"This is a resort that because of the Olympics was world-renowned," Wirth said. "It was one of the most desired places in all of North America to go on a mountain vacation.
"In the '70s, the '80s, the '90s, and frankly to a certain extent, the past 10 years, the mountain itself was not effectively managed," he said.
But many who live in nearby homes and cabins now topped with mounds of snow and tinseled with icicles are uneasy about a year-round resort. One big concern is safeguarding the rustic character of the community.
Quaint and isolated, Squaw Valley (which is officially called Olympic Valley) lies 11 miles south of Truckee, just off Highway 89. Bustling in the winter, sleepy over the summer, the place is home to fewer than 1,000 permanent residents, many of whom have known each other for dec- ades.
"It isn't going to be a community anymore. It's going to be Disneyland at the end of the valley," said Ed Heneveld, a physician who has lived in Squaw Valley since the 1970s.
"This developer is dictating our future," Heneveld said. "It should be the community through the (Placer County) general plan process and forums that makes the case of what we want here, and then they (KSL) accommodate that or not."
Residents fear the promise of more tax dollars for Placer County, which has its government seat in Auburn on the other side of the Sierra, will drown out their voices. Some are talking about the possibility of incorporation to gain more leverage.
"That's the only way this community will have a way to dictate its fate and not be at the mercy of KSL," said Rick Sylvester, a longtime valley resident.
Others welcome the change of pace a year-round resort would likely bring.
Support and concerns
"There will be something to do in the spring, summer and fall, which was sorely lacking for decades," said Fritz Hoffman, who has lived in the valley since 1974. "I'm all for it as long as they do it right and protect the environment."
An environmental impact report that would vet effects on water, wildlife and other natural resources will be prepared. Some feel possible economic fallout should be scrutinized, too.
"What if they build this and nobody comes?" said Heneveld. "We're left with the village. Their investors lose some money. They walk away. And I'm still here. My kids are here. My grandkids are here. And we've got this empty shell."
That concern is shaped by the failure of other ski-area-related developments in the region in recent years.
"Don't look at other failed projects. Look to the track record specific to KSL," Hosea said, ticking off a list of successful KSL resorts in Hawaii and California.
"The reason this company has not left vacant, blighted buildings is it is a very fiscally disciplined company," Hosea said.
The fate of the project is uncertain. After a series of meetings with valley residents, KSL has made some changes, including lowering the height of some buildings.
"We are a company that not only respects but aggressively seeks everybody's opinion," said Wirth. "We celebrate those opinions."