The Gondola that will connect Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resort has received final approval following an agreement to dismiss an environmental lawsuit.
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows announced today it had reached a settlement with Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League’s lawsuit. The agreement details protection measures for Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog habitat and for the nearby Granite Chief Wilderness Area.
The project has also received final approval from the Tahoe National Forest, which concludes the approval process. The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved the project unanimously in July 2019.
“We are very happy to have worked collaboratively with the League to address their concerns so that resources could be directed to environmentally beneficial purposes, rather than funding an extended lawsuit,” said Ron Cohen, president and chief operating officer of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “We are eager to get going on this game-changing transportation project. We thank the League for its productive approach to resolving the dispute.”
When will Gondola installation begin? Squaw Alpine officials say there is currently no estimate regarding when Gondola construction will begin. Once building is underway, officials say the Gondola would take one summer to complete. Squaw Alpine says it’s unlikely the Gondola will be ready for next ski season.
Despite the two resorts coming under the same ownership group in 2011, skiers and riders have still been forced to make a tough decision: ski and ride the steeps, glades and groomers of Squaw Valley, or choose the powder-filled bowls and take in the gorgeous lake views of Alpine Meadows.
The new Gondola unites 6,000 acres of terrain, giving skiers and riders the ability to explore the wide range of terrain that both mountains offer without having to choose one over the other.
“Squaw and Alpine are two very different resorts, but one thing they share in common is their guests’ amazing passion for skiing and riding,” Cohen said. “We look forward to preserving the two unique cultures, while at the same time offering our guests the ability to experience both without having to get in a car or shuttle.”
About the Gondola: The Base-to-Base Gondola will feature 8-passenger cabins, two base terminals and two mid-stations, 33 lift towers, and will be able to transport 1,400 people per hour. The lift is expected to take 2.5 months to construct and will be 2.2 miles long.
Expected ride time between the bottom of Squaw Valley and the bottom of Alpine Meadows will be 16 minutes.
Environmental protections: The agreement conserves potential habitat for the Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog and provides funding for its monitoring, research, and potential re-establishment.
The agreement also provides funding for the conservation of lands within the Congressionally mapped boundaries of the Granite Chief Wilderness Area and places operational limits on the gondola operations to mitigate impacts to the Wilderness Area.
“As a high value Sierra wilderness area, the Granite Chief Wilderness needs ever more safeguards to ensure we leave such wild treasures for future generations,” stated Daniel Heagerty, director of the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League. “Squaw Alpine has made significant and greatly appreciated commitments to minimize wilderness impacts and invest in important endangered species conservation efforts. We are very pleased with the agreement we reached with Squaw Alpine.”
The agreement includes:
- The League agreed to dismiss its lawsuit against the Squaw Alpine Base-to-Base Gondola.
- Squaw Alpine agreed to conserve approximately 27 acres of the resort’s private property. These lands, which include pristine wetlands and deep natural ponds, have the potential to serve as habitat for the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog.
- Squaw Alpine agreed to provide funding for the study and potential restoration of the Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog, which was once one of the most abundant amphibian species in California, but has since neared extinction in the state due to habitat loss, fish introduction, climate change and disease.
- Squaw Alpine agreed to provide separate funding, to be held in trust by the Truckee Donner Land Trust, for the acquisition of private holdings within the Granite Chief Wilderness Area and high resource value lands and/or conservation easements. Land eligible for purchase with the funds include the area within and adjacent to the Granite Chief Wilderness.
- Squaw Alpine also agreed to operational limits for the gondola designed to mitigate potential noise, visual, and other impacts to the nearby Granite Chief Wilderness. This includes signage and strict enforcement of the ski area boundary at the KT-22 mid-station, and an annual gondola closing date of no later than April 30. The gondola will operate during the winter season only, when both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are in operation, or will stop operations by April 30th.