The Latest on the Squaw-Alpine Connection


Author: Mark Fisher

There was a time a few years ago when Andy Wirth was hoping to be everybody’s buddy. He was charming Squaw Valley athletes, skydiving with the cool crowd and building relationships with local businesses and non-profits. But it seems as if times have changed, and Andy wants us to see him as a powerful man, one that will do what it takes to keep his vision for Squaw Valley moving forward. That has included a number of public personal attacks on those that have criticized the Squaw Valley Renaissance.

It is not, however, acceptable when one deviates from the truth on topics as important as the proposed development plans at Squaw Valley  – Squaw Valley Ski Holdings CEO Andy Wirth

Wirth’s latest attack appeared last week in the Auburn Journal. It’s his second attempt to undermine the credibility of Sierra Watch, and more specifically, Tom Mooers, the Executive Director of Sierra Watch. It’s not the first time that Wirth has had an issue with Mooers. In his latest guest editorial, Wirth’s complaints really come down to semantics. Here’s some examples:

• Wirth has an issue with the fact that KSL Capital and Squaw Valley Ski Holdings are often mentioned in the same sentence in regards to the Squaw Valley project. He has repeatedly pointed out that the project applicant specifically is SVSH, not KSL Capital. Wirth is technically correct in this aspect, but it is common knowledge that the funding for the project is coming from a fund controlled by KSL Capital. Whether Andy’s superiors at KSL Capital likes it or not, they are going to be associated with a project that has received a lot of negative attention. KSL does list Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows as one of its properties on its website. You either own the property, or you don’t.

• Wirth continues to nitpick at things like the definition of a “ten story building” and “amusement parks.” While Wirth again is correct in stating that there are no plans for an actual building with 10 stories, it is common knowledge that each story of a typical building is about 10 feet. With building heights ranging up to 108 feet in the Village plan, it makes perfect logical sense for Mooers to describe the buildings as “ten stories” as it gives the public a better visual idea of the plan. We would also agree that a building with indoor recreation such as a pool, slides, climbing, a bowling alley and simulated skydiving does indeed offer amusement, and thereby does fit the definition of an “amusement park.” We would suggest that Wirth is probably equally misleading in calling it a “mountain adventure center”, as the building will not contain any mountains.

• Wirth also takes Mooers to task for suggesting that there will be 25 years of construction for the Village project. Again, Wirth is correct in stating that it probably won’t actually be 25 years of continuous construction. But the reality is that there are kids that will grow up in Olympic Valley that will always see construction going on. Few developers of big projects ask for entitlements that extend over such a long period. Taking the Truckee Railyard project as an example, there would be zero public support for the project if it were to disrupt the harmony of downtown Truckee over a period of 25 years. We think it is very appropriate for Mooers, Sierra Watch, and ourselves to call attention to the extended duration of the project, continuous or not.

• Wirth correctly notes that Squaw Valley has done a lot of public outreach, and has indeed substantially reduced its plan. That does not mean that we have to accept the currently offered plan as the right plan. As we have said before, it’s a common tactic for developers to ask for the stars, when they are really just shooting for the moon. Let’s put it another way. Back when I was 10 years old, I really wanted a top fuel dragster, but the fact that I did not get that did not entitle me to a 1972 Mustang GT Fastback. Eventually, I was negotiated down to a bike, not even a real Stingray – just a cheap Sears knockoff. We don’t always get what we want.

We also want to note that Wirth’s latest diatribe was written as a response to a letter by Mooers in the Auburn Journal. It made some sense in that context. It did not make sense that Wirth’s rant was also sent out via email from Squaw Valley. It’s a move that was unprofessional, and continues to besmirch the reputation of Squaw Valley. It’s only fitting that whomever sent that email neglected to check their settings. Wirth’s email was attributed in the signature to “Save Olympic Valley”… fittingly also known locally as “Squashing Our Voices.”

If you’re concerned about indoor amusement parks, 10 story tall buildings and the potential for up to 25 years of construction in Squaw Valley, it’s not too late to share your thoughts with the Placer County Planning Commission. The deadline for comments on the draft Evironmental Impact Report for the Village at Squaw Valley project will be received through Friday, July 17th at 5:00 pm. Comments can be sent via email to or mailed to:

AUBURN, CA 95603

Help Andy Wirth, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, KSL Capital, the Placer County Planning Commission and the Placer County Board of Supervisors know that we all care about the super-size development plan for Squaw Valley.