The famous Squaw Valley ski resort has been a haven for professional as well as novice skiers for more than 60 years. Squaw Valley made world headlines in 1960 when the resort hosted the Winter Olympic Games. Ever since then, Squaw Valley has attracted skiers from countries around the world. Squaw Valley slopes and trails are the best in the world thanks to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. And Squaw Valley’s location is world class too. The resort sits near Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is a glacier lake that has earned a reputation for being one of the most pristine lakes in the world.
Water shouldn’t be, and almost never is, a problem in the Lake Tahoe area. But the five-year drought changed that. For the last four years, Squaw Valley has felt the impact of light snowfall. The ski seasons have been shorter and warmer. But in 2015, things began to change. The snow came back, and ski resorts in the area had a great 2015/2016 season. The 2016/2017 forecast was encouraging as well. In fact, Squaw Valley started to record snowfall in September, but in October something unusual happened. The resort was inundated with rain. A lot of rain. And it flooded four of the wells that service the upper mountain area of the resort. The four wells that were flooded service two water systems in the Squaw Valley complex.
Resort officials did a routine water check after the water receded, and they discovered E, coli, and coliform bacteria in the drinking water in all four wells. Liesl Kenney, the Public Relation Director for the resort, issued a statement about the water contamination. Kenney told the Sierra Sun that the Gold Coast and High Camp sections of the resort were impacted by the flood waters. All the restaurants in those areas were immediately closed, and bottled water was given to all the guests. No contaminated water was available to the public and no one got sick.
Kenney also said the Placer County Environmental Health and the Squaw Valley Public Service District were contacted as well as other safety experts. The resort has taken the appropriate steps to eliminate the harmful bacteria. The guests staying at High Camp and Gold Coast have access to the other restaurants on the property, and daily skiing has not been interrupted.
Andy Wirth, the CEO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, said the safety of the guest is the resort’s highest priority. Recent tests have confirmed three of the four wells are free of the E. coli bacteria, and only low levels of the coliform bacteria remain. The decontamination process is ongoing, so the two water systems should be clean in the near future. But those systems will remain closed until they are completely safe, according to Kenney.
The water issue has not stopped skiers from enjoying the heavy snowfall this year. Squaw Valley is planning for another long season, and thanks to a letup in the drought that should happen.