Squaw Valley movie depicts development war

Stacey Powells

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, there will be a presentation of the film, “Keep Squaw True,” at the T-Bar in June Lake. The documentary follows the fight hundreds of Squaw Valley residents have been facing over the last several years regarding a billion-dollar development at the base of Squaw Valley Ski Resort over a 25-year-plus period.
For starters, Squaw Valley proposes to add 1,500 new hotel rooms, a 90,000 square foot indoor water park which will be as wide as Walmart, and a roller coaster that will start at the top of the peak and wind it’s way down through the forest.

The ‘Keep Squaw True’ group is staying firm on their stand regarding such a development which they akin to having a Las Vegas type of environment in the Sierra Nevada. Educator John Muir-Laws said he likes waterslides and rollercoasters and that there is a place for them, just not in the Sierra Nevada. “That is a distraction from where you are,” said Laws. “Why would we build distractions into our town?”

In the movie, Squaw Valley head honcho in 2016, Andy Wirth, said he believes that naturalist and environmentalist, John Muir, would have, “…seen the proposed upgrades as a plus in the region.”

The well-made visual tale covers the emotional battle lovers of Squaw Valley, and the environmental organization, Sierra Watch, have endured while trying to protect the pristine area surrounding Squaw.

“It’s a story the whole world needs to hear,” said Sierra Watch Field Manager, Chase Schweizer.

According to the Sierra Watch press release, “The project would take 25 years to construct and add thousands of car trips to Tahoe’s already crowded roads. It would add the pollutants that are causing Lake Tahoe to lose its clarity. And, although developers call it a “safer place to shelter in place”, it would add to the growing danger of catastrophic wildfire.”

Squaw Valley administrators admit in the movie that if there is a wildfire like the one that destroyed the town of Paradise, CA, the residents and visitors could all cluster in their parking lot and hope to survive. Because if there is a wildfire that takes hold of the parched forest surrounding Squaw, there would be no way to get thousands of locals and visitors out of harm’s way, especially if the fire moved as fast as the one in Paradise which, at 40 miles per hour, sped along the length of three football fields every three seconds, according to CalFire. There is one way in and one way out of the valley, much like there is in Mammoth and June.

“This is not a time to keep quiet,” said the movie’s co-director, Robb Gaffney. “It’s a time to show the world who we are and to work together to’ Keep Squaw True.’”
This movie and its underlying movement are important to Mammoth Lakes and the town of June Lake because Squaw Valley is owned by the Alterra Mountain Company; the same company who owns Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and June Mountain. Could the same type of proposed development that is happening at Squaw eventually happen in our own backyard? Only time will tell.

Jamie Schectman, owner of June Lake’s T-Bar and former Squaw Valley resident has been opposed to rampant development in the valley for many years and is hosting the presentation of “Keep Squaw True” next Tuesday at his place of business. The movie will be shown at the T-Bar in June Lake on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. Entrance fee is $7 at the door.