Squaw Valley ski resort unveils smaller growth plan

In the face of a community backlash, the owners of Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley USA ski resort announced plans Monday to scale back their proposal to expand an existing village at the base of the mountain.

The new plan – dubbed “The Right Plan” on the resort’s website – calls for a series of buildings housing 1,493 new luxury bedrooms. That’s less than half the 3,400 bedrooms proposed in the company’s 2011 plan. Monday’s revision is the second revision of the development proposal by Colorado-based KSL Capital Partners LLC.

Chevis Hosea, the company’s vice president of development, acknowledged the firm was a little surprised by the level of resistance to its 2011 proposal. He now says the company has a better plan after listening to its customers and the community. The proposal sparked the formation of the advocacy group, Friends of Squaw Valley, and a cityhood drive.

“We want to have a community-backed harmonious plan,” he said.

It remains to be seen whether the new proposal will be enough to quell the majority of concerns, but at least one member of the resort’s community advisory panel said he thinks the plan is a big step in the right direction.

“They really listened to the comments,” said David Stepner, a Tahoe ski patrol member. “It’s now something I think is an honest compromise. I think it is something we can live with, that we can work with.”

Stepner, one of the founding members of Friends of Squaw Valley, said there are battles ahead once the exact site plan and building design aesthetic come into focus, but he said he was pleased with how far Capital Partners moved from the old plan – dubbed by some as a Disneyland in the snow.

Jon Shanser, another founding member of Friends of Squaw Valley, gave the changes a cautious thumbs up.

“I’m pleased that they listened to the community concern,” Shanser said.

One contentious issue was a plan for an indoor water park and other amenities aimed at helping Squaw compete with other destination resorts year-round, said Hosea. In response, the company cut the facility’s size from 130,000 square feet to 90,000 square feet, shifted the focus to make it less of an amusement park and more of a training center, and brought some of the amenities outdoors. Hosea said the facility still would include activities for everyone from Olympic-level skiers to children of all ages.

Another concern identified in the old plan was elimination of surface parking. Hosea said the resort’s day users took that as a sign that they weren’t part of Squaw’s future. Under the new plan, most of the surface parking remains.

The new layout also aims to preserve of some of Squaw’s historic buildings and protect surrounding residents’ views.

However, Tom Moores, executive director of Sierra Watch, said any development plan needs to stand on its own merits, not just be better than a previous draft.

“It’s a trap to compare it to the 2011 plan,” he said.