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Squaw Valley: Is a Community a Village?

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By DAVE BREW  |  Squaw Valley

There is a Resort at Squaw Creek, a so-called Village at Squaw Valley, and a loosely defined Squaw Valley community. I contend that there is no real village in Squaw Valley, but rather a Squaw Valley community that does not live in the “village.”

We muddle both our perceptions and discussions of the proposed KSL/Squaw Valley Ski Holdings/Squaw Valley Real Estate development by calling it a village. It is a resort. However, there is a valuable community in Squaw Valley, and we should acknowledge it and embrace it.

So just what is a village and what is a resort? Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary states that a village is “a settlement usually larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town.” It also notes that the word may mean “the residents of a village.” Clearly, it’s a place with people in it.

How about a resort? The dictionary states it’s “a place providing recreation and entertainment, especially to visitors.” Clearly it’s a place that provides short-term activities to transients, with no mention of any people living there.

What does this mean to our thinking about the proposed development at Squaw Valley, which is commonly referred to as the expansion of the existing “village” at Squaw Valley? I think it means that almost all of us have been using the wrong terms all along. There is no “village” at Squaw Valley. However, there is — and has been for many years — a resort. There is also a community.

This resort/village distinction is important because of the significance of both the specific plan, which was released in October, and the release of Placer County’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in the spring of 2015. The former describes KSL’s surreal plan, and the latter should describe the environmental impacts of the proposed development on the local and regional environment.

All who are concerned will be challenged to evaluate and comment on the expansion that KSL presents in the specific plan and the DEIR. We have to think “resort,” not “village,” and realize that the plan is fundamentally intended to create a Resort with a capital R that profits some distant stockholders and does not significantly enhance or preserve our community, natural environment, aesthetics, and culture of Squaw Valley.

Here is a good place to emphasize that I, and almost all others who are concerned, agree that Squaw Valley needs to have an expansion of its facilities to enable it to compete with other, somewhat similar resorts. Squaw Valley is a unique mountain and it should attract skiers, snowboarders, and summer visitors who appreciate its unique characteristics. The problem is to have an expansion that truly enhances and preserves the local culture, ambiance, and overall environment.

So how about the Squaw Valley community? It is real and is a mixture of full-time homeowners and renters, frequent and less frequent second home and condominium owners/residents, and also the day skiers who temporarily populate the mountain and the resort’s facilities. This community is cared for by some local boards and committees, and by a few restaurants and such. Most of the community members travel to Truckee, Tahoe City, and Reno for their living needs because there are no true village facilities (where’s my early morning baguette?). But no community member lives in what is called the Village at Squaw Valley.

Finally, it should be mentioned again that some community members support all of the development proposed for the Olympic Valley resort, others are very skeptical about the proposed development, and most are probably in between, hoping for an eventual resort development that will fit in with the environment, enhance the community, and not reduce the many aesthetic appeals of our valley.

~ Dave Brew is a Squaw Valley iconoclast and a resident contrarian.

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December 13, 2018