Photo Tour: Palisades Tahoe Base to Base Gondola

More than just a new name and logo dot the landscape at Palisades Tahoe this season. Whether starting a ski day in Olympic Valley or at Alpine Meadows, it’s impossible to miss dozens of newly-standing towers for the upcoming Base to Base Gondola. Leitner-Poma accomplished an incredible amount of work last offseason, completing four sets of terminal foundations and 33 towers for the $65 million project. Two haul rope spools sit 2.2 miles apart ready for construction to resume this spring.

Alterra and Palisades have been amazingly restrained marketing what will be a truly iconic lift. As of yesterday, no signs indicate what’s going on and there’s nothing on the trail map to indicate Palisades will be a unified 6,000-acre behemoth in a matter of months. For now, a zig-zag line of tower tubes gives a pretty good indication of greatness on the horizon.

The traffic-busting gondola will begin in the Village where the current Red Dog triple has loaded for the past 32 seasons. That lift is set to be removed this summer and swapped for a six passenger detachable in a new alignment. The gondola will ascend KT-22, crossing over Exhibition and the high speed quad affectionately known as The Mothership. The second of four B2B stations sits near the top of KT, where the shorter of two haul ropes will turn back around while cabins continue on. When conditions permit, skiers will be permitted to unload here, creating a whole new way to access much of KT-22’s storied terrain. Riders destined for Alpine Meadows will turn and descend into the middle section of the lift on a second, longer haul rope. The gondola roughly parallels another line of lift towers for a never-completed chairlift on land owned by Troy Caldwell. It seems to me Mr. Caldwell could win some hearts and minds by removing these obsolete eyesores now that a state-of-the-art gondola will traverse nearly the same alignment. But it’s his land and the fate of the private ski area dream remains to be seen.

A third station with a slight angle change will also sit on the White Wolf property. The public won’t be able to get out here but there’s a possibility Caldwell and future nearby homeowners might. For the rest of us, cabins will simply decelerate, turn and take off again for the final jaunt over the Alpine Meadows parking lots to the base of Leitner-Poma sister machine Treeline Cirque. All told, the 16 minute ride from base to base will include a 1,700 vertical foot rise and then thousand foot descent. With views of the Granite Chief Wilderness and Lake Tahoe, this gondola will be as much about the journey as the destination.

Skiing down the lift line it becomes clear this gondola will also be a fair weather activity. You can bet as storms roll across the Sierra the lift’s more than 100 cabins will be tucked safely inside a parking structure at Alpine Meadows. There’s just no way the Base to Base will spin in high winds. But when mother nature cooperates, Palisades Tahoe will ski seamlessly as the third largest resort in North America.

While much work remains, Alterra says the gondola will be ready to go in November for the start of the 2022-23 season.

38 thoughts on “Photo Tour: Palisades Tahoe Base to Base Gondola

  1. Joe Blake March 19, 2022 / 10:51 am

    Fourth, Peter. PowMow, Whistler, PC, Palisades.

    Like

  2. Danny Bryant March 19, 2022 / 12:03 pm

    Awesome article Peter! I thought the weather would play a factor in operation, especially where the gondola will cross KT22 due to the added exposure from the tower height. I do wonder if the lift was set up with this in mind with the cabin storage on the Alpine side, so riders could ride from Alpine to the top of KT22 when conditions do not permit it to operate from KT22 to Olympic Valley base? It would seem to me that the weather would not be so much of a factor from KT to Alpine due do a somewhat less exposed alignment. Does anyone know if the KT22 station will allow for cabins to go back to Alpine or will be a only be an angled station that does not allow cabins to return to Alpine?

    Like

  3. awconrad March 19, 2022 / 12:24 pm

    Will this give white wolf the boost to finally finish the chair and open up? I feel like this would be the best place for a private ski area since, like YC, it’s connected to a massive already established ski area.

