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?
"After successfully obtaining preliminary approval from the Tahoe National Forest earlier this year, the unanimous approval by the Placer County Board of Supervisors represents one of the last crucial steps towards connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. This base-to-base gondola connection will tremendously enhance the skier experience, uniting our 6,000 acres of terrain without the need for a car. Moreover, the chosen alignment arrived at through this long and detailed process is the most environmentally favorable plan and is also the alignment which is located furthest away from the Wilderness boundary. I’d like to thank all of the staff of the many agencies involved in the comprehensive study and review of this project – their tireless effort ensured that the best possible project moved forward. I’d also like to thank the thousands of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows skiers and riders who signed petitions in support."
- Ron Cohen, President and COO, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
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.
"The California Express would cross into the Granite Chief Wilderness."
Reality: The California Express will not cross into the Granite Chief Wilderness. It is about 1,100 feet (three football fields) from the Granite Chief Wilderness at its closest point.
"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 now, rather than waiting to see how traffic is impacted by future projects. Click here to view our current work on reducing traffic congestion.
The gondola is primarily aimed at improving the skier experience, not at increasing visitation. Skier visitation is expected to increase only slightly: 12,400 skier visits the first year, diminishing to zero by the fifth year after the gondola is introduced. 12,400 skier visits translates to 70 additional skiers per day in an average season. This increase would correlate to 211 additional cars on a peak day. The app-based Mountaineer shuttle service, which was not factored in to the studies, is already taking up to four times as many cars off of the roads on peak Saturdays. The removal of shuttle and guest vehicle traffic between the two mountains is also expected to help offset traffic.
"The gondola will impact endangered species, including the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged frog."
Reality: Reality: Scientists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who are charged with protecting the frog, conducted detailed studies of the proposal, and concluded that the project does not adversely modify frog habitat. Biologists conducted studies looking for the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged frog along the route. None were found.
"The gondola will operate year-round."
Reality: The gondola as it has been approved will operate during the winter season only when both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are in operation. Operating in summer would require a separate and additional application, environmental review and public approval process.
"The gondola will create significant visual impacts for those hiking in the Granite Chief Wilderness Area in summer and from Lake Tahoe."
Reality: The gondola will be visible from the Five Lakes Trail as hikers move towards the top of the trail, and will be visible to hikers as they leave the Wilderness, but there is very little visible impact once hikers have entered the Wilderness. The peak of the gondola will be located near the top of KT22, where there is already a visible lift. The gondola alignment through Catch Valley, which has steep topographical features on either side, will result in its overall visibility being greatly reduced. Visual simulations indicate that the gondola will not be visible from Lake Tahoe.
During the summer months, cabins will be removed from the line and stored at the base terminals. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will also be required to choose structure design, scale, and color of materials, location, and orientation to reduce potential visual contrast.
"The gondola will increase greenhouse gas emissions"
Reality: Greenhouse gas emissions from the project have been determined to be less than significant. The gondola will be powered by electricity, which is planned to be 100% renewable in collaboration with Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows' utility provider.
"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 below a level of significance by implementation of over 100 required resource protection and mitigation measures. These measures range from the use of non-reflective building materials to extensive plant and wildlife surveys and protections. Of the six identified “Significant and Unavoidable” impacts (a technical term), 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 will be limited to the greatest extent possible with the selected path of the gondola.
"Building the gondola will require the construction of a roadway."
Reality: Construction access will occur almost entirely via existing roads and paths. Construction of the gondola will use helicopters to reduce or eliminate the need to build access roads. Any road or path that must be improved or extended for construction must be restored to its original condition after project completion.
"The gondola project will replace the undeveloped ridgeline with a host of lift towers."
Reality: Looking at or hiking the ridgeline between Squaw and Alpine, it is clear that on the Squaw side the gondola is located within an existing ski resort. Specifically, the ridgeline has hosted the top terminal of the KT-22 and Olympic Lady lifts for decades. On the Alpine side, the towers from the incomplete White Wolf lift have been in place for over 20 years. Overall, the chosen project alignment is the least impactful to the ridgeline.