Opinion: Squaw Valley plan offers North Tahoe greater economic stability
Special to the Sun
This column has been updated from a previous version to reflect figures from the 2013 economic report prepared for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. The original opinion column included figures from the 2009 report, which was an error on behalf of the Sierra Sun.
Squaw Valley ski resort is widely recognized for its world-class ski slopes and for hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, since Squaw Valley is viewed mostly as a winter destination, some travelers do not consider visiting it soon after winter snows thaw.
As a consequence, Placer County and neighboring communities are forgoing millions of dollars annually in potential tourism dollars — or at least for now.
Expanding tourism is critical to resort communities. According to a 2013 economic report prepared for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, nearly $490 million in annual visitor spending supports over 5,700 jobs or 60% of all employment, and about half of all earnings in the North Lake Tahoe area.
The solution to increasing the flow of tourism dollars and jobs into North Tahoe is providing tourists greater recreational and entertainment opportunities all year round.
This is why we are excited about a development plan that calls for expanding the Village at Squaw Valley Resort by providing new lodging, restaurants, shopping and fun attractions.
All this would be complemented by new bike and hiking trails, a seasonal park, and a Mountain Adventure Camp with water slides, ropes courses, zip lines, mountain climbing, world-class fitness, bowling, performing arts, and other forms of entertainment and recreational activities related to the mountains and the outdoors.
These exciting changes offer opportunities to increase tourism for a community whose economic stability is often dependent on heavy and lasting snow levels, which has been lacking in recent years.
Seasonal workers must often find new jobs at first snowmelt and many small business owners must earn most of their annual income during the few winter months. It does not have to be this way.
This is why it is so important for Squaw Valley to create new programing that offers economic opportunity year-round.
At full build out, the expansion promises 570 new permanent jobs, as well as $26 million in annual tax revenue that can help fund important public services such as road improvements, transit services, schools and public safety.
What’s more, independent analysis finds that project benefits extend to existing small businesses by increasing the number of tourists that flow to the North Shore and Truckee.
We all recognize that with such economic opportunities also come challenges. For those concerned with traffic impacts, be assured that we were too.
If our facilities became inaccessible we would lose customers and diminish the economic benefits to Squaw Valley and the community.
This is another reason why we reduced the project’s size by over 50 percent and have plans to make substantial investments in neighboring roads and mass transit.
The timing of this expansion is equally important. North Tahoe is facing fierce competition from resorts from all over the world that offer year-round programing, such as we have proposed.
This is the reality we cannot ignore when tourism dollars are becoming increasingly scarce, especially at a time when California is facing an enduring drought while other states are not.
We also understand that with change comes uncertainty. This is why we are listening and working with the community to develop a world-class destination resort, and doing so without any material impact on the environment or North Tahoe’s unique quality of life.
This is our commitment to you because we understand that our interests are aligned — and inseparable — given that we all depend on tourism for economic stability and jobs.
In the coming months, the Placer County Board of Supervisors will decide the fate of the project. Until then, public opinion will be shaped by whether North Tahoe’s permanent residents believe tourists should spend their dollars here, or somewhere else.
This is why we encourage you to learn more by visiting http://www.TheVillageAtSquaw.com. You’ll see why we are so proud of our plan and why we hope to earn your support.
Chevis Hosea is Vice President of Development for Squaw Valley Real Estate.