    Like

    • John March 31, 2022 / 10:56 am

      Who would patrol White Wolf, or would they install some Gasex heads?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark March 19, 2022 / 1:59 pm

    “Traffic busting” is not accurate. There’s no that many trips between the resorts now. The gondola is simply a marketing machine designed to attract more week long stays type vacationers, rather than the local NorCal skiers that fill both resorts every weekend. It’s likely to increase traffic on local roads. At its best, the ganjola is a scenic ride that has the potential to really screw up the delicate balance between parking capacity and mountain capacity.

    Like

  5. Munier Salem March 19, 2022 / 2:05 pm

    I’m curious why they didn’t just try to avoid crossing the KT-22 quad … that insane exposure makes the whole machine way more susceptible to weather.

    (That said, in general, western lifts and gondolas seem to cross exposed spans with more impunity than in the northeast … I’m thinking Silver Queen gondola over Bell Mountain, and Quicksilver over Thaynes Canyon).

    Like

    • Tommy Boy March 19, 2022 / 2:19 pm

      The original preferred alternative did not involve crossing KT. Search past project posts for the other proposed alignments. Alternative 1 would have been preferable from an access and cost perspective, but closely straddled the Granite Chief Wilderness boundary among other concerns.

      Like

  6. Kevin R March 19, 2022 / 2:13 pm

    Did I not read somewhere that this hugely expensive project will not be allowed to run in the summer?
    Does it not also have a very low capacity?
    Don’t really think they got all that much done in one season!
    The year we (Doppelmayr)did the Sugarbush project
    We took out 5 lifts re located and installed two of them (Poma Triple and Quad Detach and then installed a new fix grip quad and three Quad détachables including Slide Brook which has NO road access…
    Oh yea We didn’t start until the First week of August and everything was running for Xmas!!!

    Like

    • Peter Landsman March 19, 2022 / 3:17 pm

      From the EIS: “While the gondola is not in operation during the summer months, cabins would be removed from the line and stored at the base terminals. To perform maintenance, some cabins would need to be put on the line for limited periods during the summer (fewer than 10 times during the summer for running all cars on the line, and 3–5 days per month for limited numbers of cars moved across the line.”

      Hourly capacity is 1,400 each direction.

      Like

    • AMauch March 21, 2022 / 11:43 pm

      When was the last time you chiseled your way through a rock face with an excavator, rock-bar or jackhammer? Many of the foundations required extensive blasting, and that takes time, especially for towers of that height…

      Oh yeah, California permitting requirements…

      I think they got plenty done…

      Like

  7. skitheeast March 19, 2022 / 2:26 pm

    I know they really had little choice over the alignment at the end of the day, but man that is going to be a challenge to operate for much of the season given the wind in the area. In all honesty, they really should have looked closer at a funitel, bi-cable gondola, or 3S gondola. This machine is already costing them $60 million as it is, so it is not like the budget was much of a concern.

    I am still confused as to why they proposed Alternative 4 in the first place. Crossing KT-22 was always going to be a wind nightmare due to the need for really tall towers. Additionally, once they eliminated the possibility of exiting at the Alpine angle station due to it needing to move, they should have just scrapped it altogether and ended the gondola on the other side of the lodge closer to Kangaroo and Summit Six. This would have saved millions and still remained outside of the congressionally mapped Granite Chief Wilderness.

    Ignoring what Troy Caldwell wants, as I really have no idea and it seems as though he is really on board with anything as long as Alterra supports his dream to build a private ski resort, I think the best option would have been to start at the current base terminal on the Olympic Valley side, go up to the top of Olympic Lady to a mid angle station, and then go straight down to the base area on the opposite side of the existing terminal (near Kangaroo). This would remove the need for tall towers (Olympic Lady would be removed) and allow the lift to operate in on windy days, keep the lift closer to Alpine Meadows Road and away from the Granite Chief Wilderness area to keep the environmentalists happy, and still provide the same access back and forth. The one potential downside is that it would not have allowed skiers to bypass the base at the KT midstation by taking Saddle to Headwall, but that is a small tradeoff for the lift being able to run much more frequently.

    Like

    • Larry March 22, 2022 / 7:26 am

      A funitel or 3S would be 2x-3x the cost, let alone the required station footprints at each base area. Recent 3S projects are easily $150M-250M projects, so budget was most certainly a concern.

