A wilderness protection group is taking legal action in the US to try to block the construction of a gondola on environmental grounds.


The planned lift would link the Lake Tahoe ski resorts of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in California.

They are currently connected only by road.

It would be 3.5 kilometres long and go through the Tahoe National Forest.

It would have eight cabins and 33 towers and have two base stations and two mid stations.

It would carry up to 1,400 people an hour and take 16 minutes.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows ski area

The ski area in April 2019 – photo Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

The conservationists say the development would destroy a critical habitat for a rare and protected frog and lead to irreversible loss of natural landscape on the edge of a high Sierra wilderness area.

The project has been approved by Placer County and the Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League wants California’s Superior Court to overturn the decision.

Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe National Forest – photo Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League

“Squaw/Alpine’s project proposes a gondola, dozens of towers, and two large mid-stations that will permanently alter what is now a pristine Sierra Nevada environment bordering the Granite Chief Wilderness Area, bisecting the existing wilderness trail, Five Lakes Trail, used for decades by hikers and recreational visitors,” the group says on its website.

Board member Huey Johnson says that if the project goes ahead it will be a disaster for the environment.

“This will desecrate a wilderness sanctuary.

“There are other less damaging alternatives that would allow this small subset of skiers to travel between Squaw and Alpine without constructing these towers amidst this pristine area,” he says.

Sierra wilderness, California

Sierra Wilderness – photo Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League

But Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, which owns both resorts, says the gondola is the most environmentally friendly option of four that have been considered.

It says skiers will be able to enjoy both areas without have to drive between them, potentially reducing traffic by 100 vehicles a day along the state highway.

“A tremendous amount of research and study informed the approval of this project – the final environmental impact report tallies to almost 2400 pages of studies, analysis and reasoning,” Ron Cohen, President and Chief Operating Officer of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows said.

“Public review and approval includes a combined 20-1 vote by two municipal advisory committees, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors, on top of the clear findings and approval of the Tahoe National Forest.

“Quite simply, this project has a broad and convincing mandate.

“It is also important for the public to know that no part of this gondola will enter the Granite Chief Wilderness.”