Opinion: Protect Our Winters should urge Squaw to scale down expansion
March 3, 2015
Does anyone else sense some hypocrisy in Protect Our Winters (POW) accepting the Squaw Valley resort as an advocate against climate change?
How does POW relate to Squaw anyway? First, Squaw Valley is a partner in The Mountain Collective, which in turn is a partner of POW.
The Mountain Collective provides a pass that is good at several resorts across America, including Squaw.
POW and The Mountain Collective are partners to advocate and bring awareness to POW's excellent mission: "POW's mission is to unite and actively engage the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change."
But this column is meant to call attention to the significant difference between POW's mission and the potential effects of Squaw Valley's proposed expansion — to develop a mega-resort that would contribute to adverse climate change by greatly increased greenhouse gas emissions (rather than fight against them) both during construction and likely, if built, afterward.
POW is indirectly supporting this. Here's some history and some faint hope for the future:
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I first contacted POW's Executive Director (Chris Steinkamp) in September 2013 to ask about the POW-Mountain Collective-Squaw Valley relationship, which had struck me as strange, given what I knew about POW and about Squaw Valley's over-the-top expansion plans.
I asked about it because POW's mission to fight against climate change conflicts with the potential climate-change-inducing activities of Squaw Valley' expansion; those activities include on-site emissions during KSL's proposed three-fold expansion of the existing village over the 20-to-25-year-construction period and afterward, as well as the energy use during the same times.
We exchanged emails, and I received no real explanation. But I was assured that there was no way that POW would sever its endorsement, via The Mountain Collective, of Squaw Valley as a climate-change-fighting resort.
In November 2014, at a Squaw Valley event called "Getting Green Done in Lake Tahoe," where POW Board President Auden Schendler was the keynote speaker, I again asked POW how it could align with a company proposing the single-largest-resort-construction project the Sierra Nevada has ever seen.
They avoided the issue and stated that they are tightly focused on reducing climate change through ski resort mountain operations — and not on the possible adverse effects of resort development.
That's fine, but Squaw's ski resort mountain operations are really only a small part of the Squaw Valley problem. The mountain is purportedly the reason for the expansion, and the two are inextricably linked.
A blog published by UnofficialAlpine on Jan. 4, 2015: "Green or Greenwashing") analyzed POW's and Squaw's relations and concluded that Squaw's apparent greenwashing efforts appear to have been greater than their green efforts.
For one thing, Squaw didn't mention in its newest promotional magazine ("Squaw: The Green Turn" (2015)) the fact that they are proposing constructing roughly 1,500 more bedrooms, plus developing a bunch of timeshare structures in pristine Shirley Canyon over a critical aquifer-recharge area, and constructing a water park in a 108-foot-tall building about twice the size of a football field.
Also, it doesn't mention that construction, with all of its emissions is, as mentioned above, expected to take 20-25 years.
What could be best outcome from all this? I'd like to see POW pressure The Mountain Collective to remove Squaw Valley from its ski-pass program.
Or better yet, I'd like POW to stand up, face the facts, and convince the Squaw Valley resort to reduce the size and scope of its proposed expansion of the existing village to a scale appropriate to the now-existing environment and local and regional culture.
POW would then be honest, and Squaw Valley would not be over-developed and would remain a special place in the Sierra.
David Brew has been a longtime Squaw Valley homeowner for several decades and has been a full-time resident of Olympic Valley since 1989.