B2B Gondola to Unite Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will become one this summer with construction of an interconnect gondola to coincide with the renaming of the resort. The innovative three section gondola will follow in the footsteps of other great interconnect lifts: the Quicksilver Gondola unifying Park City and The Canyons, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb and the Slide Brook Express connecting Mt. Ellen to Sugarbush. Leitner-Poma of America will build the 2.2 mile B2B (base to base) gondola, comprising of four stations, more than 30 towers and two drive systems.

The current Red Dog triple will be shortened to make way for the Olympic Valley station. Cabins departing this terminal will cross over the Exhibition and KT-22 lifts before arriving at the first angle station on Olympic Ridge. This section of the lift could operate independently without the other two segments in operation. At most times, cabins will continue to a middle segment. A second angle station will then redirect cabins toward Alpine Meadows without offering unloading for the general public. Alpine Meadows’ base station will sit near the new Treeline Cirque detachable quad, offering guests easy access to all of Alpine’s base area lifts. The system will transport 1,400 passengers per hour in each direction with a ride time of 16 minutes.

The $60 million project is part of Alterra’s $207 million capital plan announced today for 2021-22. The commitment includes $111 million in significant resort projects, $31 million for enterprise technology systems and $65 million worth of resort maintenance. “This past season has proven that our guests are loyal, passionate and looking forward to the many seasons ahead, and we plan to provide them with a premier guest experience as we focus on the long-term future of our mountain destinations,” said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra. “Alterra Mountain Company has exceeded our initial five-year goal to invest over half a billion dollars into our destinations, in just four years. We continue to be committed to infusing meaningful capital into on-mountain enhancements, base area development, and advanced technology that will elevate the mountain experience for all who visit.” In addition to the B2B Gondola, the company announced a transformation of Steamboat’s Gondola Square, which will include moving the Steamboat Gondola base terminal. The first section of the proposed Wild Blue Gondola is planned for installation next year, subject to Forest Service approval.

52 thoughts on “B2B Gondola to Unite Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

  1. Utah Powder Skier April 12, 2021 / 10:02 am

    They may be unified on paper, but Park City and Canyons ski like two separate ski areas. I see no reason for that to be different here.

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    • JEREMY HOWARD April 12, 2021 / 10:22 am

      As much as I like to see shiny new lifts installed, I wholeheartedly agree. Think of how much could have been done to improve the skier experience across the roster of Ikon resorts for 60 million dollars. Connecting these two resorts on paper seems like a neat idea, but the ultimate execution (not their fault…I understand the limitations and restrictions) leaves a lot to be desired.

      Liked by 3 people

      • skitheeast April 12, 2021 / 11:37 am

        The $60 million is for more than just the lift itself. That covers the gondola, Red Dog terminal relocation, and overall resort rebranding to the new name (which is scheduled to be announced at the end of the Squaw Alpine season). Add on that they had to pick a more expensive alignment to get environmental approval, they are paying to study the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog, and they are donating money to the Truckee Donner Land Trust.

        Regardless, this is absolutely an expensive lift. Two stages, one mid-station, one angle-station, and a tight construction window will do that. However, this really should help transform the resort and hopefully kickstart the Squaw Village expansion.

        If you want to get mad at Alterra for overspending, I think Steamboat is a better example. They are spending more than double what they are at Squaw ($135 million), and a decent chunk of that will go towards moving and rebuilding stuff they just built in the past two years. Personally, I think getting mad at Alterra for overspending is kind of ridiculous, as they have done a decent job of spreading the wealth and completed significant projects at several resorts. If they were to turn around and cry poor in the next couple of years, then that would obviously change my opinion. However, in the meantime, if they want to keep dropping hundreds of millions of dollars across their portfolio every year, I will happily accept that.

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        • Myles Svec April 12, 2021 / 11:47 am

          They spend a lot at Steamboat because it’s becoming busier and busier every year and it’s a big money maker for Alterra so of course they want to spend a lot of money there.

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        • Alex April 12, 2021 / 12:33 pm

          Not confirmed but I imagine that the $60M also includes the big fill project they are doing at Alpine in front of the lodge to level out the space between Treeline, Gondola, and the Lodge deck as well as KT saddle snowmaking.

