Release: Tahoe Conservationists Secure Final Judgment Over Olympic Valley Development

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Contact: Tom Mooers (530) 265-2849 x200 

August 2, 2022


Olympic Valley, Calif. – A California court last week issued its Final Judgment in the long-running fight against massive development in Tahoe’s Olympic Valley. 

The court ordered all approvals of the project be rescinded, closing out a sweeping victory for Sierra Watch and the grassroots movement to protect the alpine valley formerly known as Squaw.

Tahoe’s Olympic Valley

Pictured: Tahoe’s Olympic Valley

“We did it!” said Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch.  “It’s taken eleven years of commitment and dedication to prove how we can combine our passion for the Sierra into a successful movement to protect the mountains we love.”

Would-be developers Alterra Mountain Company, then acting as KSL Capital Partners, purchased the Tahoe ski resort formerly known as Squaw Valley and surrounding lands in 2010.  Within a year, they applied to Placer County for development entitlements to remake the region with a series of high-rise condo hotels, a 90,000 square-foot indoor waterpark – as wide as a Walmart and nearly three times as tall, and a rollercoaster.

2013 Scale Model of Proposed Development in Tahoe’s Olympic Valley

Pictured: 2013 Scale Model of Proposed Development in Tahoe’s Olympic Valley

The project was so large it would have taken 25 years to construct.

“Alterra’s project sounded like a good time – in Vegas,” said Mooers.  “But had no place in the mountains of Tahoe.”

Sierra Watch responded by building a grassroots movement under a banner of Keep Squaw True.  Thousands of volunteers got involved.  Hundreds spoke up at public hearings.

But, in November of 2016, in spite of overwhelming opposition, the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the project.  A month later, Sierra Watch filed its initial legal challenges, pointing out that Placer County’s approvals violated state planning laws. 

Last year the Third District Court of Appeals ruled in the conservationists’ favor, citing impacts on Lake Tahoe, fire danger, noise, and traffic.  Last week’s Final Judgment codifies that decision. 

“Judgment in this case is therefore entered in favor of Petitioner Sierra Watch,” reads the five-page document.  “The County shall vacate and set aside its approval of the Project, including the Specific Plan, the Development Agreement, the Large-Lot Vesting Tentative Subdivision Map, amendments to the Squaw Valley General Plan and Land Use Ordinance, zoning change, development standards, and related resolutions and ordinances… adoption of related findings of fact, statement of overriding considerations, and mitigation monitoring reporting program; and certification of the EIR.”

After nearly six years in court, the legal fight is over – and Alterra is back to square one.

In May, however, Alterra claimed they were committed to reviving their failed proposal and trying again for a new round of approvals.  At a Town Hall meeting in Olympic Valley, they claimed there is “not enough to do” in Tahoe and would apply for a new set of entitlements “sometime next year.”

The path to approvals that Alterra first embarked on back in 2011, however, has only gotten steeper – as the issues and impacts that encouraged initial opposition have grown more acute.

The risk of catastrophic wildfire has grown.  Yet Alterra proposes resort development in a “very high fire hazard severity zone” with only one way out.  If the project were built, it would take more than ten hours just to travel three miles out of the valley – and onto Highway 89, already at gridlock on crowded summer days. 

Lake Tahoe continues to suffer a steady loss of clarity.  In 2015, you could see 68.9 feet into clear waters; last year only 61 feet.  Alterra’s development would have made it worse – by adding more cars and more of the pollution that is clouding the lake.

Olympic Valley’s limited water supplies are drying up.  The first half of this year was California’s driest on record. The area’s largest local provider has declared a Stage 2 Drought Emergency, and there is growing concern that the valley’s limited water supplies will not be enough to serve existing customers – let alone to fill an indoor waterpark.

Locals are finding it increasingly difficult to find a place to live.  But Alterra’s project would be bad for workforce housing – adding 500 employees, with no place to live, to the long list of working families looking for a home. 

And the shared commitment to keep Tahoe Truckee True is growing, emboldened by ongoing success, and numbering more than 22,000 supporters.

Grassroots Volunteers in Tahoe City

Pictured: Grassroots Volunteers in Tahoe City

“Our hope is that Alterra will abandon its reckless proposal and come to the table to work together on development that respects the shared values of the Tahoe Sierra,” said Mooers of Sierra Watch.  “But our love of the mountains is timeless.  And if it takes another eleven years of working together to defend Tahoe, we’ll be there every step of the way.”


About Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch works to protect great places in the Sierra Nevada.  Founded in 2001, the Nevada City based non-profit has built a remarkable track record in land preservation in Tahoe’s Martis Valley, on Donner Summit, and for other treasured Sierra landscapes.  For more information, visit


Tahoe Development Update: Final Judgment in Martis Valley West

Wednesday we received the final Writ and Judgment in our case against Martis Valley West, directing the rescission of all approvals for the North Tahoe development proposal and effectively closing this chapter in our ongoing commitment to Save Martis Valley.

Save Martis Valley

The Martis Valley West project proposed 760 new gated units in a “very high” fire hazard zone on the northern rim of the Tahoe Basin.  It would have added 3,985 new daily car trips to Tahoe’s gridlock, diminishing the lake’s water quality.  And it would have made the region’s workforce housing crisis even worse.

In its Writ and Judgment, the court applies clear language to affirm that Placer County “committed a prejudicial abuse of discretion” when it approved the development in 2016.

The court commands the County to “vacate and set aside” its “approvals of the Project, including the Specific Plan, the Development Agreement, the Large-Lot Vesting Tentative Subdivision Map, amendments to the Martis Valley Community Plan, zoning change, development standards and design guidelines, and related resolutions and ordinances” and “certification of the EIR.”

And it mandates that the County and developers “and their respective agents, employees, and persons acting in concert with them are enjoined from all activities that are based upon, or related to, the Project Approvals and that could result in any change or alteration to the physical environment.”

The Writ and Judgment do more than finalize an important legal victory for Sierra Watch and our co-plaintiffs League to Save Lake Tahoe and Mountain Area Preservation. 

They mark a major milestone in our 20-year effort, spelling out in black and white what we can accomplish when we work together to defend the places we love.

Above Martis Peak

Pictured: Above Martis Peak

You can read both briefs at: 

Martis Valley West Judgment Following Appeal 


Martis Valley West Peremptory Writ of Mandate



Sierra Watch Seeks Field Manager for Tahoe Conservation Campaigns

Sierra Watch seeks a passionate conservation advocate to recruit and mobilize public support for our work to keep Tahoe Truckee True.

Founded in 2001, Sierra Watch has built a remarkable record in Sierra conservation, spearheading the long-term effort to protect Tahoe’s Martis Valley, playing the lead role in defending Donner Summit, and turning back a reckless scheme in Olympic Valley (formerly Squaw Valley) to transform Tahoe with highrises and indoor waterpark.

The position of Sierra Watch Field Manager is a unique opportunity to engage public support in our ongoing success, to be a leader in Tahoe conservation, and to work where you play.  Key strategies include grassroots outreach and online engagement.

The ideal candidate has one-two years professional organizing or equivalent experience and has demonstrated entrepreneurial leadership in setting priorities and following through. 

The position demands excellent communications skills.  A passion for the Sierra Nevada is a must; a sense of humor is encouraged. 

Salary DOE with health benefits.  Location is North Lake Tahoe, California.

To Apply

Send a cover letter, resume, writing/media sample, and references to:

Field Manager Search

Position is open until filled.  Please, no drop-ins.


For more information, visit:

Tahoe Truckee True Outreach

Join us for Tahoe Truckee Earth Day, Saturday April 23

Come join Sierra Watch for Tahoe Truckee Earth Day 2022!

Saturday, April 23

The Village at Palisades Tahoe / Olympic Valley

11:00 am – 5:00 pm

Earth Day marks an annual milestone in our ongoing efforts to protect this mountainous portion of our favorite planet.

Truckee Tahoe Earth Day

Pictured: Lake Tahoe as viewed from space


It was twenty years ago when Sierra Watch set up a booth for the first time at Tahoe Truckee Earth Day.

We were a brand new organization, eagerly setting out to Save Martis Valley.  We didn’t even have bumper stickers.  We had postcards – and asked people to sign them to “Support a healthy future for Martis Valley and the Tahoe-Truckee region.”

Those little postcards must have worked – as building blocks in a long-term effort that keeps protecting the places we love.

And we keep coming back to Tahoe Truckee Earth Day; it’s always a great way to connect with the community and build our grassroots movement for Sierra conservation.  Pretty much what Earth Day is all about.

Peter Van Zant Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch Field Director Peter Van Zant in 2014

That is except for the time in 2016 when the would be developers of Olympic Valley (what we then called Squaw Valley) kicked us out of the event.  That’s right: the developers kicked the environmentalists out of Earth Day(!).