Gondola to link 2 Tahoe ski resorts closer to final approval

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A proposal to connect two Lake Tahoe ski resorts with a 2.2-mile-long (3.5-kilometer-long) gondola has moved closer to final approval.

Placer County’s approval of the project on Tuesday is one of the “last crucial steps” toward linking Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, said Ron Cohen, president of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

The Sierra Sun reports the gondola with eight-passenger cars would transport up to 1,400 people an hour on a 16-minute trip between the bases of the co-owned, neighboring resorts northwest of Tahoe City, California.

Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

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Cohen said the gondola route choice selected from four options is the most environmentally friendly because it is the farthest away from a wilderness boundary in the Tahoe National Forest. He said it will allow skiers to enjoy the two resorts’ combined 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) of terrain without having to drive between the two.

About 20% of the project would be located on national forest land. Local conservationists had opposed earlier alternatives that potentially could have passed through the nearby Granite Chief Wilderness.

The project with two base terminals and two mid-stations received preliminary approval from the Forest Service in April but still must win final approval.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows spokeswoman Liesl Hepburn said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday there is no estimate yet of construction costs.

Officials with Sierra Watch, a local environmental group opposed to further development of Squaw Valley, said they will wait to see if the Forest Service proposes any additional modifications before considering any action.

“Sierra Watch will work with our conservation allies to figure out the next steps in our long-term commitment to defend our irreplaceable mountain resources,” it said on Facebook.

During a public hearing last spring, Alpine Meadows residents expressed concern with the installation of eight avalanche exploders near the gondola. In the final report, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows decided to remove the exploders from the project.

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Information from: Tahoe Daily Tribune, http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/

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