Guest Column: Incorporate Olympic Valley — why do I care? | SierraSun.com

Guest Column: Incorporate Olympic Valley — why do I care?

You have seen the full page ads, you have read the op-eds from the major players and you are wondering … why should I care about the incorporation of Olympic Valley?

Like most of you, I am not a property owner in Olympic Valley. Nor am I am a business owner or stakeholder in the valley, but I do own multiple businesses in Carnelian Bay and worry about the basin’s future.

I care because I want a sustainable community for my family and a thriving Tahoe in 30 years for my children to enjoy.

Therefore, I am concerned about an outside investment firm (KSL/Squaw Valley Ski Holdings) proposing major changes that are being reviewed and approved by a planning commission staffed by not one single local to Tahoe.

Like most of those who are in support of incorporating Olympic Valley, I am not anti-development. Quite the opposite, I want to see aggressive ski operation improvements accompanied with a smart build out of property.

However, what is being currently proposed is so far out of scale that if approved and followed through to fruition, it will simply crush every local business along the lake.

These decisions are currently being considered by a planning commission based in Auburn, staffed by people with zero connection to the Lake Tahoe region and little understanding of the “big picture.”

To Placer County, it is simply about tax revenue. Little thought is given to how a “mega resort” would impact North Lake Tahoe and Truckee. For this reason alone, giving a regional say to major expansions, is why the current incorporation effort is so important.

What would happen if KSL got everything they wanted? We have to look at other resort communities that have followed similar paths to see. Summit County, Colo., is a perfect example.

This once-thriving local economy has been destroyed by several mega-resorts. Local families were displaced, businesses are endlessly turning over and the “soul” is long gone.

We can see the beginning of this in our community, with KSL/SVSH dividing the community with a “You’re with us or against us” mentality.

If you read the full-page ads placed by KSL to counter the incorporation effort, you would think that this organization is a benevolent benefactor that really cares about all of us.

Sure, they contribute to local causes, as do nearly all small businesses in Tahoe. The difference is that many of us do not wave that flag as a way to show that we have “soul” or as a way to persuade others.

In the three years, KSL has been operating Squaw/Alpine, can any reader point out one single benefit to the actual skiing experience? Has our mountain experience improved, or have both mountains suffered?

With this in mind, can anyone objectively look at operations the past few years and think that KSL will act with our community’s best interest?

More cynically (and of pure personal speculation), KSL appears to have spent more money opposing incorporation that they would have in lift operator payroll.

How many employees were laid off last season? How many days did we show up at Alpine or Squaw to hear about under-staffing? How far could the money spent to fight locals have gone this season? Please remember this when Alpine opens late and closes early.

Tahoe needs strong resort operations, strong local businesses and committed planning to keep visitors coming back year after year.

In my opinion, incorporation will protect our region’s future. If KSL gets what they want, and our community gets rolled over, we will see many more boarded up hotels, closed businesses and empty vacation homes.

Dan Sanderman is a Carnelian Bay resident.