Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, CA Base-to-Base Gondola Could Be Approved Today

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Image showing where the Base-to-Base Gondola would travel. It would travel directly over the Rock Garden and Dead Tree areas of KT-22 and there would be an unloading station at the Saddle of KT-22. image: squaw magazine

On Tuesday, July 23, the Placer County Board of Supervisors will consider approval of Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed Squaw to Alpine gondola.

It’s a major project that would have permanent impacts on federally protected Granite Chief Wilderness and the popular Five Lakes Trail. It would also encourage further development of the White Wolf property – as proposed in yellow in the picture below.

base-2-base, squaw alpine, california
Credit: Sierra Watch

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.

Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed route 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 Valley, alpine meadows, gondola, placer county, Sierra watch
Gondola route alternatives. Credit: Sierra Watch

Show up and make your voice heard: Tuesday at 9:30 AM at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach, CA

Parking is free for all meeting attendees in the State Park’s parking lot.


  • 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:

Proposed The Base-To-Base gondola plans.


by Squaw Valley, August 2017

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.

Close up of the Squaw Valley base area and where the gondola station would be placed.  Red dashed line = proposed gondola

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.

Close up of the Alpine Meadows base area and where the gondola station would be placed.

When is the estimated completion planned, and when will the gondola open to the public?

Applications for the project have been submitted to Placer County and US Forest Service and are pending approval—at this time an approval date has not been specified. Once approved, the Base-to-Base Gondola will take approximately 10 months to construct.

What are the specifics of the Gondola?

It will be an eight-passenger gondola with a design capacity of approximately 1,400 people per hour in both directions. In total, the gondola will be about 13,000 feet in length. There will be two base terminals and two mid-station terminals, connected by approximately 37 lift towers. It will take approximately 13-16 minutes to take the gondola from one base terminal to the other.

Proposed Squaw Valley base station.

Where will the four gondola terminals be located?

The Alpine base terminal will be located on National Forest Service Land (NSFL) and situated to the southwest of the Alpine Meadows base lodge. The Squaw Valley base terminal would be located on private lands between the bottom terminals of the KT-22 and Squaw One express lifts. The Gondola is designed with two mid-stations: one on private lands atop the Saddle trail ridgeline approximately 1,100 feet southwest of the KT-22 express top terminal, on the left side of the Saddle run just beyond the Dead Tree run, and the other located on NFSL about 650 feet north-northwest of The Buttress in the northern portion of the Alpine Meadows special use permit area.

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.

Proposed Alpine Meadows’ base station.

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?

California Express 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.

Troy Caldwell and the base station for the existing White Wolf chair. photo: snowbrains

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. Shuttles may also continue to operate during ski season in order to provide another alternative for transportation between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. The planning process will include the completion of a traffic study to help determine the frequency and schedule of shuttles.

Proposed The Base-To-Base gondola plans.

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.

What about avalanche control around the Base-to-Base Gondola?

As part of the Base-to-Base gondola project, Gazex Inertia Exploders would be required in zones at Alpine Meadows that traditionally require hand charges or artillery for avalanche mitigation, in order to eliminate the hazard of direct artillery or indirect shrapnel impacting the lift. The Gazex Inertia Exploder is a remotely controlled avalanche mitigation system that uses compressed gas to create a concussive blast, triggering controlled avalanches before they become a hazard. Four gas shelters and eight exploders are incorporated into the current project plan for the Base-to-Base gondola.

2 mountains connected.

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