Downstairs to host a free screening of ‘The Movie to Keep Squaw True’ |

Downstairs to host a free screening of ‘The Movie to Keep Squaw True’

“The Movie to Keep Squaw True” documents the Sierra Watch’s efforts to preserve Squaw Valley, located near Lake Tahoe, from developers. Sierra Watch will present a free screening of the film Thursday at Downstairs. Sierra Watch is an environmental nonprofit organization that sponsored the film.
Courtesy of Sierra Watch

“The Movie to Keep Squaw True” 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28 Downstairs, 625 Main St. Free and

Audiences of “The Movie to Keep Squaw True” will see how the almighty dollar can influence a county council’s decision to greenlight a development that could impact an established ski resort and its surrounding open space – though, further west than Treasure Mountain.

The Sierra Watch-produced film will also show how organizations like Sierra Watch carry out their efforts to protect those areas. And protecting open space is something Park City residents value, as has been seen with the campaign to preserve Bonanza Flat.

Park City viewers will get a chance to see the film during a free screening at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, at Downstairs, said Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers.

The nonprofit that aims to keep development of the Nevada Sierra to a minimum, has taken the film on tour to ski towns throughout the Mountain West, according to Mooers.

There are thousands of Davids that are rising up to challenge this Goliath…” Tom Mooers, Sierra Watch executive director

“The response has been enthusiastic, to say the least, from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to June Lake, California, and Park City is certainly on the list as an iconic ski town,” he said. “We know we have a story to tell that can resonate in other ski towns. We also like to check in with other ski towns to see what they’re experiencing, too.”

The story of “The Movie to Keep Squaw True” is a David and Goliath tale between multi-billion dollar private equity firm, Alterra Mountain Company, the owners of Deer Valley Resort and local residents and visitors of Squaw Valley, according to Mooers.

“But there isn’t just one David,” he said. “There are thousands of Davids that are rising up to challenge this Goliath.”

The battle started in 2010, when KSL Capital Partners bought the entirety of stakes in the Squaw Valley resort.

Shortly thereafter, the firm, which grew into Alterra, announced a multi-million dollar development plan that included high-rise condominiums, hotels and a water park. That didn’t sit well with local residents and environmentalists.

The film, directed by Tahoe locals Robb and Scott Gaffney, follows Sierra Watch’s grassroots movement Keep Squaw True as it tries to prevent the projects from going forward.

“I can’t say enough about Robb and Scott, because they are two true local heroes,” Mooers said. “Their ability to not just bring expertise and experiences as filmmakers, but more importantly their heart and soul as people who love Squaw Valley and live in Tahoe, was a unique recipe to come up with this incredible movie.”

Mooers praised the Gaffneys as being “gifted in filming and interviewing people that makes them open up.”

The filmmakers interview local residents and environmentalists including John Muir Laws. While Laws shares his name with one of the nation’s pioneering environmentalists, he is not related.

“They sat down with John, and his interviews are an important part of the movie, because he brings a depth of understanding of what the mountains mean to us,” Mooers said. “He reminds us there is some timeless values at stake, and he’s so effective in communicating what they are.”

The Placer County Council greenlighted the development in 2016 anyway, which was disappointing to Mooers.

“When you’re deeply engaged in something like this, it’s likely that you will have two competing and overwhelming feelings of what’s going on,” he said. “One is a feeling of disappointment and betrayal when elected officials make decisions that are clearly in the narrow interests of a few as opposed to broader community values.”

And while Mooers is frustrated, he also feels optimistic.

“If you are involved with a movement like Keep Squaw True, you will feel this sense of solidarity and shared purpose that gives you a feeling that, if enough people pull together, that you just can’t lose,” he said. “That’s one of the things we try to get across in the movie, and it’s something that we try to remember every day as we plug away at this stuff.”

Soon after the county’s approval, Sierra Watch filed an appeal with the Third District Court of California asking to overturn the decision.

“While appeals can take a while, we’re confident in our case and built for the long haul,” Mooers said. “So we’re going to stay at it.”

Part of Mooers’ confidence comes from Sierra Watch’s track record.

The nonprofit formed 20 years ago when it fought against and prevented the development of another Tahoe area, Martis Valley.

Sierra Watch was also successful in an effort to stop development of Donner Summit and Dyers Summit.

“Skiers can look at the land surrounding them and see what was slated for subdivisions and development, is now permanently protected,” Mooers said. “We’re not that far from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, so the pressures for development are there and won’t go away. (But) the important thing is we need to keep standing up for our mountains.”

A previous version of this story mistates the screening time of the movie. The doors open at 8 p.m., and the film beings at 8:30.