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The Community Speaks Up About Squaw Valley Expansion Plans

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Source image via SacBee.com

It’s been a long 4 years since CEO Andy Wirth and KSL Capital arrived in Squaw Valley promising a renaissance. We’ve completely lost count of the numbers when it comes to how many times Squaw Valley has reduced the size of the proposed Village at Squaw Valley Project, or how many meetings have been held to discuss every angle of the project, or how many articles we’ve written at Unofficial Alpine that document that saga. But this week, it became more clear than ever that the proposal is still too big. Roughly 350 pieces or correspondence were received by Placer County commenting on the recently released draft Environmental Impact Report for the project. So far, we have only found one piece of correspondence that supported the currently proposed project, from someone that stands to make millions of dollars from Squaw’s expansion plans. Money does corrupt people.

The fact that so many people took the time to comment on the dEIR should come as no surprise. The document, released in May, identified 23 different “significant and unavoidable” impacts should the project be built as proposed. At the Placer County Planning Commission meeting held in June, nineteen different people spoke for an hour, bringing up dozens of more significant impacts to the entire North Tahoe region. One message was loud and clear from that meeting – the use of the term “significant and unavoidable impacts” is unacceptable to all of us that do not stand to profit from the project. It’s easy to avoid the impacts by greatly reducing the scale of the project. Nearly every one of the 350 comments suggests the same thing, or they go as far as saying that the project should be completely rejected.

“Our comment letter makes it clear: Squaw Valley development proposals threaten everything we love about Tahoe. Approving this project would not only be irresponsible but, under California state law, illegal.” Sierra Watch Staff Attorney Isaac Silverman

Who took the time to point out the flaws in the dEIR? Here’s a summary:

  • US Army Corp Of Engineers
  • USDA Tahoe National Forest
  • California Department of Forest & Fire Protection
  • CalTrans
  • Lahontan Regional Water Control Board
  • California Governors Office of Planning and Research
  • Nevada County Board of Supervisors
  • Placer County Air Pollution Control District
  • Tahoe Truckee Sanitation Agency
  • Town Of Truckee
  • 3 different service agencies in Olympic Valley
  • Center For Biological Diversity
  • Friends of Squaw Valley
  • Friends of West Shore
  • League To Save Lake Tahoe
  • Mountain Area Preservation
  • North Tahoe Preservation Alliance
  • Sierra Club
  • Sierra Watch
  • Squaw Valley Lodge Owners’ Association
  • Tavern Inn Condominium Association
  • Tahoe Residents United for Sustainable Squaw Tourism
  • Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association
  • Truckee River Watershed Council
  • Village Inn Owners Association
  • Approximately 200 individual letters

We encourage you to take a look for yourself to see what people are saying. Certainly it’s a ton of reading. Just the response to the dEIR from our friends at Sierra Watch contains more than 100 pages of documentation. The individuals include letters not only from residents of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, but also from all areas of North Tahoe. There were also a number of letters from people that have visited Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe for years that realize the grave consequences of approving the currently proposed development.

“Anywhere east of the Rockies, Squaw Valley would likely be a national park. Its beauty is to be treasured, not bulldozed, manicured and turned into an artificial playground solely for the purpose of filling beds and filling pockets.” – Scott Gaffney

There is absolutely no doubt that the community has spoken up to say that the current proposal for the Village At Squaw Valley is too large, and that the “significant and unavoidable impacts” are indeed avoidable. Is Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth, Squaw Valley Real Estate VP Chevis Hosea and KSL Capital willing to submit a reasonable plan for redevelopment in Squaw Valley? Will Placer County officials have the fortitude to listen to the people, or will they ignore them? The pressure is on, there is no doubt that everyone is watching…

 

Five Environmental Groups Come Together In Protecting The Granite Chief Wilderness

The proposed gondola connection certainly has become a test of our core values. To the casual Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows skier, it is easy to jump on the bandwagon of support for the project, thinking how cool it might be to avoid the shuttle between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. For some of us, we have fought too long and hard to protect what little wilderness area still exists in the Tahoe area – and the proposed gondola project does not change those core values. Then there’s that large population of people that wonder why we even need a gondola connection, and why doesn’t Squaw Valley Ski Holdings invest in more meaningful uphill transportation. We’ve reported and expressed opinions on the different angles several times over the last few months.

This week, five local environmental groups came together to protect the Granite Chief Wilderness. While there’s been a lot of conjecture about the meaning of a wilderness boundary that exists on a piece of privately held property, these groups believe in one basic tenet. The fact that the boundary exists and was created with the intention to preserve that land for everyone – past, present and future – should be paramount in the use of the land. Together, the five groups wrote a letter directly to Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth, and property owner Troy Caldwell.

