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December 10, 2013
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My Turn: 5 questions for KSL's revised Squaw proposal

As we scan the horizon for winter storms and fresh snow, we’re also on the lookout for KSL’s revised development proposals for Squaw Valley.

Placer County officials expect we’ll get a look at the latest version sometime in mid-December, and KSL is scheduling a public presentation in January.

Hopefully, we’ll see something completely different from KSL’s original 2011 application, which would have remade Squaw Valley with a series of high-rise condos and hotels — including 2,200 new bedrooms and an indoor amusement park.

In the face of overwhelming community concern and regional opposition, KSL put the project on hold and, we’re told, went back to the drawing board.

When we do get a chance to review and assess the new development maps and proposed policies, there will be a lot of numbers to crunch and details to scrutinize. But there are big picture issues at stake, too.

We suggest five questions to hold up to the revised proposal:

1. Does it represent a vision worthy of Squaw? It’d be a trap to fall into comparisons between the new proposal and KSL’s 2011 plan. What really matters is how the revised proposal compares to what Squaw should look like 10, 20 — or 100 — years from now. Is their proposal something future generations would thank us for?

2. Does the revised plan maintain the unique sense of place in Squaw Valley? There’s no place like Squaw. Every time you come up the road and see the valley give way to the legendary mountain, you know just where you are. Would the new development enhance that feeling? If we were walking through the new village, would we know where we were?

3. Would new development play a positive role in the Tahoe region? Squaw is not an island — ecologically, economically or culturally. It’s an integral part of the Tahoe Sierra. How would new development impact its broad surroundings — from local businesses to the clarity of the lake?

4. Would the new plan fit with existing and available infrastructure? Any local development could bump up against some basic limiting factors, including the capacity of Highway 89 to handle more traffic getting to and from Squaw Valley and, also, a finite aquifer to tap for water. Would the proposed development overburden existing roads and water supply capacities?

5. Would new development maintain the culture of Squaw? The ski and snowboard experience at Squaw is different from what you find on any mountain anywhere else in the world. It’s rooted in the Olympic heritage and on proud display in countless free-skiing movies; it depends on easy access to incredible terrain. How would the new proposal impact the skier experience — the very soul of Squaw?

KSL’s revisions will trigger a new start to the public planning process. In the months and years ahead, answers to these questions will be hashed out in public meetings, at local bars and on chairlifts. We’ll all have our own opinions.

Sierra Watch will work to ensure that all voices have a chance to be heard and can play a meaningful role in securing a great outcome for Squaw Valley. Hopefully, KSL’s revisions will be a step in that direction.

Tom Mooers is executive director of Sierra Watch. Learn more at

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 10, 2013 03:33PM Published Dec 10, 2013 09:12AM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.