SQUAW VALLEY — I’ve lived and worked in mountain communities for nearly my entire life. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as President and CEO of Squaw Valley Resort, it’s that Squaw is special, as it’s truly a community in the broadest sense of the word.
The community that makes up Squaw Valley is not just a random assemblage of year-round residents, entrepreneurs and part-time visitors, connected only by our shared appreciation of a mountain. It’s so much more.
Understandably, the people associated with Squaw Valley view themselves as caretakers of something bigger, distinct and more enduring. We celebrate our unique history, we safeguard our magnificent natural resources, we work hard, we play hard and we respect our connection to, and our mutual passion for, this place with our neighbors.
It’s in that spirit that our organization is committed to restoring Squaw Valley’s proud position as a world-class destination while preserving the history and character of the mountain, addressing the region’s long-neglected infrastructure and, most important, listening to and reflecting the thankfully diverse voices that comprise our larger community.
With that in mind, simultaneous with efforts to make long-overdue capital improvements in a way that benefit all who live, work and visit here, we have been putting into place an unprecedented community outreach and advisory program that fundamentally recognizes that the actions we take affect everyone.
Just this year, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows made significant investments in our collective snow-making capacity, lift operations and hospitality facilities. In fact, we’ve invested more than $38 million in the experience. The lion’s share has been dedicated to “buy local” — spent with local and regional companies.
We recently hosted the 2013 U.S. Alpine Championships, returning championship caliber racing to the region and we did it, for first time in history, as a completely carbon-neutral event.
But this is just the beginning. In years to come, we are proposing to invest a record amount of capital into improvements that will create more than 2,500 regional jobs, add additional world-class lodging and year-round amenities, fix neglected infrastructure, redevelop brownfields (parking lots), and begin efforts to restore and reverse the decades of man-made damage caused to Squaw Creek. And we intend to do it all with an overriding focus on sound environmental principles and sustainable practices.
Because this investment stands to both benefit and impact everyone in our community, we have been working diligently with local officials, neighborhood associations, business leaders and other stakeholder groups — as well as our short-term and season-long customers — to receive comments and, yes, criticism. We’ve already made substantial changes to our plan based on this input.
I’m proud to announce we’ve also assembled a volunteer Community Advisory Council — made up of a representative sample of voices throughout our community, including a significant number of local leaders who have either been neutral or in some cases openly critical of elements of our proposed improvements.
Very much like our diverse community, this advisory council maintains a diversity of voice - a completely independent and varied set of informed and valued viewpoints on our proposed improvements.
We also look forward to working with our fellow community members on the county’s MAC (Municipal Advisory Council), as well as other community voices in the Valley.
Our objective is to create a workable forum for receiving honest, unvarnished, constructive feedback that will allow us to strengthen our proposal in a way that everyone can be proud of.
We begin this discussion with two of the most remarkable mountains in North America. The conversation continues with the diverse community and what we believe to be representative voices of the community — the Community Advisory Council. I submit that the wide variety of opinions and viewpoints are one of our community’s many strengths.
Judging from our many candid conversations to date, we’re ready to preserve the legacy of visionary thinking that brought us here, keeping in mind the new realities of sustainability and community-based decision-making that are hallmarks of this new era.
Andy Wirth is president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.