SquAlpine Gondola Update Released…And Yet Another Movement Is Started

Andy is looking for support on the proposed gondola project.

Andy is looking for support on the proposed gondola project.

Although Squaw Valley|Alpine Meadows may never actually lay claim to being the largest resort in North America, they may be able to lay claim to generating the most widely spread opposition to their plans. Last week, Squaw Valley Ski Holding CEO Andy Wirth released an “update” on the proposed base to base gondola connection between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. At that same moment, a new organization, The Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League, activated their website and Facebook page, with a goal of protecting the Granite Chief Wilderness area. As we have noted before, the proposed path of the gondola does travel through the designated boundary of the wilderness area.

Since purchasing Squaw Valley, and then Alpine Meadows, in 2011 – Squaw Valley Ski Holdings and KSL Capital have excelled in getting the community to rally together in response to development plans that have been proposed. These include:

  • Friends of Squaw Valley, whose goal is making the development something we can all live with.
  • Incorporate Olympic Valley, whose goal is to simply offer more local control via an incorporation of the town of Olympic Valley.
  • Keep Squaw True, an outreach movement of Sierra Watch, whose goal is to come up with a development plan that is appropriate for the area and reduces environmental impacts in the entire North Tahoe area.
  • Friends of Alpine Meadows, whose goal is to “Keep Alpine Alpine” and encourage the notion of Alpine Meadows offering a similar mountain to Squaw, but a vastly different experience.

With the creation of the new Granite Chief group, there are now at least five groups looking to have a say in what happens to the Squaw and Alpine communities. That in itself says a lot.

So what does the newly released video from Squaw Valley actually say? Here it is:

Video courtesy of Squaw Valley Facebook page

Yes, it pretty much says not much of anything, other than “we needed to do something to generate some public support” for Squaw Valley. The one little factoid we got from the video was that approximately 2000 people have signed on to help the effort to support the gondola project. We’ve already been contacted by several people that said they only signed up to stay informed – and that they had no plans to actually support the project. We’re actually surprised that the number is not higher. On a normal busy day at, we get 2000 readers.

Ultimately, we expect that Squaw Valley will have no trouble getting Chad and Julie from Muskogee to sign on to support the project. They’re super stoked to be able to post on SnapChat that they rode 28 lifts during their one week stay at SquAlpine. They won’t give a thought about the how the cultures of the two mountains were affected by the merger. Nor will they care that the gondola will be built through the Granite Chief Wilderness area, which they though was located in Pennysylvania. But now they can ski those easy groomers over at Alpine, and still get back for a GNAR burger for lunch in the village.

Does it matter how many people Squaw Valley signs on as supporters? We think it doesn’t. Ultimately, it took thousands of people hundreds of years to recognize that our environmental resources need protection from the hands of those that are looking to make a quick buck. It has taken years of work by our legislatures, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, and many other groups and individual activists to create things like our state and national parks and designated wilderness areas. Imagine where we would be in the Lake Tahoe region if the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency had not come into being in 1969?


The disputed boundary extends onto Troy Caldwell’s White Wolf property. Although the boundary is technically not enforceable on private property – should the self proclaimed “green” SVSH ignore the designation?

We encourage you to reread the guest editorial we published a month ago from Daniel Heagerty on the subject of the gondola project. Heagerty has gone on to form the new group working to protect the future of the Granite Chief Wilderness area. Kudos to our new friends at the The Granite Chief Protection League – we appreciate your efforts.

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Celebrating Independence Day At Alpine Meadows

Photo via

Photo via

We put on our hiking shoes this morning and set out for a walk at Alpine Meadows, hoping to avoid the crowds that have surged into the Tahoe for the holiday. Along the way, we passed the lines of cars hunting for a parking space for the Truckee parade, and another line of cars parked at the Five Lakes trailhead. We arrived at the Alpine Meadows parking lot to find almost nobody. It’s the reason that many of chose Alpine Meadows in the first place – to avoid the crowds and faster pace of the rest of Lake Tahoe.

While our independence at Alpine Meadows has been threatened by our neighbors to the north, our hats are off today to those that have struggled to “Keep Alpine Alpine”. There’s the loyal readers of this site, our brethren at the Friends of Alpine Meadows, and a slew of employees that all understand the difference between Alpine Meadows and that other place. Thanks for supporting the cause.

Today’s hike was simply beautiful, with carpets of wildflowers replacing what often is still snow. It also brought back memories of four short years ago, where the last good winter brought enough snow to last into July, and Alpine Meadows reopened for top to bottom skiing from July 2 to 4th in 2011. Hopefully we’ll be seeing another year like that soon.

July 4th, 2015

July 4, 2011

Andy Wertheim: Get Ready For The 4th

Image via

Image via

Hello Friends,

It is hard to believe that it is already the 4th of July.  We are in full summer mode in Tahoe with very warm daytime temperatures and the threat of thunderstorms in the afternoons.  As I have reported recently, the wildflower display is beautiful this year and so are the crowds.  We are expecting a big 4th of July along with increased visitor occupancy for the rest of the summer.

Local outdoor clothing and equipment reps are having their annual sale again this weekend.  The sale is in Tahoe City behind the multi-story hotel (Pepper Tree Inn).  Follow the signs to take advantage of deals on all kinds of equipment and clothing.  The sidewalk sale is Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 3.

Of course there will also be the annual fireworks displays in Tahoe City and at the west end of Donner Lake.  Our very dry situation makes it obvious that we should not be lighting any type of firecrackers this weekend.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Squaw Valley Resumes Spending To Stop Incorporation Movement In Olympic Valley

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We’ve been pretty quiet about the Save Olympic Valley campaign for a few months. For three months, there was only minimal spending by SOV, funded entirely by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. During the month of May, the flood gates were opened again. The financial reports released for May showed that the campaign spent another $45K, bringing the total spent to roughly $575K over the last 18 months.

