Our Turn: An open letter to Andy Wirth
November 1, 2013
Dear Mr. Wirth: We are a collective of North Tahoe youth, start up entrepreneurs, and well known local skiers and riders who are concerned about the future of Squaw Valley. Some of us are second-, third-, and fourth-generation Tahoe locals, while the rest of us chose to move here many years ago to make Squaw Valley our home mountain.
We appreciate the fact that you are the CEO of a company that survives because of profits and that the Squaw Valley development is a money making venture for KSL. We are OK with that. But what we struggle with is that the current village proposal does not satisfy several needs of the local community.
First, it counters our community's need to be at the forefront of trends in the ski and snowboard industry. Instead, the current proposal looks and feels just like many of the large ski village developments that have emerged across North America in the past two decades. The tall buildings, the same old architecture, the same old streets, the same old commercial feel, all make it difficult to discern from many other North American ski villages.
Second, we feel that the current plan threatens to strip down, or even do away with, the local soul that has kept our ski community alive, vibrant, unique, and recognized around the world. This is a trend we have seen at many overdeveloped ski areas in the past 20 years.
Finally, we feel strongly that the village plan needs to do a better job of connecting our community to the mountain, rather than block it with oversized buildings.
While we respect the effort that has gone into the planning of the village, we feel Squaw Valley, North Tahoe, and the greater ski industry at large deserves more. We also feel that your legacy deserves more. You have a magical touch in getting things done.
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We appreciate some of the positive changes you have brought to this mountain and the critical thinking you have put into many aspects of planning, including transportation. But in the end, this development is following in the footsteps of many resort developments before us, by leaning heavily towards a hollow and commercialized product.
No one leaves this planet with a positive legacy when their actions were viewed as maximizing income for their company, instead of truly listening to the community. People are starting to speak loud and clear. We hope that you listen to them and put stock in what they have to say. We appreciate your recent op-ed in the Sierra Sun (Voices will be heard on Squaw project) expressing your commitment to do just that.
With your innate ability, lead us in creating a ski village that is unique and recognized around the world. Help us to continue to be innovators rather than followers. Listen to your family legacy of remarkable work within the National Parks.
We hope that you begin to value and engage groups who have spoken, such as the Friends Of Squaw Valley, Sierra Watch, and Incorporate Olympic Valley. You have stated that you believe in working with all parties. Let's get this going!
We recognize the position you are in. You work with some powerful people and are under significant pressures. But if you do this right, the respect you will have from our community as well as the greater ski community worldwide, will cement you in skiing's history for generations to come.
As a follower, this will not happen. If you are an innovator, it will. At this point, it will all depend on the path you choose. We feel your recent letter is an indication that this may actually start to happen. Let's see it come to fruition.
Josh Anderson, Erica Backhus, Jordan Basile, Tom Burt, Rylan Cordova, Nik David, Danny Day, Tom Day, Lizzy Day, Debbie Dutton, Nancy Elrod, Robb Gaffney, George Hjelte, Greg Lindsey, Gavin Lura, Sherry McConkey, Kami Abi-Nader, David Naughton, Kendal Naughton, Mich Pavel, Tristan Queen, Chase Schweitzer, Larry Segal, Dane Shannon, Mattias Sullivan, Kris Thomas and Gray Thompson.