It's not easy to identify a hero in the making. Joan of Arc was seen as a traitor in her time and Martin Luther King a nuisance. It's only after years of reflection that society is able to see these individual's actions in the proper light. Fortunately we have the opportunity to recognize a modern day hero in the making; Dr. Robb Gaffney. Robb is on the front lines of what many consider to be a battle for the soul of skiing. The battle between local land and real estate development, between a sustainable future and mega growth, between a local ski community and a large ski corporation.
To anyone in the skiing world, the name Gaffney is sure to ring a bell. Robb, his brother Scott and Shane McConkey are responsible for putting Squaw Valley on the map and for influencing modern day ski culture. They were hard core, they had fun and they created media that has shaped the sport. Scott played a huge part in the early days of Matchstick Productions, creating some of the greatest ski movies of all time. Robb went to medical school, became a psychiatrist and wrote one of the most influential books about skiing to date; Squallywood: A Guide to Squaw Valley's Most Exposed Lines.
Robb has always been an integral part of the small community that comprises Squaw Valley. With only 1000 inhabitants, many of whom are skiing legends themselves, Robb finds himself smack in the middle of everything Squaw. His office is across the road from the mountain and you can always see his smiling face in the KT line on a powder day. He has a calm demeanor and is humble to a T. These traits serve him well as both a psychiatrist and a skier. To witness Robb send a 40 foot air in the Palisades area of Squaw is to witness perfection. His skiing is smooth and calm, just like the man. Most importantly, Robb is one of the only pro skiers in the valley who's livelihood is not connected to skiing. He makes his money as a Psychiatrist and has no vested interest in the sport or the mountain outside of what is truly good for it. That is why when Robb Gaffney speaks, we should listen.
Two weeks ago a number of famous and influential Squaw Athletes put their name on a document that unanimously supports the expansion plan for Squaw. The letter titled "Our Turn: Squaw's true character, leadership - a positive impact on community" was signed by no less than two Olympic gold medalists and a cadre of professional skiers including; Jonny Moseley, Julia Mancuso, JT Holmes, Travis Ganong, Roy Tuscany, Galen Gifford, Matt Reardon, Nick Daniels, Foreste Peterson, Deborah Dutton, and Kendal Naughton. A formidable list of names that would be enough to keep most mortals at bay. Luckily for the residents of Squaw, Robb Gaffney is no mere mortal, he is a hero. In response to the letter he resigned as ambassador to Squaw Valley and issued the following statement on his Facebook page: GUT INSTINCT After much consideration, I have resigned my position as a skiing “ambassador” of Squaw Valley. I have represented Squaw for 20 years and have thoroughly enjoyed the mountain and the camaraderie of a community energized by a shared passion for skiing, snowboarding and the outdoors. As we all know, Squaw is going through significant changes and the driving forces behind these changes have shifted the local climate in a direction that is uncomfortable for me. With all change comes tension and I welcome tension when it brings us to new and better places. But I don’t trust that this tension, at least at this time, is headed in a positive direction. I am not opposed to change, I am not anti-development, and I recognize that Squaw needs drastic updating and improvement. However, I am not comfortable being linked to an organization and a process that fundamentally disturbs me at several levels. Now that doesn’t mean I disagree with everything that has gone on in the last 3 years. I have a lot of hope and belief that the greater process will work out in Olympic Valley’s favor. But for now, as a service to my sport and as a representative of all who love sliding on snow, I am releasing any binds that could prevent me from thinking, speaking, or acting independently.
Robb's gut feeling hints at something far deeper than the development of a single ski area. It hints at the deeper psyche within our culture where the interests of profit seeking corporations have outpaced the interests of life seeking human beings. Robb is not just fighting for the future of his small town. He is fighting for what makes us human. If he wins, it will signal a major shift in the landscape of the modern ski industry and the modern corporation. It will prove that it is still possible for David to beat Goliath, that it is still possible for the people of the world to determine the course of their own future. Robb has shown the world that it is possible to make a culture shift and now it is up to us to take action. You can help by supporting Robb and the communities effort to incorporate Squaw Valley (aka Olympic Valley) Click Here