The Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League have filed a lawsuit in objection of Placer County’s approval of the controversial Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, CA base-to-base gondola.
- Related: UPDATED: “Base-to-Base” Gondola From Squaw Valley to Alpine Meadows, CA APPROVED by Placer County
Back in July of this year the Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the base-to-base Gondola from Squaw Valley to Alpine Meadows, CA with a mid-station in the White Wolf property/mini ski resort in North Lake Tahoe, California. The gondola, which will be named the California Express Gondola, is still awaiting USFS approval.
“Creating the gondola is going to be a huge impact on the wilderness area,” said Deborah Moskowitz, president of Resource Renewal Institute, a nonprofit organization that oversees the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League. “We have an obligation to maintain the beauty of these places.”
The Protection League believes a gondola will “permanently alter what is now a pristine Sierra Nevada environment” endangering wildlife and destroying the natural habitat. They claim that adequate environmental review or mitigation has not been conducted, reports the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
“This will desecrate a wilderness sanctuary,” said Huey Johnson, chair and founder of the Resource Renewal Institute, in a press release. “There are other less damaging alternatives that would allow this small subset of skiers to travel between Squaw and Alpine without constructing these towers amidst this pristine area.”
The California Express Gondola will go from near the base of KT-22 at Squaw Valley to White Wolf (mid-station) then to the base area of Alpine Meadows and will include two base terminals and two mid-stations.
Of the four different proposals in the Environmental Impact Report, the fourth alternative was chosen, the one with the least impact on the environment and wilderness area. However, opponents to the plans insist there’s a fifth, and better alternative: not to construct the gondola all together. Yet Squaw Valley also collected 7,000 signatures on a petition in favor of the project.
“A tremendous amount of research and study informed the approval of this project,” said Ron Cohen, president of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “It is also important for the public to know that no part of this gondola will enter the Granite Chief Wilderness.”
A potential timeline for the California Express Gondola’s construction is currently unknown.
Back in April of this year, Placer County and the US Forest Service released its final Environmental Impact Report for Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows base-to-base gondola that would connect the two resorts.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows’s proposed route, alternative 2, along the crest of the Sierra Nevada and through land designated to be part of Granite Chief Wilderness was rejected.
They instead chose ‘Alternative 4’ – the eastern-most route under consideration, and the route most distant from designated wilderness lands.
This was considered a substantial conservation victory by Sierra Watch who have been campaigning for years against Alterra developing land that Congress designated to be part of Granite Chief Wilderness back in 1984.
SQUAW-ALPINE BASE-TO-BASE GONDOLA UPDATE:
- 8-passenger gondola
- Large spaces between cars
- 1,400 persons per hour (half the rate of a typical six-pack chairlift)
- From Squaw Valley base to Alpine Meadows base
- Squaw segment would allow skiers to exit at top of KT or continue to Alpine Meadows
- Squaw segment could operate when wind closes upper mountain which would alleviate KT and Red Dog lift lines even if the gondola can’t continue on to Alpine Meadows.
- New Red Dog lift is planned, but can’t be installed until the final alignment of the gondola is finalized
- NO ACCESS will be allowed into White Wolf ski area (the zone between Squaw & Alpine)
Even more info:
- Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, CA Base-to-Base Gondola Update: Andy Wirth & Troy Caldwell Hold Meeting
BASE-TO-BASE GONDOLA FAQ:
What is the purpose of the Base-to-Base Gondola?
The Base-to-Base Gondola is intended to provide a connection between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley so that skiers can take advantage of the offerings and terrain at both mountains without traveling by vehicle between the two areas.
What are the project benefits?
The proposed gondola would provide an exciting new dimension for guests at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows with convenient and scenic lift service between the two mountains, offering access to terrain for all ability levels at both mountains. The Gondola will allow Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Ski & Snowboard School programs to utilize both mountains in the same day, enhancing the product offering for guests.
Based on a survey and other data, it is estimated that the proposed Gondola could reduce daily traffic volumes by approximately 100 vehicles along Highway 89 (between Squaw and Alpine) as well as on Squaw Valley Road.
Where will it be located?
