This week Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows announced plans for a base-to-base interconnect gondola. Such a project has been likely ever since Squaw and Alpine merged in 2011. The gondola’s alignment will include two angle stations with skier unloading – one below the summit of KT-22 at Squaw and the other on the ridge above the Alpine Meadows base area. The two end sections will be within their respective ski areas and able to run independently of the middle stage.
It took Squaw four years to come up with this plan in part because the gondola will cross land owned by three different entities. The Squaw section will be mostly on private land owned by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. Just before the first angle station, the alignment will cross into land known as White Wolf owned by Troy Caldwell. You may remember Troy began building a private lift on his property a few years ago. So far only the towers have been completed. One thing that many people don’t realize is that the top terminals of the KT-22 and Olympic Lady lifts are already on his property. We will never know how much Squaw Valley Ski Holdings pays Troy Caldwell to lease this land but I am sure it is a lot. The second midstation and all of the Alpine Meadows section will be in the Tahoe National Forest.
This would be the first gondola in North America with the ability to run three sections independently. Breckenridge’s BreckConnect has two angle stations but only one drive and haul rope. Examples of gondolas with two independent sections are the Whistler Village Gondola and Revelstoke’s Revelation Gondola although these resorts rarely run sections independently. Killington sometimes runs just the upper stage of its Skyeship Gondola.
As proposed, the base-to-base gondola will be about two miles long and take 13.5 minutes to ride. Capacity will be a relatively low 1,400 skiers per hour in each direction with 8-passenger cabins. Squaw’s CEO, Andy Wirth, noted they are in talks with both Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma. Squaw has never had much brand loyalty – They built a Doppelmayr six pack in 2007 and an L-P one in 2012. Before any contract is signed Squaw needs approval from the Forest Service and county which could take a few years. In the meantime they could really use a good snow year or two!