For years, skiers and riders have been forced to make a tough decision: ski and ride the world class steeps, glades and groomers of Squaw Valley, or choose the powder-filled bowls and spectacular lake views of Alpine Meadows. But what if you didn’t have to make that decision?
What if you could explore the wide range of terrain that both mountains offer without having to choose one over the other?
The US Forest Service (USFS) and Placer County have released the draft environmental studies related to the California Express Gondola in April 2018. The Draft EIS/EIR can be viewed online at:
As project updates and next steps in the public review process are available, they will be posted here.
The release of the DEIR/DEIS represents a significant step closer to realizing the decades old dream of connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. We support the comprehensive review process and the hard work of the agencies involved. On behalf of over 6,800 Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows skiers and snowboarders who have signed petitions in support, we eagerly await the agencies’ final decision for the California Express Gondola. This base-to-base connection will enhance the ski and snowboard experience with the least possible impact on the environment. There has been tremendous support and anticipation for this connection, and we encourage our guests and community to remain engaged in the public review process as it moves forward.
- Casey Blann, senior vice president of mountain operations at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
The environmental review process of the California Express Gondola is being conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and Placer County. This process requires the analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives that meet the purpose and need/objectives of the project. The agencies have identified four alternatives, developed in part, in response to issues identified internally by the Forest Service and Placer County, and externally by the public during the scoping process. We support the process, and we too want to strike the right balance of what’s best for the environment, for our community, and for the guest experience.
To help you fact check common myths, we've identified where you can read the realities for yourself directly in the joint environmental document. For a deeper dive, check out the complete draft environmental studies here.
"The California Express would cross into the Granite Chief Wilderness."
Reality: "None of the alternatives involve construction on National Forest System-GCW lands." –DEIS/EIR, p. 4.3-2.
"The California Express will attract a heavy influx of visitors to Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, creating a major increase in regional traffic."
Reality: Traffic is a regional issue that we are doing our part to address presently, and with urgency. We are working collaboratively with local and regional partners to develop solutions for the present conditions rather than waiting to see how they are affected by future projects throughout the region. Click here to view our current work on reducing traffic congestion.
As compared to the current traffic conditions, the effect of the California Express Gondola on traffic would be minimal and feasibly mitigated with traffic solutions (DEIS/EIR p. 4.7-38 -4.7.44). Even under cumulative conditions that take future growth into account, the average speed on SR 89 would be reduced by less than 1.2 mph during peak periods (Table 4.7-22).
In addition, the removal of shuttle and guest vehicle traffic between the two mountains (2.7% of annual visits or 21,880 round trip rides, according to DEIS/EIR, p. 126.96.36.199) is expected to help offset a slight projected annual increase in visitation of 0 to 1.4% over the first five years of operation (Appendix C, Table 3).
"While it is anticipated that the proposed Base-to-Base Gondola would slightly increase visitation to Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows, the anticipated increase – as projected five seasons into the future after the project's implementation – represents just 10 percent of the existing range of season-to-season variability for total annual snowsports visitation." -- DEIR/DEIS Appendix C, pg. 18
"The gondola will impact endangered species including the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged frog."
Reality: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has no interest in impacting endangered species of any kind. The Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog has been "observed within Barstool Lake and unnamed pond adjacent to Barstool Lake. No other water body within the study area was found to support this species…The last time a Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog was observed in the Five Lake was in 1999." (DEIR/DEIS 4.14-4)
In addition, "...the acreage that would be removed [in Alternative 4] is not immediately adjacent to occupied or breeding habitat, and the alignment is outside the 984-foot upland area buffer surrounding Barstool Lake and Five Lakes" (DEIS/EIR, p. 2-40). Further, The DEIR/EIS identifies resource protection measures and mitigation that will ensure the yellow-legged frog is protected under all alternatives (DEIR/EIS pages 4.14-51, -54, -73, -75, -89, -92).
"The gondola will operate year-round, creating visual impacts for those hiking in the Granite Chief Wilderness Area in summer and from Lake Tahoe."
Reality: "The proposed gondola would transport guests in both directions during the winter season only… when both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are in operation for winter sports" (DEIR/DEIS 2-13). "While the gondola is not in operation during the summer months, cabins would be removed from the line and stored at the base terminals" (DEIR/DEIS 2-14). Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will be required to "choose structure design, scale, and color of materials, location, and orientation to meet the Forest Service visual quality objective of the Project Area and reduce potential visual contrast" (DEIR/DEIS Appendix B-6).
The gondola alignment that has been identified as the environmentally superior alternative, Alternative 4, will have an especially limited impact on views: only one tower will be distantly visible to a hiker standing on the Five Lakes Trail at the Granite Chief Wilderness boundary.
"The location of Alternative 4 in a valley with steep topographical features on either side would result in its overall visibility being greatly reduced, including from within the National Forest System-GCW." (DEIR/DEIS 4.2- 40).
"The viewshed analysis indicates that the gondola alignment under Alternative 4 would be visible from a small section of Lake Tahoe; however, vegetative screening would entirely obscure gondola infrastructure from this location" (DEIR/DEIS 4.2- 44).
"The gondola would cause increased climate change and greenhouse gas emissions."
Reality: "...the project would not result in a substantial cumulative contribution to climate change or conflict with plans or policies in place for the purpose of reducing GHG emissions." DEIS/EIR, p. 4.11-12.
"The proposed project will have 33 adverse impacts."
Reality: The majority of the impacts of the gondola have been determined to be either less than significant or will be reduced with over 100 required resource protection measures and mitigation measures ranging from the use of non-reflective building materials to extensive plant and wildlife surveys and protections. Of the six identified "Significant and Unavoidable" impacts, four can be addressed with traffic mitigation solutions independent of the gondola. Significant and unavoidable construction noise would occur for a maximum of 20 days while a helicopter is in use. The significant and unavoidable impact on visual character we believe will be limited to the greatest extent possible with Alternative 4.
"Building the gondola will require the construction of a roadway."
Reality: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has prioritized environmental sustainability at every step. This includes reducing or eliminating the need to construct access roads by using helicopters and overland crews for construction.
Your voice is essential to securing the approval and ensuring the California Express gondola is constructed.
Making your mountain experience that much better
The environment is our livelihood. We're committed to ensuring the California Express is sensitive to the environment, native habitat, and nearby public lands when it is built.
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