At UnofficialAlpine.com, we’re proud of the efforts of these groups and some dedicated individuals that are willing to challenge the proposal based on the core values of protecting the Granite Chief Wilderness for everyone.

Here’s the letter in its entirety:

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July 28, 2015

  • Andy Wirth
  • Squaw Valley Ski Holdings
  • 1960 Squaw Valley Road
  • Olympic Valley, CA 96146
  • Troy Caldwell
  • P.O. Box 1784
  • Tahoe City, CA  96145

Dear Messrs. Wirth and Caldwell,

On July 2nd Squaw Valley sent out an email announcing that you intend to submit a formal proposal for a gondola connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

According to the map and materials released on April 13, 2015, the proposed route would cut through land designated as wilderness by the California Wilderness Act of 1984.

We are writing to request that, if you do follow through with an actual project proposal, you choose a route that avoids federally designated wilderness.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 is one of the greatest achievements in the proud history of American conservation.  It’s a bold statement of principle that we, as a country, value wilderness and are committed to protect the wilderness experience, for ourselves and generations to follow.

In the words of the Act itself, passed by Congress after years of advocacy and effort, “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

When it was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson the Wilderness Act secured immediate protection of more than 9,000,000 acres of federally designated Wilderness.  It also created provisions to add, by acts of Congress, more land to the federal wilderness system.

After more than a decade of careful inventory, as well as five years of Congressional politicking, President Ronald Reagan signed the California Wilderness Act of 1984 into law.  It added 3,000,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, including the newly created Granite Chief National Wilderness Area.

At that time, significant portions of these lands, including more than a third of Granite Chief were privately owned.  To encourage their permanent protection, Congress simultaneously authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to purchase any private lands within the newly created Wilderness Area boundaries from willing sellers.  The bulk of the privately owned land in the Granite Chief Wilderness was acquired by the Forest Service in 1991, but a small portion of the area, including the land proposed for the gondola, remains in private hands.

We understand that these cliffs, ridges, and forests on which the gondola would be built are privately owned.  However, the inclusion of this land within the Granite Chief Wilderness Area boundary in 1984 is a clear statement of its value to our nation; that we recognize that this land is special − and should remain that way.

Wilderness designations do not come easy.  Each marks its own remarkable achievement, the result of years of field research, citizen advocacy, and, often, political compromise.

The original Wilderness Act of 1964 demanded scores of re-writes and nine years of Congressional history.  Its principal author, Howard Zahniser, was motivated by his conviction that America has “…a profound fundamental need for areas of the earth where we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment.”

We ask you to join us in honoring that commitment, made as a nation more than fifty years ago and reaffirmed by the California Wilderness Act of 1984:  No proposed gondola should threaten the existing boundaries − and timeless values − of the National Granite Chief Wilderness Area.

 

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  • cc:  Placer County
  •        United States Forest Service
  •        KSL Capital Partners
  •        Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

We think their thinking is right on, and we hope to see the community rally behind the cause…

The Gipper would be proud...

The Gipper would be proud…

The Boulder Bash Is Back

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We’re happy to announce that we’re now just a month away from the 2015 Boulder Bash. The event includes some of our most favorite things around Tahoe: rock climbing, it’s sponsored by the Tahoe Sports Hub, the climbing instructors come from National Ski Training Center on the Summit, and the event is held at Donner Ski Ranch. It’s a partnership that we know will bring great success to the event. That’s important, as the money raised goes to the Truckee Donner Land Trust. The Trust is working to secure funds to purchase the Black Wall, a popular spot for climbers on the Summit.

The second annual Boulder Bash will be taking place on Friday, August 21 and Saturday, August 22, 2015. The Boulder Bash is an all levels, all ages, bouldering competition and climbing festival.

The event kicks off on Friday, August 21 with a slide show and presentation by professional climber Lisa Rands. Rands, one of the world’s most accomplished climbers will share stories of her travels, achievements, and competitive career as a professional climber. The slideshow will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the courtyard of California 89 in historic downtown Truckee and is open to the public with a suggested donation of $5.

The Boulder Bash festivities will move to Donner Summit on Saturday, August 22. The competition will begin at 9:00 a.m. when climbers set out from Donner Ski Ranch to tackle their favorite bouldering “problems” in the Castle Peak area of Donner Summit.

Throughout the day climbing instructors from the National Ski Training Center will offer free beginner climbing clinics to the public. After the climbers return, scores will be tallied and thousands of dollars in prizes and giveaways will be awarded.