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        • JEREMY HOWARD April 12, 2021 / 4:13 pm

          My criticism of Alterra is specific to this project. I have experienced first-hand just about all (if not all) of the improvements Alterra has made to their resorts out West, and applaud pretty much everything they have done. Thank goodness they have a plan in place to help alleviate the overcrowding at Steamboat (even if the price tag is a shocker). Ideally, this plan should include an additional base area, but assume it is too late due to the area’s preexisting development and layout (not Alterra’s fault).

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  2. Myles Svec April 12, 2021 / 10:04 am

    Exciting news for Squaw Alpine and Steamboat! In addition to the improvements at Steamboat does anyone know if they are they still cutting the trails on Pioneer this summer?

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      • Myles Svec April 12, 2021 / 10:14 am

        According to an inside source Pioneer will be the last lift built on the master plan. I would say about 10 years out.

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  3. awconrad April 12, 2021 / 10:50 am

    How could you leave out the Lutsen Gondola when talking about great interconnect lifts? (sarcasm, for those who are unsure)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Kevin Ratcliffe April 12, 2021 / 10:59 am

    I am amazed that they are hoping to get this project done in one construction season Leitner/Poma barely got the Winter Parc gondola which was a much easier project then this one Hope for there sake that there won’t be to many forest fires so that the Sky Cranes will be available
    I also agree that $60 million could be better spent on a 10 x $6 million projects?

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    • Utah Powder Skier April 12, 2021 / 11:04 am

      60 million should be enough to build one detachable at 3/4 of the mountains Alterra owns.

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      • Kirk April 12, 2021 / 1:23 pm

        Hmm, $60m will get you ~6 detachables so not sure how that covers 3/4 of Alterra resorts.

        What they should have done is give Squaw 4 high speeds instead of Gondola, now that would have been an upgrade!

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        • Utah Powder Skier April 12, 2021 / 1:35 pm

          60 million will get you 10 short detachable quads.

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    • julestheshiba April 12, 2021 / 3:18 pm

      you forget that this is California and we have absurdly restrictive regulations and environmental protection.

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      • Kirk April 12, 2021 / 9:08 pm

        Yeah no way you can build a quad for $6m these days. Looking at recent price history even for short quads you are at $8m a couple of years ago.

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  5. Bob Conley April 12, 2021 / 11:41 am

    Once again, ticket prices will rise, confirming that skiing is getting to pricey for the average family. Sad.

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  6. skitheeast April 12, 2021 / 11:56 am

    I am not a fan of the press release, as this is framed as their yearly announcement, yet many of the projects are for future summers. Snow Park is 2022, Main Lodge is 2023, and the majority of Steamboat is 2022 and 2023. In 2020 (last year), they announced that Timber would be a new lift constructed at Tremblant this year (2021) and that is not happening. Although COVID obviously played a role, it just goes to show how future commitments can really fluctuate.

    The announcement shows Alterra’s commitment to the experience outside of skiing itself. The press release only discussed Snow Park Lodge, but the Park Record and other publications have covered how Deer Valley is making it a full village in the upcoming years. Main Lodge at Mammoth is also set to become a village, with Alterra detailing that retail, dining, and lodging are set to be constructed. Steamboat’s Gondola Square is of course already a nice area, but Alterra is expanding it. Even at Squaw, while there is nothing in the release about the village expansion, it has long been thought that the gondola would jumpstart the Squaw Village expansion because it would allow for more people to park at Alpine Meadows when parking at Squaw is reduced.

    The Squaw/Alpine gondola is of course fantastic news, although it is has been known for some time. From what I heard, the reason for the announcement now is because they need to close KT-22 and Red Dog earlier than usual to begin work, so they were not able to hold out until the name change, which should occur after the resort’s closure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Myles Svec April 12, 2021 / 12:08 pm

      They are doing gondola square, moving gondola bottom terminal, and cutting new runs on pioneer this summer but Wild Blue won’t begin construction until next year. I am guessing second stage of Wild Blue will be built the year after because they need to upgrade Sundown if they build the second stage otherwise there will be too many skiers on Sundown. Also they will probably announce new learning center for Steamboat next year with first stage of Wild blue because the moving of the gondola terminal this center will get rid of the magic carpets and Wild Blue will require Preview to be removed.

