My Turn: Voices will be heard on Squaw project
October 10, 2013
With cold mornings and leaves changing, most everyone, including me, looks forward to another winter season with great anticipation.
I still love this time of year for what it is and what it portends. It is also a great time to reflect on the years we've spent here in Lake Tahoe and the remarkable beauty of Squaw Valley.
No one in this town needs us to describe the breathtaking beauty of our region. The inspiration we receive and the awe we all feel for this place is etched on the faces of the people who live here and the excited tones with which we use to describe the eagerness to get into winter.
And yet it is worth highlighting the unanimity the community shares when it comes to protecting the natural treasures we've been blessed with in the Lake Tahoe area. It is something that truly sets our community apart.
For two years now, we have been tapping into and listening intently to this extraordinary and diverse community for guidance on the decisions we make in our special corner of the region.
Skiers and riders asked for on-mountain improvements, and we embarked on the most ambitious effort in Squaw Valley's history to accomplish just that. In just a few short years, we have spent nearly $50 million on improving the entire experience, including everything from new chairlifts and expanded grooming and snowmaking, to new après ski options and village experiences.
With pride, we now maintain the highest customer satisfaction scores of all the major mountain resorts in California. One other very important aspect of our work over the past few years was the acquisition of Alpine Meadows.
Now, with one ticket or one season pass, you can access two remarkable mountains — Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley.
Environmentalists told us they wanted to see a real, substantive commitment to sustainability and conservation. In a few short years, we have gone from laggards to pacesetters for responsible management of our properties.
In the past eight months we have implemented major retrofits to Squaw Valley's infrastructure to reduce its carbon footprint by nearly 10 percent, and we're already looking at the next round of projects. We've also been working closely with our local trash hauler to pilot a municipal composting program at our flagship restaurant, Rocker@Squaw.
And, perhaps most importantly, we've partnered with some of the most effective environmental organizations in the region to make sure they have the support they need to be successful.
For example, we are one of the founding members of the Green Bucks program in Tahoe, which allows us to easily collect dollar donations from our guests and send that money directly to the Tahoe Fund and Truckee River Watershed Council.
Most recently, we have been thinking about how to enhance the Village and make it more contemporary for the next generation of families and residents of Lake Tahoe. Most everyone agrees we can improve upon what we have presently.
And while it's not hard to hear the voices of dissension and the varying levels of disagreements on what those improvements should entail — we remain intense listeners and, as mountain people with a deep conversation ethic, appreciate the diverse points of view.
We began this discussion with an initial development proposal that we shared with the community and its leaders. We undertook this effort with a commitment to having a conversation with our neighbors and a devotion to creating something that was both environmentally responsible and exciting for all members of our families — from those seeking Squaw's legendary expert terrain to those same guests who also have children and are looking for fun, new adventures to share together.
They are key and represent our future mountain enthusiasts. Our plan sought to combine those aspects with world class facilities that reflect our Olympic heritage.
We have always believed that a conversation requires many voices. That why we've held over 300 meetings in the community and opened up an area in the Village for people to listen to our perspective and share their opinions with us.
More than four thousand (4,270 to date) of our fellow Lake Tahoe devotees have joined us.
We are proud of the comprehensive community outreach effort that we have undertaken and want the community to know that we will continue to listen and integrate your input and opinions into the planning process. You can feel confident that your voices will be heard.
Andy Wirth is President and Chief Executive Officer of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.