The project site is located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, in Placer County. The Gondola would extend from the base of Alpine Meadows Ski Area to the base of Squaw Valley Resort. The portion of the project within Alpine Meadows would be located at Alpine Meadows Ski Area which operates under a Special Use Permit on the Tahoe National Forest. The project will be subject to review and permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The portion of the gondola on the Squaw Valley side would be located on private lands owned or leased by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, including land owned by Troy Caldwell, with whom Squaw Valley has arranged an agreement to operate the gondola in winter months.
Will the Base-to-Base Gondola be located in a wilderness area?
No, the Base-to-Base Gondola will be located on area leased or owned by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.
When is the estimated completion planned, and when will the gondola open to the public?
Applications for the project were approved by Placer County on 23rd July 2019, and are awaiting US Forest Service approval—at this time an approval date has not been specified. Once approved, the Base-to-Base Gondola will take approximately 10 weeks to construct.
Where will the four gondola terminals be located?
The Squaw Valley base terminal will be located near the base of the existing Red Dog chairlift. The Red Dog will chair base terminal will be moved just southeast near Red Wolf Lodge. A mid-station will be located on Saddle run near the existing KT-22 ridge patrol shack, and a second mid-station will be located on the White Wolf property in Alpine Meadows. The Alpine Meadows base station will be located southeast of the Alpine Meadows base lodge.
What kind of access will guests have from the four gondola terminals?
Guests will be able to load and unload at the Squaw Valley base terminal, the KT-22 ridge terminal and the Alpine Meadows base terminal. Guests disembarking at the Saddle mid-station near the KT-22 Express top terminal on the Squaw Valley side will be able to ski or snowboard down to Squaw Valley.
Will the Base-to-Base Gondola operate year-round?
No, it will only operate during ski and snowboard season. The gondola cabins will be removed from the gondola cable after it closes operations for the season in order to reduce impacts on the surrounding viewshed.
What is the official name for the Base-to-Base Gondola?
Will lift tickets and/or season passes prices increase?
There are no plans to increase prices based on this access. The gondola would simply make it easy for skiers and riders to explore both mountains with a single lift ticket or season pass, without needing to travel between the two by car.
Will skiers and riders have access to White Wolf?
There are no plans currently being contemplated to allow skiing or other non-skiing activities along the lift route or on the White Wolf terrain, privately owned by Troy Caldwell.
Will any existing skiable terrain be reduced during or after construction?
No. Existing skiable areas of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will not be affected by the gondola construction.
Will Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows continue to operate the shuttle bus between the two mountains?
Yes. Shuttles will continue to operate in order to provide transportation during ski season when the gondola is not running.
What environmental considerations are being taken into account with this project?
Squaw Valley Ski Holdings and Troy Caldwell have worked extensively with the mountain planners at SE Group to design a gondola that ensures stewardship of the high alpine environment whose natural beauty is integral to the overall Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows experience. The project will be subject to review and permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The planned Base-to-Base Gondola will be carefully designed to minimize the overall footprint and potential visual impacts to the adjacent Granite Chief Wilderness, as well as maintain the scenic beauty of the area.
To accomplish this, design elements include locating the gondola as far from the Wilderness boundary as possible given the rugged terrain, minimizing the number of lift towers and diminishing the need to construct access roads. The Gondola capacity is intentionally planned to be relatively low at 1,400 people per hour (a typical high-speed lift transports at least 2,000 people per hour) in order to minimize the number and height of lift towers. In addition, the gondola would utilize an innovative power generation system to supply necessary electricity to the two lift mid-stations thereby avoiding the need to install above or below ground electrical power. The result of these efforts would significantly reduce necessary timber removal and vegetation clearing for construction and would minimize impacts on watershed, soils and natural resources throughout the planned lift corridor.
Recognizing the visual sensitivity of the surrounding area – particularly the adjacent Granite Chief Wilderness, measures will be implemented to minimize the potential for adverse visual impacts from the perspective of design, materials and equipment selection, and operational practices. Specifically, materials and equipment for the gondola would be selected using blending coloration and low reflectivity. The gondola would also be designed to allow the cabins to be completely removed from the line during non-operational periods.
In addition, it is anticipated that the operation of the gondola would substantially reduce guest vehicular traffic between the two resorts, leading to a reduction in overall vehicle emissions.