      Like

    • Kirk April 12, 2021 / 1:26 pm

      I mean, KT and Red Dog have maybe 2-3 weeks of snow left, it’s melting quick and getting thin so not sure how much earlier they’ll have to shut them down if they’d be closing before end of the month anyways.

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      • skitheeast April 12, 2021 / 2:34 pm

        Apparently, if everything goes according to schedule, the project is supposed to take seven months. If they start April 15, that would mean they would be good to go by November 15. Waiting 2-3 weeks would be around May 1, which would mean a December 1 opening. Given that Squaw/Alpine typically opens around November 15 and that the likelihood they run slightly over schedule due to some sort of delay (whether it be COVID related or just normal construction delays) is decently high, I am guessing they want to start ASAP so the lift can be running ASAP next winter, as it will be their new signature lift.

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  7. nvskier April 12, 2021 / 12:03 pm

    Skiing has never been cheap. The idea that it will become too expensive for the average family isn’t new. There were people decades ago who claimed the $10 lift ticket would price the average person out of skiing. And then the $50 lift ticket. And then the $100 lift ticket and so on and so on. The reality is that the whole business model has changed drastically. Back when lift tickets were under $50, a season pass to just a single mountain could cost well over $1,000. Now, it’s actually cheaper than ever if you can manage to ski even 5 days a year. You can buy season passes now for under $500 that give you access to dozens of mountains when a single day ticket can reach $200. It’s a different system than it used to be, but to say that it’s now officially become too expensive for an average family to ski is a bad take.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. tom catlist April 12, 2021 / 12:34 pm

    so the only lift that Alterra is actually building this summer is the squalpine lift?

    Like

  9. Myles Svec April 12, 2021 / 1:14 pm

    Whenever I see a Squaw Valley master plan there is always a lift called KT South which I don’t think exists. Is there a story behind this?

    Like

    • Kirk April 12, 2021 / 1:33 pm

      it does exist. Built by Troy Caldwell who owns White Wolf, the 400 acres between Squaw and Alpine which he got from Union Pacific because of a snafu of a Squaw employee who, when Union Pacific called to ask if Squaw wanted to buy the property, said No thank you.
      So Caldwell bought it back in the 80s (?) for something like $400,000.
      He owns the top 75 acres of KT and leases them to Squaw for what I’m sure is a good chunk of money.
      Squaw founder Cushing and Caldwell did not get along. When Andy Wirth came in 2010 the relationship improved and they figured out how the gondola could run over his property and how squaw could help him realize his dream of running a private white wolf ski resort.
      so squaw got permission to run gondola over his property.
      no exiting at the mid station though. but there is agreement that if Caldwell ever opens own resort than his guests would be allowed to exit at mid station to ski White Wolf terrain.
      Back to the KT south lift. he built that put all the towers in. but then homeowners downslope sued because of avalanche risk and he gave up. No cable was put up but the lift is there. the top terminal is 50 yards from KT22 top terminal.
      google white wolf or troy caldwell and you’ll get a bunch of articles explaining in more detail what I summarized.

      Like

    • M April 12, 2021 / 1:33 pm

      It does exist. I’m pretty sure it was the lift on the White wolf property.

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      • skitheeast April 12, 2021 / 4:00 pm

        I would take the website with a grain of salt, as it has not been updated in four years.

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  10. Doug April 12, 2021 / 2:46 pm

    Was hoping Mammoth would replace 1 and 16 as they were planning to do last summer pre-Covid. 1 runs from Mid- Nov. through May in below average to average years and through July as recently as a couple of years ago. It constantly has “mechanicals”. Bummed it isn’t being replaced…

    Like

  11. Muni April 12, 2021 / 4:51 pm

    Since Peter mentioned all of them … lol …

    Slide Brook Express: Boondoggle? It’s no secret Sugarbush is not a fan of running this lift unless there’s excellent snow cover underneath, it’s a weekend, the moon is in the 7th house, and Jupiter is aligned with Mars …

    Quicksilver Gondola: This seems like an unqualified win, no? Even if a good number of skiers don’t make use of it (and I get the sense that a decent fraction of visitors do), it’s incredible branding to be the largest single lift ticket in Utah.

