One of the best things about living in a mountain town is all the events related to the outdoors. Thursday March 10th there was an event we’d been waiting for. At the Beach Retreat and Lodge in South Lake Tahoe, the League to Save Lake Tahoe was hosting an outdoor film to raise money, awareness and community involvement. The showing was Patagonia’s Jumbo Wild. It had quite a buzz, but all we really knew was there was a group trying to build another ski resort in interior British Columbia. Being such a controversial project we had to find out more.
All of South Lake Tahoe showed up for the event
Stepping into the Lakeview Conference Center, we walked up the stairs towards the hall where the event was being held. Picturesque photos hanging on the walls highlighting the landscape and beauty found around the lake created a positive vibe. Making the final turn we could see that the center was packed with people passionate about the environment and wanting to know more about this situation. We grabbed a quick brew and lights began to flash, signaling the show was about to start.
Darcie Goodman Collins, from the League to Save Lake Tahoe, kicked off the show and introduced each of the sponsors for the film. Peter & Nancy from the Lake of the Sky Outfitters introduced their business and mentioned they carry gear for any outdoor adventure. Then, our friend, David Reichel from Lake Tahoe Community College talked about what the college has to offer regarding their Wilderness Education Program. Lastly Austyn and Justeen, founders of the Summit Hunnies a local group inspiring women to get outdoors, invited like-minded women in the area to join their group.
The lights dimmed and the film starts with a woman saying a prayer. Images of huge mountains flash across the screen. A sense of spiritualism floats through the crowd and a concept develops. In a few short moments, the realization that Jumbo Mountain and Glacier is a holy place for native Canadians and others from around the world begins to set in. Nick Wagoner, of Sweetgrass Productions, sets the stage by expanding on all the wrinkles of this very sensitive story.
Oberto Oberti – An Outdated Dreamer
The movie begins with highlighting the Italian-born Vancouver architect, Oberto Oberti. He’s an immigrant from Europe who is the epitome of a man that is attempting to follow his dream, at all costs. This dream just happens to be building a ski resort in the snowiest place of North America. Not just any resort, but one similar to the size of those found in Europe. He sees this as a personal conquest, his masterpiece. Oberti goes as far to describe it as his personal cathedral, his spiritual place. In Europe, cathedrals were built in a way to make you marvel at the architecture. This is his vision for the resort. The issue is, others in the area have a different view on spirituality. In fact there is intense opposition from the local community.
94% of British Columbia is public land
Before even talking about opposition of the ski resort one must understand that 94% of British Columbia’s land is public. This means by getting the correct approval, anyone could do what they want with it. For the last hundred or so years the land has been leased to logging, mining and fossil fuel ventures, but now the idea has shifted and it’s believed that tourism is the new way to make money in this area. This is why Jumbo Mountain is being considered. It boasts perfect snow, terrain and geography for a world class resort. Regardless of these facts, 90% of the citizens in the valley don’t want this to happen.
Why don’t the citizens want the ski resort to be built on Jumbo Mountain
There are numerous reasons why the citizens don’t want this ski resort to be opened.
Native Canadians consider it spiritual
The native Canadians have been in this part of Canada for over four hundred generations. The mining, logging and fossil fuel refinement that has scarred most of the wild lands in British Columbia has taken place in the last seven generations! This is one of the few places left in Canada that is still virgin and pure.
Another Ski Resort will not help the local economy
Since the 90’s, skiing isn’t where the money’s at in resort towns. The truth is, the real value is tied to the real estate. Also, there are already nineteen ski resorts within a 5 hour drive. Economic models show a twentieth ski resort in the area will not promote long term job growth.
Locals are about preservation
The local citizens understand and are aware of the natural beauty and resources that make up their surroundings. This means they realize and appreciate how lucky they are to have a piece of pure untouched wilderness. Many have been raised with the thought of protecting this place and leaving it how they found it for the generations to come. These principals are seen in their daily lives as they hunt only what they need and replenish every chance they get.
Grizzly Bear Habitat
The grizzly bear is the canary in the coal mine. This area is home to one of the largest habitats and populations left on the planet. When the grizzly bear is healthy, the habitat is healthy. Roads and human structures naturally splinter their habitats. If this project continues to move forward, it could break up the natural balance in this ecosystem which will have devastating effects that could be irreversible.
We can’t be Lorax and mow down the last tree
Walking away from the film the thing that shocks me the most is that the builders of this new resort are unwilling to work with or take into account the local citizen’s opinions. Some of the quotes by Senior Vice President and Oberti’s partner in the project were mind blowing. It’s evident he sees this more as a challenge to defeat these people instead of trying to co-exist with them. Some words at the end of the film really put things into perspective. That statement was, “We can’t be the Lorax and mow down the last tree. We need to think about those that are still to come…” It really gave you something to think about.
The film was over, but Shannon Eckmeyer from the League to Save Lake Tahoe stepped up next. She said even though the film was based in Canada there are many takeaways we can relate to our area. First, Squaw Valley is proposing to nearly double their size and infrastructure. Second, plans are to add 800 more units in the Martis West region. Both of the locations that they want to build are pristine forest that does not even have a single road. The issue with both of these projects is that the number one polluter into the lake is road sediment. Increased development equals increased population, which in turn means increased pollution. That’s why the focus really needs to be on improving public transportation and reducing or even stopping the expansion. This will be critical to slowing down pollution of the lake. In the end, it is up to us as stewards of the planet to really make sustainable changes necessary to preserve our natural resources.