The long talked-about gondola linking Squaw Valley ski resort to Alpine Meadows is on the horizon.
The proposal to connect the two Lake Tahoe ski resorts with a 2.2-mile-long gondola was approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors on July 30. The approval was likely the final crucial step toward linking Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The project with two base terminals and two mid-stations received preliminary approval from the Forest Service in April, but still must receive a final approval.
The gondola is scheduled to be eight-passenger cars that would transport up to 1,400 people an hour on a 16-minute trip between the bases of the co-owned, neighboring Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows northwest of Tahoe City, Calif. There will be 33 lift towers.
According to Ron Cohen, president of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, the route of the gondola that was selected was among four options and is the most environmentally friendly because it is the farthest away from a wilderness boundary in the Tahoe National Forest. He said it will allow skiers and snowboarders to snowboard a combined 6,000 acres of terrain without having to drive between the two resorts.
“After successfully obtaining preliminary approval from the Tahoe National Forest earlier this year, the unanimous approval by the Placer County Board of Supervisors represents one of the last crucial steps towards connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows,” Cohen said. “This base-to-base gondola connection will tremendously enhance the skier experience, uniting our 6,000 acres of terrain without the need for a car.”
According to Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Liesl Hepburn, there is no estimate yet of construction costs or tentative date. Squaw Alpine says the gondola is primarily aimed at improving the skier experience, not at increasing visitation. Skier visitation is expected to increase by 70 additional skiers per day in an average season or 211 additional cars on a peak day.
About 20 percent of the project would be located on national forest land. Local conservationists had opposed earlier alternatives that potentially could have passed through the nearby Granite Chief Wilderness.
Although 7,000 skiers and riders signed a petition in favor of the project, there was still criticism, a local environmental group has opposed the project. Sierra Watch officials were against further development of Squaw Valley, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. The group said they will wait to see if the Forest Service proposes any additional modifications before considering any action.
“Sierra Watch will work with our conservation allies to figure out the next steps in our long-term commitment to defend our irreplaceable mountain resources,” the group wrote on Facebook.
During a public hearing last spring, Alpine Meadows residents expressed concern with the installation of eight avalanche exploders near the gondola. In the final report, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows decided to remove the exploders from the project.