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.