The reports from the previous 3 months indicate that it takes about $10K per month just to retain local activist Theresa May Duggan and a 2 different teams of legal advisors. With the release of the Draft Preliminary Certified Fiscal Analysis for the incorporation of Olympic Valley in May, the SOV campaign has now shifted back into high gear.

Where is the money going? So far, it appears that it’s just more of the same. To their credit, the SOV team has figured out that Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth may not be the best spokesperson for the campaign. Recent communications have come from a new consultant, Matthew Newman of the Blue Sky Consulting Group, including the latest email from SOV.


A screenshot of the latest propaganda piece sent out by “Save Olympic Valley”…note that the email was sent directly from Squaw.

It’s an email that drew some ire, because it was sent out to a lot of people that didn’t want it. Several SVSH employees forwarded the email to us, complaining that they did not appreciate being spammed by the campaign, because many of the employees do support the incorporation movement. The email contains the same rhetoric that we have heard before – that the draft preliminary CFA showed that the town of Olympic Valley may not be viable. One thing that never fails to escape our attention is that the logic used to say that the town may not be fiscally viable also does an equally fabulous job of suggesting that the entire Squaw Valley Village project may not be fiscally viable. It is these sorts of statements that should frighten KSL Capital investors!

In fact, there are good reasons to believe that development would be slower than expected. Continued drought, economic recession, environmental litigation, or the actions of a new town council could all act to slow or stall development. – Matthew Newman, Blue Sky Consulting

Newman and Blue Sky Consulting have been very active over the last month in trying to develop support for the idea that the town of Olympic Valley would not be financially viable. Are they experts in municipal finance? It’s tough to say. Certainly Newman’s credentials are strong – but he is the former executive director of the California Institute for County Government. The battle over the incorporation movement really comes down to county government versus a more local city-based government. Personally, I’ll take the word of Incorporate Olympic Valley consultant Tom Sinclair in matters relating to municipal finance.

In addition to sending out a lot of unwanted e-mails, the SOV group has also struggled with getting people to see their campaign at the Save Olympic Valley website. Over the last year, there was a short campaign of paying for ads on Google, so when you searched for “incorporate olympic valley”, you would see the anti-incorporation message first. More recently, the campaign has resorted to slimy SEO tactics to get their message out.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a collection of methods to make sure that your site appears near the top of Google rankings. The best sites, like this one, rely on good content and design to make those rankings happen naturally. We’ve noted a number of bizarre links appearing lately that relate to the flawed CFA document. These shill sites are often set up for no purpose other than to offer paid links that will boost a site’s ranking by Google and other web indexes. Here’s some examples:

Is the Save Olympic Valley campaign really that desperate to fight the will of the people? Apparently so…just a few more months until we can start talking about snow and skiing again.


Andy Wertheim: Hiking The Judah Loop

Hello Friends,

The Mt. Judah Loop is about a 4.5 mile loop with a good elevation gain of over 1000 feet.  This loop offers exposed switchbacks up a granite slopes, shaded sections of trail through forested areas that include a few Hemlock Trees, windswept open slopes along the ridge top, expansive views of Donner Lake toward Mt. Rose, Sugar Bowl, Castle Peak, Summit Valley, Coldstream Canyon (Mt. Andersen and Tinker’s Knob in the distance), and yesterday a peak of the Sierra Buttes.  The views from the ridge top offer 360 degree pictures of our Sierra Mountains.

The wildflowers along this hike are beyond comprehension at this point in the summer.  There are fields and fields of flowers of infinite varieties.  Rivers of pink and yellow painted the mountainsides.  It was just stunning throughout the entire loop.  If you have the time, go for this walk and soak up the colors and views.  I cannot remember seeing this many brightly colored flowers all showing off at the same time.

To get there, drive to Donner Summit up old Hwy. 40.  Turn left just over the summit and drive through the dirt parking lot to a paved road.  Just down the road is the Pacific Trailhead and the beginning of the hike along with a small parking area.  About half the hike is along a portion of the PCT.  If you make the effort to hike this loop, be sure to take a short (100 yards) detour along the PCT beyond the intersection of the PCT and the Judah Loop Trail.  The Judah Loop Trail turns to the left where if leaves the PCT as you are walking south.  Walk the 100 yards to Roller Pass where you will see a couple of signed giving the history of this spot where emigrants hauled their wagons up a steep cliff before heading west toward the Sacramento Valley.  The Donner Summit Historical Society has placed a very nice informative sign at this location.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Andy Wertheim: Best Wild Flower Hike Of The Year

Hello Friends,

This afternoon we headed to Blackwood Canyon along the westshore of Lake Tahoe to see if there were any wildflowers along a short and relatively easy hike into a box canyon well below Ellis Lake. There is a gravel turnout/parking area about 4.6 miles from the entrance to Blackwood Canyon at Highway 89.

Park at this location and cross the road. A few steps up the road on the south side of the road is an unmarked trail. Follow the trail as far as it goes. You will pass through a forest area lined with beautiful granite walls and boulders and walk through a lovely meadow before climbing very slightly where you end in a meadows with a running stream that meanders through it. You look up and find yourself surrounded by steep mountains in all colors from gray to rust to brown.

Look out for mosquitoes (they are biting), but enjoy the scenery. The flowers are fantastic and plentiful. There are fields of them in bloom. This was the best wildflower walk of the season for me.
This is a relatively easy and short hike. I would estimated it at 2 miles round trip.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim