Andy Wirth and Troy Caldwell held a joint meeting on Friday, August 4 to brief the status of the “Base To Base Gondola”. This article summarizes their main comments.
Currently, environmental experts are doing evaluation reports for the Federal and State Environmental Acts which should be completed by late Fall.
At that time, when findings from the multiple studies are published, public comment will be taken. Notices will be sent out through homeowners organizations and Friends of Squaw Valley as to how & when the public may comment.
The proposed route in the Application for the Base to Base Gondola borders the Five Lakes area, and studies are being conducted to see if that route poses environmental concerns. If it is determined that the planned route causes environmental issues, Squaw will change the route. Both bases could move if the report indicates that it is necessary for environmental reasons.
Troy Caldwell explained that many different routes were explored and evaluated before the current route was selected. Weather studies have been and continue to be conducted to determine how the proposed routes might be affected by winds. Engineers and other experts were consulted to determine a proposed route. Mr. Caldwell explained that every conceivable route was evaluated including tunneling through the mountain. The tunnel route, unfortunately, was too costly. After taking all factors into consideration, the route selected in the Application was felt to be the best choice, but as noted above, environmental studies could change the route currently proposed.
Because the heavy summer hiking traffic to Five Lakes takes a toll on the area, the gondola would not be operated in the summer. Operation of the gondola would only happen during winter when the two ski areas are in operation. The gondola would hold 8 passengers and would have large spaces between the cars. It would move 1400 persons per hour which is about half the rate of a typical 6 passenger chairlift. During the winter evenings the gondola may operate in order to allow Alpine Meadows residents and customers access to the Squaw Village dining and Apres Ski activities without having to drive.
The Squaw segment would allow skiers to get off at the top of KT or go on to Alpine Meadows. The Squaw gondola segment can operate when wind closes the upper mountain which would relieve the KT and Red Dog lift lines under those circumstances and would operate even if the gondola cannot continue to Alpine Meadows. A new Red Dog Lift is planned but cannot be installed until the final alignment of the Gondola is determined.
Squaw Ski Corp has hired a top lift designer for planning purposes, and has hired Leitner-Poma to construct whatever might be finally approved. The gondola construction is intended to have minimal impact on the land (i.e. no roads or trenches used, only aerial transport of construction materials)