Olympic Valley, CA - Can it incorporate? // Ski Industry News

Olympic Valley, CA - Can it incorporate? : Lead Image

Not happy with the decisions that your local mountain is making? Well, you could always try to incorporate it’s base village as it’s own town. At least that’s what the people behind the non-profit “Incorporate Olympic Valley” aim to do.

Located 5 miles from the north shore of Lake Tahoe and home to world famous Squaw Valley ski resort (host of the 1960 Winter Olympics), Olympic Valley is made up of approximately 1,000 year round residents. Frustrated with a lack of input regarding land planning decisions and services provided in the valley they call home, they’ve decided to take a crack at officially incorporating their town, giving them the right to self-determination. That is, to have a greater voice over what level of development can occur at Squaw Valley. As it stands, the voice of the people who live in Olympic Valley has no say in the decision making process in their valley. Decisions are currently made at the county level, some 70 miles away in the foothills.

In reading through the organization’s website and promotional materials, it becomes clear that this organization isn’t composed of burnt out ski-bums trying to hit “pause” in the year 1950. Rather, they’re both comfortable and encouraged by the realities of change. In their literature, they address issues such as development, financial viability, and increased services. They acknowledge that “businesses and land-holders are entitled to profit and that development can co-exist in a long-term sustainable matter.” They’ve also done enough research to ensure that the town would have sufficient revenue to operate, and low enough expenses to not have to request a vote to raise taxes.

Still, one must remain at least a little skeptical as this move is not without precedent. After seeing their town head down a path of development during 1960’s and 70’s the people of Mammoth Lake, California made the move to incorporate their town in 1984. The town continued to thrive until 2008 when it lost a judgment in court for a breach in a development agreement. Facing a $43 million bill as a result, Mammoth Lakes was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2012, less than 30 years after incorporating. For the opposition of Incorporate Olympic Valley, known as Save Olympic Valley, the example of Mammoth Lakes has been their most prominent concern.


The example of Mammoth Lakes doesn’t seem to concern those behind Incorporate Olympic Valley though. Rather than trying to hush their opponents, IOV has addressed the issue head on, pointing out that the reason for Mammoth Lakes’ failure was human error- they breached a contract. With more thorough planning and a better team of legal advisors, Mammoth Lakes likely never would have found themselves buried by a $43 million lawsuit, and ultimately bankruptcy. To drive the point home, they even invited John Wentworth, a Mammoth Lakes town councilman, to one of their meetings in November 2014 to discuss what had happened in his town, and ways to prevent the same thing from happening to Olympic Valley.

As it stands now, Incorporate Olympic Valley is about midway through the incorporation process. They’ve clearly done their initial research, raised sufficient money, and were recently granted Non-Profit status by the IRS. Also happening at the moment, is a comprehensive fiscal analysis being completed by a third party accounting firm called RSG, a group that works to build and develop communities in California. To find out more about the Incorporate Olympic Valley movement, you can visit their website right here: http://www.incorporateolympicvalley.org.

Additional Sources:

Unofficial Alpine:
Fisher, Mark. "MAMMOTH LAKES TOWN COUNCILMAN WILL SPEAK AT IOV MEETING TUESDAY" Unofficial Alpine. Unofficial Alpine, 03 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.

Incorporate Olympic Valley:
"Myths and Truths" Incorporate Olympic Valley. Incorporate Olympic Valley. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.

Pacific Rim Alliance:
"History of Mammoth Mountain, California" Pacific Rim Alliance. Pacific Rim Snow Sports Alliance. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.


Written by Matt McGinnis on 1/15/15