Any new formula would go into effect after 2020.

A decision about 2022 likely will not come until July 2015, giving the states a lot of time to prepare a compelling bid.