      Like

    • Danny Bryant March 22, 2022 / 4:01 pm

      Placing the Alpine terminal near Summit and Kangaroo would make it possibly prone to getting hit by an avalanche (like what happened to the old Summit chair in 1982).

      Like

  8. BC Skier Guy March 19, 2022 / 6:06 pm

    Great pictures Peter. I’ve been curious about this system from the time it was announced, especially with basically no details coming from Palisades/Alterra about the construction. You would think a 6 section tower with helicopter assembly would merit at least an Instagram post!

    As a fan of ski lifts, I’m really excited for this new gondola. Those towers are very impressive and the KT midstation will be an engineering feat as well. Construction of those tall towers on that rugged terrain must have been an enormous undertaking.

    As a skier… I’m disappointed. I don’t like that it goes right over the Fingers and interrupts the visuals of some of the most iconic extreme terrain in the U.S. To echo some other comments on here, it seems odd to spend that much money on a gondola that can only run in near perfect weather and has less capacity than the average triple chair. Nevertheless, will be excited to ride it in 22/23.

    Like

  9. Donald Reif March 19, 2022 / 6:15 pm

    I see the heights of towers like this and they make me think, “Man, the three-section towers on lifts like the Peak 8 SuperConnect and the old Falcon SuperChair look short by comparison.”

    Like

  10. Kirk March 19, 2022 / 6:44 pm

    AS several other have mentioned. I wonder in a real Sierra winter how many days this lift won’t be on wind hold???

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Matt March 19, 2022 / 9:09 pm

    Do you know what the drive configuration will be? I had heard the possibility of a single drive with two bullwheels at the mid station. Or will they be independent sections?

    As far as the wind situation goes, I imagine it won’t be down any more than any upper lift, or say the tram on the Olympic Valley side. Being more exposed than KT, I can see times when the quad could run that the gondola couldn’t, but I couldn’t imagine a time when say, Siberia Express would be able to operate when this gondola couldn’t. When major wind events occur it tends to shut a majority of the mountain anyways, so it’s not like building the towers 50 feet shorter would make any real world difference.

    Like

  12. Kirk March 20, 2022 / 7:57 am

    2 Direct Drives

    Like

    • Peter Landsman March 20, 2022 / 8:06 am

      My understanding is the drives will be at both ends. Originally the Alpine mid-station was going to have a double-grooved bullwheel transferring motion to the middle section but apparently that has changed. The final alignment has such a slight angle change at Alpine that there will be just one rope for the Alpine and middle sections. The angle change will be accomplished with deflection sheaves rather than a double-grooved bullwheel. The KT-22 section will be independent.

      Like

  13. pbropetech March 20, 2022 / 9:07 am

    Having just completed mid-season inspection on the Flyer, I’m glad this isn’t my lift. LPOA (and before them, Poma) requires a wrench check on all mid-stage bolts twice a year.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Anthony March 20, 2022 / 1:20 pm

    Some people are noting that this lift is a “tourist trap,” or that it won’t reduce traffic, or that it’s unlikely to be used by skiers in the day-to-day, or that it would be better to spend the money on other improvements at Palisades and Alpine.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with these arguments. But I do want to note for the record that people had some of the same objections to the Peak-to-Peak at Whistler-Blackcomb. And now it’s a quiet workhorse and it’s tough to imagine the resort without it.

    Will California Express live up to the hype? No, probably not.

    But will it be appreciated by skiers and generally well-used? Yeah, probably.

    Like

    • Donald Reif March 20, 2022 / 8:21 pm

      Peak 2 Peak made it so that one who wanted to do stuff on Whistler and Blackcomb wouldn’t have to go all the way down to Whistler Village and then back up. That’s at least 30 minutes or more it saved in travel.

      Like

    • bryan March 27, 2022 / 10:17 pm

      I myself will enjoy this lift. There are days where I choose Squaw over Alpine simple because the the first one I come to. I would definitely get more days at Alpine once this opens and will enjoy sipping my beer on the way over.