The after party will begin at 6:00 p.m. and is open to the public. Music from Ann Marie Sheriden, a live raffle, shoe demos, and drink & food specials will add to the climbing festival’s merriment.

Andy Wertheim: Rainbows

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Hello Friends,

We appear to be having an unusually active weather season this summer.  Perhaps it is just my imagination, but it seems to be overcast and raining or hailing more this summer than many I can remember.  Perhaps this is telling of the coming winter.  Forecasters sure are playing up the strong El Nino that is brewing in the Pacific.  If this comes true the coming winter may be be as strong as the 1996-1997.  Lots precipitation fell in that winter.  Enough to flood the Truckee River.

I was out walking around the base of the ski area in the evening yesterday enjoying the smells associated with fresh rain and took a photo of a rainbow that seemed to be growing out of the top of Scott Peak.  Perhaps the pot of gold at the top of Scott is actually a pile of snow getting ready to fall on our mountain next winter.  It was beautiful.  In fact, there was a double rainbow, but I was unable to get a good photo of it.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

The Old Sibo Experience Now Sits In A Parking Lot

Valleygirl sent in some photos last week that indicate that the old Siberia chair at Squaw Valley has now been completely removed. It certainly marks the end of an era. Many of us have at least one story of “that time we were stranded for what seemed like hours” on that chair. The high speed Poma quad was installed in 1985, and is reportedly the first detachable lift installed in California.

Squaw Valley is replacing the chair with a high speed six pack. Overall, the six pack will not offer much more in capacity, which is good, but it should offer greater stability due to greater weight of the chairs. This should increase the ability to run the lift in higher winds.

What is the fate of the old chairlift? That remains to be seen. It would be unlikely to see that chair sold to another resort as it has been widely reported that Poma no longer makes replacement parts for the lift. There’s no doubt that there are many people who would love to have one of the old Siberia chairs for their porch. We would hope to see some or all of them sold off to support local non-profits.

Andy Wertheim: A Trip To Mount Lola

Hello Friends,

If you are looking for a strenuous hike away from the summer crowds, then give consideration to hiking up Mt. Lola.  For those of you who may not know, Mt. Lola is located north of Truckee and tops out at approx. 9,143 feet.  According to my calculations the elevation gain from the parking area is approx. 2,340 feet.

To find the trailhead drive about 17 miles north on Hwy. 89 from the intersection of Hwy. 89 and Hwy. 80.  Turn left when you come to a highway sign indicating Independence Lake, Weber Lake, and Jackson Meadows or Jackson Lake (reservoir).  Drive 1.5 miles on this paved road.  Turn left on to the road leading to Independence Lake.  Drive .7 miles on this dirt road crossing the paved bridge and then turn right (first right after the bridge) on to another dirt road.  Continue on this road for approx. 3.3 miles where you should see a parking area and forest service sign on your left.  Park and begin the hike.

I did not have my GPS on during the hike, thus I have to rely on others for the round trip distance.  For some reason this varies between 9 miles and 11 miles.  Given the relentless uphill climb, that is rather steep in my sections, and the number of hours we hiked, I would error on the higher side.  My guess is that the hike is between 10 and 11 miles in length.

The terrain is varied with sections of forest including stands of Hemlock,  meadows that were filled with flowers and streams running more full then I would have anticipated, incredible rock formations, and 360 degree views that are just eye popping.  From the flat wind swept rocky top where a little band of snow still exists you can see forever.   Although it was not the most clear day, we could make out Tinker’s Knob, Andersen Peak, the Sierra Buttes, Northstar, Stampede, Boca, Independence Lake, and White Rock Lake among others.

One of the best reasons to go, at least the day we headed up, was the peacefulness this area affords.  It was a Friday in the middle of summer and there were 3 other people on the trail.  We had the place to ourselves.

Mt. Lola was named after Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert, Better known as Lola Montez.  She was born in Ireland, but left at a young age.  Lola became a dancer traveling through Europe and eventually, in 1851 to America.  She danced her way across county eventually arriving in Grass Valley where she danced and put on plays.  Her dancing was scandalous.  She appeared in flesh colored tights with two cork spiders.  She shocked the audiences, but they loved it anyway (mostly men we assume).  She had many admirers including a number of husbands or lovers.  Before coming to America she was the mistress of the King of Bavaria (Ludwig).  He showered her with gifts and money which eventually assisted in his downfall.  The men who loved her named two Donner Summit Lakes after her as well as Mt. Lola.

Mt. Lola is the tallest peak in Nevada County.  Get out and give it a try.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim