Tahoe's Olympic Valley

Release: Decision Time for Tahoe: Placer County Set to Consider Massive Palisades Tahoe Development

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Contact: Tom Mooers (530) 265-2849 x200 

July 3, 2024


Olympic Valley, Calif. – The fate of massive development proposed for Tahoe is back in the public square this summer.

Placer County planning officials announced that they will soon release the Final Environmental Impact Report for proposed development at Palisades Tahoe. And they will hold public meetings in Olympic Valley August 15 and 17, setting the stage for a showdown over the future of Lake Tahoe.

“Alterra Mountain Company is hell-bent on overrunning Tahoe with Vegas-style development,” says Tom Mooers of the conservation group Sierra Watch. “And it’s time, once again, to turn out and stand up for our mountain culture.”

Tahoe's Olympic Valley

Pictured: Tahoe’s Olympic Valley

For nearly thirteen years ski industry behemoth Alterra Mountain Company has tried to secure approvals to transform Tahoe with development of a size, scale, and scope the region has never seen. 

The project would include a series of upscale highrise condo hotels, many eight stories tall, in the iconic mountain playground formerly known as Squaw Valley.

The main attraction would be a 90,000-square-foot indoor waterpark – including artificial rivers, indoor water-skiing, video arcades, and North America’s tallest indoor waterslide – that Alterra hopes would draw 300,000 visitors every year.

New development would make Olympic Valley a construction zone for 25 years. 

According to the environmental review documents, it would add 3,300 new daily car trips to Tahoe traffic, demand 78,263,299 gallons of water annually from the local watershed, and threaten the region’s most recognizable asset: the clarity – and famously blue waters – of Lake Tahoe.  

2013 Scale Model of Proposed Development

Pictured: 2013 Scale Model of Proposed Development

First proposed in 2011, the project ignited an ongoing struggle that has become the biggest development fight in the Sierra this century. 

It pits a private equity goliath of the international ski industry against a grassroots movement of local residents and Tahoe visitors working to keep Tahoe Truckee True

Tahoe residents turning out for a Placer County hearing in 2016

Pictured: Tahoe residents turning out for a Placer County hearing in 2016

So far, it’s working. Placer County officials first approved the project in 2016. But in 2022 Sierra Watch secured a court order to rescind those approvals.

Tahoe locals hoped the setback would encourage Alterra to collaborate with the community and compromise on their project, but the ski industry behemoth was undeterred. In 2022, Alterra filed a request for a new round of entitlements – for the exact same project. And Placer County released a Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report.

Public response was overwhelming: regulatory agencies, conservation non-profits, and thousands of citizens sent letters to Placer County to comment on the plan. Of the 2,629 letters submitted over a 60-day comment period, only 8 expressed support for Alterra’s project; 2,621 – more than 99% – expressed opposition.

2,629 comment letters, 99% expressing opposition

Pictured: 2,629 comment letters, 99% expressing opposition

Placer County is expected to release its Final Environmental Impact Report before the August meetings. That document is required by state planning law to assess the project’s wide-ranging impacts on the plan and address the mountain of comments submitted last year.

According to local residents – and state courts – the review process to date has failed to do the job required by law.

The increasing danger of catastrophic wildfire is case in point. 

Like most of Tahoe, Olympic Valley suffers from a combination of too many cars and not enough road capacity. Most weekends, that traffic is a nuisance. In the event of wildfire, it could be deadly. 

The County’s environmental assessment admits as much, projecting that it would take evacuees more than 11 hours to drive 3 miles from Palisades Tahoe to Highway 89; those stuck in the valley would be told to “shelter in place” in a parking lot or on a golf course until the flames subside. 

“That’s not planning for a disaster; that’s planning a disaster,” says Mooers of Sierra Watch. 

Increasing opposition to the project extends beyond concerns over wildfires. According to public documents, Alterra’s new development would take nearly every problem facing Tahoe and make it worse – from the availability of workforce housing in the region to the loss of clarity in Lake Tahoe.

Volunteers sign up to keep Tahoe Truckee True

Pictured: Volunteers sign up to keep Tahoe Truckee True

“The bad news is that Alterra is doubling down on its nightmare vision for the future of Tahoe,” says Mooers. “The good news is that day after day, year after year, we are proving that we work together to stand up for the Sierra and defend our mountain culture.” 

“And, when it comes to our commitment to keeping Tahoe Truckee True, we’re just getting started.”

More information about the proposed development can be found at Placer County’s project website: https://www.placer.ca.gov/8213/Village-at-Palisades-Tahoe-Specific-Plan. And to get involved in the movement to keep Tahoe Truckee True, visit https://www.sierrawatch.org/.

About Sierra Watch

Sierra Watch secures conservation outcomes to protect the natural resources, mountain communities, and timeless values of the Tahoe Sierra. Founded in 2001, the Nevada City based non-profit has built a remarkable track record in land preservation in the Tahoe Sierra, on Donner Summit, and for other treasured Sierra landscapes. For more information, visit www.sierrawatch.org.