      Like

    • John March 31, 2022 / 11:12 am

      This gondola will be a boon for people that stay at the village or live in OV. For those that go to AM because it is a preferred destination, no benefit.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Kirk March 20, 2022 / 6:07 pm

    The Peak to Peak (3-S) will run in a lot more wind than this conventional Gondola system.

    Anybody familiar with Palisades for 10 to 40 years or so can tell you it can be a relentless southwest wind tunnel.
    The name may have of changed, but the weather in the same.

    It’s going to take some time to figure out the wind proto call for that lift and how to physically monitor it. It’s going to take more than looking at the wind speed on the touch screen.

    People will get stuck on one side or the other and end up on the shuttle bus.
    On a nice day it will be a pretty, scenic ride.

    Note: and yeah you could probably build 9 or 10 detachable lifts for the same cost.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Munier Salem March 21, 2022 / 7:18 am

    A 3S gondola would have been a better call in a couple respects. First, better wind stability would allow it to potentially operate in higher-wind weather. Second, aesthetically, it would have been a better compliment to KT-22’s famed terrain than peppering it with a ton of tall tube towers. And, particularly if they could operate it in summer, it would for sure become a huge regional attraction.

    The big downside I could see: cost (obviously). Particularly given *two* midstations. (Do any 3S have midstations?).

    Like

    • Axewolfe17 March 21, 2022 / 4:42 pm

      This one has a mid station as well as angle change.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Erik March 24, 2022 / 6:03 pm

        Yeah, if this were in Austria it’d be a straight-shot 3S with just a single tower on top of Red Dog Ridge. Or a 3S with an angle station at the top of KT with an ultramodern restaurant that serves shockingly affordable food. But it’s not really a fair comparison, the economics of skiing are different in Europe.

        Like

  17. TPAkyle March 21, 2022 / 7:35 pm

    I grew up skiing both the former Squaw and Alpine. Living on the east coast now, my ski trips mostly take me to Colorado and Utah on my Epic pass, but I did make a great visit to Palisades last month. The new towers brought both excitement and trepidation. Excitement due to the dream of skiing both areas on the same day and possible new terrain. Trepidation in the potential union of two very different ski cultures that aren’t complimentary. Then I looked further at the towers, wow, they are high. Until the top of KT where they cross the access to KT Saddle at a very low altitude eliminating the current approach. Obviously, they have some regrading to do, but best I can tell that pretty much cutting through the top station of the hand-built White Wolf chair towers. End of that dream?

    Like

  18. FGL March 21, 2022 / 10:03 pm

    Compared to the visual impact of the gondola towers, Troy’s are simply quaint. The lift opens no new terrain and will undoubtedly change the Alpine Meadows culture for the worse. Scuttlebutt says the KT segment drive terminal is at the top where there is currently no/insufficient power, necessitating construction of a generator station which will require regular fuel deliveries by cat.

    Like

    • Bob March 22, 2022 / 7:36 am

      Ha. Simple and quaint… and not a lift!

      Funny how B2B is an eyesore, but Troy’s “towers” are quaint and familiar…and useless. Maddeningly inconsistent.

      Nope. KT section is a bottom Drive at OV base.

      Like

  19. Somebody March 21, 2022 / 10:36 pm

    I find this lift honestly a bit depressing. They’re putting a huge visual obstruction down on one of the most iconic and revered places in North American skiing. The KT liftline/fingers has looked the same for so long that it’s hard to even find pictures pre-HSQ. The fingers race is an institution at Squaw and will never be the same again after this lift goes in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • bryan March 27, 2022 / 10:21 pm

      It will be exactly the same. The tower above the fingers has been there all season and its not in the way of anything.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Somebody March 27, 2022 / 11:23 pm

        The actual lines are the same thankfully, but from afar (ie, the base, KT liftline) it’ll just be a jumbled mess of wires, you can’t see anything.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Kirk March 22, 2022 / 5:14 pm

    I think they will need some level of AC power at the Return terminals/inter connect. Don’t think there is any AC power to the top of KT now.

    Like

  21. Analyn October 2, 2022 / 12:24 am

    Any updates on the new red dog? Do resort chair next!

    Liked by 1 person

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