    Peak2Peak: Would be very interested to know some stats around how this affected Whistler/Blackcomb. It seems like it was an incredibly expensive build. But about as iconic as a lift can get, and there are worse ways to spend money for the Olympics (looking at you, Sochi).

    Like

    • skitheeast April 12, 2021 / 6:00 pm

      Even though those are all other interconnecting lifts, there is a key difference with this one in that all existing interconnect lifts go from one point on the mountain to another point on the mountain, whereas this lift will be base to base. This will allow Squaw and Alpine to remain more independent from one another, as the lift effectively just replaces a shuttle service.

      Like

  12. Somebody April 12, 2021 / 7:26 pm

    You know, I supported this from the start. But $60m? That could buy so much more than this one gondola. Here’s what they alternatively could have used that $60m for.

    $10m: Stratton Tamarack and Kidderbrook HSQs

    $20m: Squaw Granite+Red Dog+Squaw Creek HSQs, shuffle the triples around to replace Alpine Bowl at Alpine and build Beaver Bowl lift

    $5m: Sugarbush Heaven’s Gate HSQ

    $5m: Solitude Sunrise HSQ

    $5m: replace either Sugarbush’s North Ridge or Crystal’s Rainier express, use the parts to save the other

    $10m: Tremblant Duncan bubble six pack

    $5m: Use the table scraps left over to fix June’s lift system, and maybe along the way add an expansion lift at another resort?

    Like

    • skitheeast April 12, 2021 / 8:27 pm

      Unfortunately, those are generous prices for detachable quads these days. The going rate seems to be about $7 million. $10 million is about right for a six-pack. I should point out that it is not as though Alterra has $60 million to spend and chose to throw it all at Squaw/Alpine. Investments are made with ROI considerations, which can be considerably more for a project like the B2B Gondola due to the potential real estate and marketing benefits. As shown by their repeated mentioning of village experiences in the press release, real estate is likely a growing interest for the company.

      However, it is fun to play armchair quarterback with $60 million and 14 resorts. I would spend $7 million for Tamarack detachable quad at Stratton, $10 million for Duncan detachable six at Tremblant, $10 million for Red Dog detachable six at Squaw, $10 million for Broadway detachable six at Mammoth, $7 million for Sunrise detachable quad at Solitude, $7 million for Mayflower detachable quad at Deer Valley, and $10 million for Rex detachable six at Crystal. That’s $61 million total, but I will just assume I get a $1 million discount for so many lifts.

      Like

        • Kirk April 12, 2021 / 9:17 pm

          Siberia replacement at Squaw in 2015 was $7m. Red dog is longer and a more challenging build with longer towers and tree removal needed. So unless prices have come down no way a Red Dog sixpack would cost less than $8-9m.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. SLUSHIE April 12, 2021 / 8:28 pm

    The ability to operate just the KT-22 section is interesting, but I also don’t see the reason. I think its just a side effect of the route that this really even is a station where they will allow people to get on and off. I guess they can build a deck or something for people to ride up and get a view, but that is far from the best view that can be achieved at the resort and the tram provides the same thing with there actually being a restaurant and other facilities. Seeing as this is a normal single rope gondola, I’m assuming when most of the resort it closed due to high winds, this will be as well. I’m guessing that the Alpine mid station is really just a turn and not a real station (with the possibility of becoming a real mid station as some point in the future).

    My guess is that the real reason behind this gondola is that they are actually planning on reducing the amount of parking available at Alpine, and build more residences etc. With the expansion of the Squaw village we are likely to see parking garages to increase parking capacity intended for people vising either resort, with a smaller amount of parking still available at Alpine for those coming from the lake side.

