Help Keep It Cool!

The color of Squaw Valley and the entire North Tahoe region is about to become as diluted as a supermarket tomato. But you can help fight to keep it rich and true!

Over 15 years ago when I began writing Squallywood, my eyes opened up to the depths of this mountain’s roots. What I thought was going to be a quick task of writing about my friend’s and my own experiences on the mountain, became an in depth research project that attempted to show respect for all who came before us. Not only was this book going to have to represent a spectacular mountain and valley, it was going to take on the task of representing a complex culture. The name of every line, the feel of every photo, the description of every zone on the mountain stemmed from the core of what and who created Squallywood. While I feel good about how the book turned out, I also acknowledge that it only just begins to scratch the surface of all the underlying elements that have created who we are.

Most 1st generation Squaw skiers enter this valley mistakingly believing that they or the generation (or two) before them, define Squaw culture. I know I did when I first moved here full time in the early 1990s. Squaw was about extreme skiing. Those rad dogs in the 1980’s were the godfathers and my friends and I were going to be their first born. Yes, this is one hell of a narrow minded perspective. But it is almost an inevitable first step for anyone who boldly steps foot in the valley before they have the opportunity to gain perspective of who and what came before them. I suspect even Wayne Poulsen might have followed that path when he first dreamed of schusshing down Squaw’s slopes in the 20’s and 30’s. Over time however, he and his family revealed their deep respect for those who came before them including the Washoe Indians who had inhabited the valley for over 10,000 years. Think of that! 10,000 years of human history in this valley!

Some might think it would be a stretch to say that Squallywood skiing culture owes its roots to Native Americans. But I would say that an indigenous people who inhabited this valley for such a length of time continue to have a profound effect on who we are and how we think. Ask any long time Squaw skier or snowboarder if they or a friend have ever thought about searching for ancient indian camp sites, arrowheads, or petroglyphs in or around Squaw. If they say “yes”, you can be certain that, indeed, respect for those who came long, long before us has had a significant impact on who we are and how we think in Squallywood culture.

So why is this important? It demonstrates that roots can’t just be created out of the blue or altered to suit one’s needs or strategy. They exist because of complex growth patterns created as one stem sprouts off another, upon another, upon another. The oldest and main stem is always the strongest and provides the lifeblood for all future growth. At any point in time, attempting to cut roots and start from scratch reveals a drastic misunderstanding of the primary process. Doing so creates an inorganic shift and an illusion that sways people into somehow believing that this new way is right. Yet this type of construction is built on an aerated foundation not supported by historical roots.

Some people have been swayed by the enticing possibility of establishing a new root structure. This is completely understandable. There is a lot of excitement in growth and, especially in mountian culture, we are all attracted to the land of possibility. There is personal security to be made. There are identities and legacies to protect and grow. There are programs and institutions that could be at risk if they don’t align with what they perceive to be the most powerful future force in the region. The identities of these folks have been heavily marketed in an attempt to create a veil of mass regional support for this new direction.

But the vast majority of people in the region have not been swayed and are having difficulty shedding the power and influence of the true root structure of this region. We understand at a very deep level that KSL Capital Partners has used shallow and artificial mechanisms to pave this new path. We see it. We feel it. We know it. From the conversations we’ve all had at parties, to our responses to the $600,000 anti-Squaw community campaign ironically called Save Olympic Valley (SOV), to the drop in vibe in the lifelines, to the sad and mixed emotions we’ve experienced, there is no doubt we are all on to something; our roots are in fact being cut to ensure a bottom line for a billion dollar company.

We want to do something about it, but to some degree feel powerless because the process is complex, constantly evolving, and we are fearful of repercussions. We want to place our opinions and support somewhere, but are unsure what would be most effective. We also know that simply complaining doesn’t do much and that offering solutions does. Finally, we know that diversity of opinions is important and but that coordinating and organizing those into solutions is paramount.

Over the past 4 years, 3 organizations have demonstrated a deep respect for Tahoe’s roots. Friends of Squaw Valley, Incorporate Olympic Valley, and Sierra Watch, each in their own way, aim to preserve the unique elements that have drawn us all here. They do so because they are driven by the fact that this OUR tenure. This is our time to be TRUE stewards to the power of the land, the people, and the roots that have created our culture.

That is why I ask you to join me in supporting these organizations. With every purchase of a book and GNAR Movie Poster,  $5 and $15 dollars, respectively, will go to them. The future of Squallywood and the elements that comprise what we all love in skiing depend on it.

Let’s do this!

Robb Gaffney, M.D.