Placer approves Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows base-to-base gondola project

Published on July 25, 2019

The Placer County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the proposed Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows base-to-base gondola project.

The project, which requires separate approvals from Placer County and the U.S. Forest Service, is currently under the U.S. Forest Service’s objection review process and their decision to approve or deny the project will come at a later date.

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings LLC has proposed a base-to-base gondola project connecting Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley ski areas, including two base terminals, two mid-stations and 33 lift towers along an alignment to be installed within the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski area boundaries and across the ridgeline between the two resorts.

The project area encompasses parts of the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows operational boundaries and adjacent private lands northwest of Lake Tahoe in Placer County. A portion of lands on which the gondola would be located are under management by the Tahoe National Forest and requires federal approval.

Through the environmental review process, a more environmentally-friendly alternative was identified than what was originally proposed. The county approved the environmentally superior alternative, which if also approved by the U.S. Forest Service, would be located along the easternmost alignment of the project site. This location is farther away from the federally-protected Granite Chief Wilderness area and critical habitat for endangered species such as the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog.

The new alignment also goes through a valley on the Alpine Meadows side of the project site, making it less visible.

“As a long-time resident of North Lake Tahoe, I have always enjoyed and respected our wilderness areas and take protection of these resources very seriously,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson. “The project alternative we approved remains entirely outside of the Granite Chief Wilderness area, spanning private land holdings until it enters the base area of Alpine Meadows Ski Area. It was critical for my support that it remain outside the spectacular wilderness area.”

“That a more environmentally-friendly solution was determined during the public review process shows that collaboration between the community, outside agencies and developers really works,” said project planner Heather Beckman.

The gondola, which will offer a 16-minute base-to-base travel time, will only run during the winter season.

The previously-proposed eight Gazex avalanche mitigation devices were removed from the project proposal and are not included in the project approved Tuesday.