    Like

  14. Ryan Murphy April 12, 2021 / 9:42 pm

    Where on the KT-22 side can you ski from this top terminal? I’m having a hard time placing exactly where it is on this FS map, and Map Synergy don’t always get details of expansions right.

    Any extra capacity heading up KT is a boon though.

    Like

    • Kirk April 12, 2021 / 10:51 pm

      KT midstation will be just to the west of the patrol shack, kinda towards Chute 75. So you can ski all the terrain you’d ski from the chair which will be maybe 75-100 yards from the gondola mid station.
      In terms of adding more capacity, I guess lines will be shorter with an extra 1400/h upload but also keep in mind that means everything is going to be tracked out 50% faster.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. David April 13, 2021 / 11:51 am

    Sad but not at all surprised with the lack of any investment in Crystal. Especially with how quality this season is, it’s clearly a good money maker for them. Sad that instead of investment to bring up parking/lift/trail capacity they are kind of backing away by putting unlimited only on the Full Ikon pass.

    Would love to see them pursue adding some new lifts and trail expansions that have been in discussion since 2007(?). Also they desperately need better parking/road situations though the road is dependent on WSDOT.

    Like

    • Peter Landsman April 13, 2021 / 11:54 am

      Frank DeBerry said the new lodge at Crystal is a go. They also applied with the Forest Service to build a ropes course and summer glamping operation. So Crystal isn’t totally forgotten.

      Like

      • skitheeast April 13, 2021 / 12:29 pm

        Alterra does not list every single improvement in their yearly press release, only the marquee ones. For example, Stratton is expanding their bike park this summer, yet that was nowhere to be found in the press release. I am sure there are numerous small, yet noticeable projects at almost all of the resorts that will be complete by the time ski season starts next November.

        Like

      • David April 13, 2021 / 12:38 pm

        Oh I didn’t see those, thanks for the heads up Peter!

        Like

  16. Micah April 13, 2021 / 9:11 pm

    Will you be able to get off the alpine meadows mid station? Also sherwood will close any day now

    Like

    • Alex April 14, 2021 / 9:01 am

      I do not believe so. At least not initially, unless/until White Wolf is built out.

      Like

      • Myles Svec April 14, 2021 / 1:30 pm

        You won’t be able to get out at mid until white wolf is opened.

        Like

    • kirk April 14, 2021 / 10:57 am

      sherwood has been closed for like a week+.

      Like

  17. Micah April 14, 2021 / 12:05 pm

    No it just closed today, but for the last week it closed at 12:00pm.

    Like

  18. BC Skier Guy April 18, 2021 / 11:24 pm

    Some thoughts about this project now that I’ve had some time to think about it.

    1. It still seems strange that they are going to move the bottom of Red Dog, only to replace it in the next couple years. I get that the gondola replacement is first priority, but that timing strikes me as odd. Reminds me of similar lift shuffling stuff with Alterra on the Steamboat Gondola.

    2. The Squaw part of the liftline bums me out. It goes right over an iconic piece of terrain, The Fingers, and will dramatically alter the appearance of the legendary KT side of the mountain. I understand the desire to have a full Base-to-Base system, but I wish they would have just replaced KT-22 with a higher capacity lift (maybe a six pack or even a chondola with like a 5:1 chair-cabin ratio so some could download) and built the gondola just from Alpine to the top of KT. That way, they add lift capacity and establish a connection but don’t add another lift on that line.

    3. 1,400 pph is really low. I know the most similar lift, Quicksilver at Park City, has a 1,500 pph capacity, but it really only serves as a transport lift since the skiing access is tricky from it. This lift is intended to be a transport lift too, but it is located at two base areas (unlike the remote Quicksilver terminals) and is going to get slammed on a powder day or any other crowded days due to the KT access.

    4. Despite all of that, this is still a really exciting lift project and I’m looking forward to watching it unfold. Kudos to Squaw, Alterra, and LPOA for taking on this challenge!

    Like

    • Somebody April 23, 2021 / 12:50 pm

      I know, it’s disappointing to see this go over the fingers. I hope no new towers end up blocking lines.

      Like

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