Sierra Watch Claims 25% of Squaw/Alpine Gondola Crosses Protected Lands

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The map on the left shows the designated wilderness area Congress intended to be protected. The map on the right shows the wilderness area in purple and the acreage that is privately-owned. It may some day have a gondola and a new ski resort.
The map on the left shows the designated wilderness area Congress intended to be protected with a ‘bump’ that sticks out into the proposed gondola’s path. The map on the right is the map Squaw released showing the wilderness area to be not have a ‘bump’ giving their proposed gondola clear passage. Who’s right?  The maps at the bottom of this article show that Sierra Watch may be correct.

The conservation group Sierra Watch has just released a statement claiming that the gondola Squaw/Alpine has proposed to connect the two resorts would cross into protected public lands in the Granite Chief wilderness.  It appears that as much as 25% of the proposed gondola would cross public lands.

To learn more, please read the detailed press release below.


April 16, 2015

For Immediate Release


Olympic Valley, Calif. – When KSL Capital Partners announced plans to connect Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows earlier this week, they put their proposed gondola on a collision course with federally designated Granite Chief Wilderness.

Famed for its soaring granite peaks, remote glacial valleys, and lush mountain meadows, Granite Chief was enshrined as wilderness by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

To Tahoe conservationists, it’s hallowed ground.

Map Proposed Gondola Through Granite Chief Wilderness

“KSL’s proposal is another example of a clear disregard for the irreplaceable natural values of the Tahoe Sierra,” said Isaac Silverman, Staff Attorney of the conservation non-profit Sierra Watch.  “Granite Chief Wilderness was dedicated by an act of Congress to be protected for all Americans, not as a place for private development.”

Denver-based KSL Capital Partners purchased Squaw Valley in 2010 and Alpine Meadows in 2011, citing the properties’ “great growth potential”.

They’ve since filed an application for development entitlements that would transform Tahoe with development of a size, scale and scope the region has never seen, including a series of ten-story tall high rises and an indoor water park.  And, as of Monday, they’ve proposed a connection between their ski resorts.

The new gondola, announced with great fanfare, would run 2 1/2 miles from Squaw Valley to Alpine Meadows, over the intervening White Wolf property − and through land designated by Congress for protection since 1984 as the Granite Chief Wilderness Area.

Its route, illustrated in designs prepared by resort developer SE Group, would run from the Village at Squaw Valley to a point on the ridge northwest of the famed KT-22 lift.

From there it would head south across the congressionally designated Granite Chief Wilderness Area, with lift stations for offloading, on its way to publicly owned United States Forest Service property at the base of Alpine Meadows ski area.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law on Sept. 3, 1964, it marked perhaps the single greatest achievement in the history of conservation in America. The language of the law included some of the most profound text ever approved by Congress, recognizing the value of wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Johnson signed the bill into law “for all who love the great American outdoors” as “a faithful trust to the conservation of our natural resources and beauty” to ensure that “future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt.”

When Granite Chief Wilderness Area was added to the national wilderness system, a third of the area was private land.  Private ownership of land in federally designated Wilderness Areas is a complicated legacy of the generous railroad land grant programs during the 1860s that created checkerboard ownership patterns throughout the Sierra.

Congress sought to address this problem by authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to purchase private lands within Wilderness Area boundaries from willing sellers.  The bulk of the privately owned land in the Granite Chief Wilderness was acquired by the Forest Service from Sierra Pacific Land Company in 1991, but some of the area, including the land proposed for ski development, remains in private hands.

Although the land is privately owned and is currently exempt from some of the strongest protections afforded by the Wilderness Act, its inclusion within the Granite Chief Wilderness Area boundary reflects congressional recognition that this land is special and should be protected from development.

“The Granite Chief Wilderness is one of those rare places that we, as a nation, have decided should be protected for future generations, unmolested by man’s modifications.” said Silverman. “A gondola connection isn’t necessarily a bad idea.  But a gondola in a designated Wilderness Area?  That’s offensive.”

KSL’s proposals for the water park and highrise condo hotels is moving through the early stages of the public planning process.  Placer County, which maintains land use decision making authority over Squaw Valley, is expected to release a Draft Environmental Impact Report for that portion of the project within the month.

“Developing ski facilities in a designated Wilderness Area makes about as much sense as a massive indoor water park fifteen minutes from Lake Tahoe,” said Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch.  “We’re committed to securing a better legacy − so generations to come remember us, as President Johnson said more than 50 years ago, ‘with gratitude rather than contempt’.”


Our friends at contacted Sierra Watch and able to acquire the maps below that show how Sierra Watch came to the conclusion that the proposed Squaw/Alpine gondola would cross a ‘bump’ of the protected Granite Chief Wilderness.

The section of the USGS topo map is indeed clearly stamped as wilderness.

The Granite Chief Wilderness map also clearly shows "the bump" too.

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4 thoughts on “Sierra Watch Claims 25% of Squaw/Alpine Gondola Crosses Protected Lands

  1. The boundaries of the Granite Chief Wilderness Area must have been described by the party that created it. As anyone with a real estate background knows, there are several accepted means for describing real estate boundaries which are used throughout the USA so owners and users of property can settle issues such as “where is my property line?”. It would be exceptionally useful if the original source documents creating Granite Chief Wilderness Area were obtained by the parties making claims for and against the proposed gondola. The map with the “bump out” appears to be a USGS map. It is possibly quite old and created without precise measures, boundaries, features, etc. I am neither for nor against the gondola at this point, but it would be good to remember, Democratic New York Senator Patrick Moynihan said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

  2. Pie in the sky lift plan
    wont be a reality
    ksl sinking ship
    has many intensive
    water dependent
    recreational properties in CA
    that are feeling pinch
    because of drought
    competition and
    shrinking user base
    writing on wall with
    CNA corp selling properties
    due to metrics and
    profit cycle ending
    Sierra Watch interest
    is long term
    KSL interest short term
    bad decision making
    tendering potential offers
    to sell cause losing $$$
    B team mgmt
    grandiose claims about
    have delivered nothing

  3. Why does the map Sierra Watch is using show the angle stations as “load/unlaod” stations, in addition to showing the non existent C2 chair, when Squaw made no claim the angle stations would include load/unload and the C2 chair is gone. Hard to trust the property lines.

  4. Original article written by a known hater of KSL and Squaw – with Sierra Watch also using a map that shows the CII chair still in tact. Hard to trust the accuracy of the wilderness line when the map isn’t even current. Smells lake anti-propoganda.

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