Once a Skier’s Mountain

1 November 2012

by Treas Manning

There once was a time when Squaw was a skier’s mountain; we are now witnessing its transformation into a giant destination playground, better words might be a giant entertainment park, the Six Flags of the Sierra. Will Squaw Valley become a cookie cutter village facade? Will the community become a ghost town vacant of local color and character? How many homes will only have their lights on 2 weeks out of the year?

Development plans have been submitted to Placer County, attorneys have been hired, and the controversy is heating up. It seems that with each update the buildings are getting taller and the proliferation of fractional condos is escalating. The carnival/theme park amenities are more voluminous and strange…(strange that is if you come to the mountains to ski and enjoy this natural playground we call Lake Tahoe).

As marketing plans are strategized to promote 24/7 entertainment the blueprint expands with the development of a 122,000 square foot, 10 story, domed water park and adventure center and if that’s not enough how about a ride on the Timberline Twister. The Twister is an elevated rail with sled like cars that will pull thrill seekers up the mountain at the edge of the Red Dog ski run and plummet them back down at super speeds rushing through banked turns and whoop-de-dos, you got it…sort of like a ROLLER COASTER.

These are changing times, people need to be entertained, times when many are losing touch with nature and the outdoors. I recently spoke with a longtime volunteer who works the information booth at Yosemite National Park; according to her the most frequently asked question is, “what is there to do here?”. My how things have changed; it wasn’t that long ago when the number one question was, “could you please tell me where to catch the trailhead for Nevada Falls or Glacier Point?”.

Sierra Club studies show dwindling numbers of those under the age of 35 visiting our National Parks. A major concern is a growing population detached from nature with little appreciation for the outdoors. The fear, this will translate into a future devoid of votes for environmental issues; clean air and water, conservation of open space and wildlife habitat.

Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley have been a favorite getaway for generations. The area is loaded with outdoor adventure; hiking, climbing, trail running, backpacking, biking, swimming and boating. Many of us thought that water parks and roller coasters were a phenomenon found in suburbia. Why would we need to build them in the mountains? Is rafting the Truckee River lacking in giggles and thrill? Has jumping from giant boulders at the edge of Lake Tahoe become old hat? Is climbing up Donner Summit or Eagle Rock to watch a rising moon or catch a falling star not a romantic and bewitching endeavor? Is taking a walk in the woods not therapy enough to clear the mind?

A more frightening question, are we bringing up a generation with no sense of exploration and imagination and worse yet, no attachment to nature and the great outdoors?


  1. Anne

    Leave nature alone. Makes me sick.

  2. Jamie Schectman

    Great post Treas.

    “More rope tows, less lattes!”

  3. Bob

    There are still lots of people enjoying the outdoors. SUP and kayaks in the summer has exploded, back country skiing over 100 skinning up Alpine Meadows in last weeks storm. It is the Whistler model. Thatmis pretty successful! Rated number 1 by the ski crowd this year.

  4. Tammy

    Thank you for this article. As a long time skier I hate to see such wide spread development. I just can’t imagine Squaw with a waterpark and roller ride. I am sadden.

  5. Paul

    Treas this is a well written blog. I call it the MTV generation spawn. The target is profit generated and has no concern for real Tahoe Lifestyle of being in nature and connecting with mountains and rivers. I had a talk with Andy at the Safeway in Truckee on July 3rd. I asked Andy if KSL had considered building a world class gym, climbing wall, and pool training facility. The short answer is that a training facility does not cash-flow as “evidenced by the facility that was built in Park City.” Money is the key motivator. Get entitlements, sell to various developers, and exit stage left. That is the likely KSL path in and out of Squaw Valley. I am personally not in favor of a water theme park and above ground “Twister” theme park ride. Then again 90 percent of the young families and kids will love this type of development. There has been a cultural shift as you noted, as expressed by some people who check in at Yosemite, and ask what is there to do? Most Americans that visit Yosemite don’t make it above the valley floor. I have met many hikers on the various trails, and the majority are Europeans. Then again the Euros have done some pretty trashy ski resort developments back in the 70s and 80s. I think that the new generation of Europeans has a totally different aesthetic. Is there chance to educate the younger generations of Americans to appreciate and embrace nature, and take a pass on theme park development?

  6. Joe Sbragia

    It is a shame, that we can’t get people into the surrounding towns to keep the local economy thriving. I have no love loss for the squaw corporate machine they have been building the death star since the 80’$ and could care less about heritage, look at their lack of preservation of Olympic history or their lack of promotion of outdoor conservation.

  7. Pete

    Great articleTreas! Hope it opens lots of Minds and Hearts for the Love of Our Valley!! Thanks Pete Perata

  8. Dory

    They can change the village, the atmosphere, the amenities…. but they can’t change the terrain.

  9. Fred Ilfeld

    Treas, Your beautifully written article captures much of the sentiment around this development. The battle is just beginning.

  10. Joe

    You are an idiot treas

  11. Joe

    You obviously know nothing about squaw valley treas!

  12. dan

    KSL can’t charge for access to the Truckee river, the lake, or the rest of the surrounding mountains… so they want to build those experiences behind a ticket booth. Alex is turning in his grave.

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