Agreement Paves the Way for Squaw-Alpine Gondola Construction

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows today announced a comprehensive agreement with the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League regarding the proposed California Express gondola.  The environmental advocacy group will drop its lawsuit contesting approval of the project in exchange for new conservation efforts by the ski resort.  The Forest Service issued its Final Record of Decision approving the gondola on January 31st.  With these developments, all major hurdles have been overcome.


“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.”

The current Squaw-Alpine connection is a long and tedious shuttle ride. The bus stops are nice though!

Squaw Alpine will set aside approximately 27 acres of private property for conservation.  These lands, which include pristine wetlands and natural ponds, have the potential to serve as habitat for the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog.  Additionally, the resort agreed to provide funding to study recovery of this endangered species.  Squaw will also grant money for the Truckee Donner Land Trust to acquire parcels elsewhere in the vicinity of the Granite Chief Wilderness.

The base station at Alpine Meadows will include parking for most of the cabins.

Squaw Alpine also agreed to operational limits for the gondola designed to mitigate potential impacts to the nearby wilderness.  These include strict enforcement of the ski area boundary at the KT-22 mid-station and an annual closing date of no later than April 30th.  The gondola will run during the winter season only when both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are in operation.

The lift will be impressive with two base terminals, two mid-stations, two drive systems and two parking facilities.  33 towers will be built along three segments spanning a total of 2.2 miles.  A ride along the entire alignment will last 16 minutes.  Hourly capacity will be 1,400 guests per hour and direction with eight passenger cabins.  No manufacturer was announced but renderings show Leitner-Poma terminals and Sigma cabins.  The gondola will likely use similar design principles to the recently-constructed Treeline Cirque, which features an angle station and two haul ropes but only one drive system and a double-grooved bullwheel.

The approved Red Dog replacement project may be completed before or at the same time as the base-to-base gondola.

Squaw Alpine has not publicly confirmed a construction timeline but notes the lift could be completed in one summer.  The approved alignment requires moving Red Dog‘s base terminal.  That lift is planned to become a Leitner-Poma six place chairlift, which could make for a very busy construction season.  Alterra Mountain Company, owner of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, typically confirms big ticket capital projects the first week of March.

When complete, the California Express will unite 6,000 acres of terrain at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. “Squaw and Alpine are two very different resorts, but one thing they share in common is their guests’ amazing passion for skiing and riding,” said COO Cohen.  “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.”

12 thoughts on “Agreement Paves the Way for Squaw-Alpine Gondola Construction

  1. Paul Hothersall February 5, 2020 / 5:02 pm

    Going to be pretty awesome. Pity to an extent that summer sightseeing is specifically banned, as honestly a gondola is pretty damm close to zero trace / carbon, along with being disabled accessible as well. i think the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League are mising a trick to have a (potentially summer only) viewing platform at one of the mid stations, maybe some nature walks on the KT side with even a summer revenue sahre for environmental funds as an ongoing $ stream.

    I expect the towers will be be flown in by Siller Helicopter in nearby Yuba city, using skycranes.


    • Eric G February 6, 2020 / 3:53 pm

      OMG! That is potentially an incredible idea you shared and could’ve been a nice revenue stream for environmental projects by having a couple of dollars for each summer rider donated. It’s incredible how much wildlife seems to ignore the presence of machinery. I think it’s the consistency of how the machinery operates, where the presence of a human exploring is inconsistent and thus scary.


    • skitheeast March 8, 2021 / 11:50 am

      I completely agree that the environmental groups are being absolutely ridiculous about the environmental implications and failing to see how this can get more people out into nature. However, in the Lake Tahoe area, the Heavenly Gondola fire of 2002 still remains fresh in everyone’s mind. There, someone threw a cigarette butt out of a gondola cabin during summer operations and it started a 670-acre fire.


  2. Teddy's Lift World February 5, 2020 / 5:55 pm

    I wonder how they will do with evacuation since just like Slide Brook, this lift will cross a large area of state-owned forest. Not exactly easy to get in there.


    • Collin Parsons February 5, 2020 / 8:44 pm

      I think it means 8 person cabins. 1400 pph is low, but this won’t be a lift that people lap except on the Squaw side as an alternative to KT-22.


  3. julestheshiba February 6, 2020 / 9:15 pm

    oh I see I misread it, still I feel like 1400pph is too low, seems like 2400 would work better. I guess they can just add cabins if need be.


    • Brendan February 7, 2020 / 3:45 pm

      I did notice it says 1400 per hour and direction so wouldn’t that make capacity of the total system 2800 per hour since it will theoretically be utilized the same amount in each direction?


      • Jamie February 9, 2020 / 4:08 am

        Yes, however capacity is usually measured per direction


    • Jamie February 9, 2020 / 4:04 am

      You can’t just add cabins if the lift isn’t designed for it. Lifts are designed with specific weight calculations, spans between towers, cable diameter, etc. And there won’t be enough space on the parking rails.


      • nvskier March 8, 2021 / 12:12 pm

        It would be incredibly short sighted of them to not build the lift to be capable of a future capacity upgrade. Their goal is to compete with mega-resorts like Whistler on a world class level so they have to anticipate increased ridership. I would imagine the maximum future demand would be similar to Peak 2 Peak at Whistler which is listed at 2,050pph so a 2,400pph gondola should be more than adequate.


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