Squaw Valley Ski Resort

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Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
The Village at Squaw Valley, July 2007
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Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Location in California
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Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (the United States)
LocationSquaw Peak
Placer County, California
Nearest major city Truckee, California
Reno, Nevada
Coordinates 39°11′46″N120°14′06″W / 39.196°N 120.235°W / 39.196; -120.235 Coordinates: 39°11′46″N120°14′06″W / 39.196°N 120.235°W / 39.196; -120.235
Vertical2,850 ft (870 m)
Top elevation9,050 ft (2,760 m)
Base elevation6,200 ft (1,890 m)
Skiable area4,000 acres (16.2 km2)
Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg 15% easiest
Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg 35% more difficult
Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg 50% most difficult
Longest run3.2 miles (5.1 km)
Mountain Run
Lift system 30
Lift capacity58,000 per hour
Terrain parks 3
Snowfall 450 in (1,140 cm)
Snowmaking Yes
Night skiing No
Website squawalpine.com

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, then known as Squaw Valley, was the host site for the 1960 Winter Olympics. [1] Located in Olympic Valley, California, Squaw Valley Ski Resort covers 3,600 acres (15 km2) employing 30 chairlifts and the only funitel in the United States. It is the second-largest skiing complex in the Lake Tahoe area after Heavenly Mountain Resort [2]


In 2012, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows were combined to offer joint access to 6,200 acres (25 km2), 43 lifts and over 270 trails. [3] The resort attracts approximately 600,000 skiers a year. [4]

Located northwest of Tahoe City in the Sierra Nevada with a base of 6,200 ft (1,890 m) and a skiable 3,600 acres (15 km2) across six peaks, the resort tops out at 9,010 ft (2,750 m) at Granite Chief. [5] [6] The resort averages 450 inches of snowfall every winter. [7] The Squaw Valley Aerial Tramway rises 2,000 ft (610 m) to an elevation of 8,200 ft (2,500 m) above sea level. The resort is also home to several annual summer events.

In August of 2020, the owners announced their commitment to remove the word “squaw” from the resort's name by summer 2021 as the use of the term is an ethnic and sexual slur. [8] [9] [10]


Alpine runs of the
1960 Winter Olympics Squaw-Valley-1960-Ski-Venues.jpg
Alpine runs of the
1960 Winter Olympics
Base area in December 2006 Izgled of Squaw Valley California.JPG
Base area in December 2006

Former University of Nevada star skier, Wayne Poulsen, purchased the first 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of Squaw Valley Ski Resort from the Southern Pacific Railroad. [11] Poulsen already had a history in the area: in 1931, he had placed third at an Olympic trials at Granlibakken in Tahoe City. [12] Shortly after, Poulsen met Harvard alumnus and trained lawyer Alex Cushing, who brought capital, political connections, and increased access to the project. [11] Cushing had fallen in love with Lake Tahoe after a visit to the Sierra Nevada in 1946. [12] After a disagreement over the resort's future, Cushing gained control of the project and became the chairman of Squaw Valley Ski Corporation. The resort opened in 1949, and Cushing remained its chairman until his death. [11]

Cushing modeled the resort after European ski destinations by locating a swimming pool, ice rink, roller disco, and restaurants on the mountain instead of at the base. His designs also brought advanced lift technology to the U.S. for the first time. [11] When Squaw Valley opened, its Squaw One lift was deemed the longest double chairlift in the world. [12]

Squaw Valley's success can be largely attributed to the visibility that came from hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, a direct result of Cushing's effort and determination. During the planning stages of the 1960 Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria, was the leading choice for the Olympic site. In 1955, however, Cushing secured the bid after winning over the International Olympic Committee in Paris with a scale model of his planned Olympic site. The Winter Olympics in 1960 were the first to be televised live, making the games accessible to millions of viewers in real-time. The event signaled the rise of U.S. skiing to the level of world-famous European skiing, and Squaw Valley's preparedness for the games showed the international community that U.S. ski resorts offered world-class facilities. [11]

Squaw Valley hosted World Cup races in 1969 with four technical events: slalom and giant slalom for both men and women.[ citation needed ] American Billy Kidd won the men's slalom, followed by U.S. teammates Rick Chaffee (4th) and Spider Sabich (10th) [13] of Kyburz. The 1969 season saw a record snowpack at Squaw Valley; [14] and over eight feet (2.4 m) of new snow cancelled the downhills. [15] [16] After an absence of 48 years, women's technical races returned in 2017 and overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin of Colorado won both events.

In 1971, following several years of financial losses, the state announced they would seek bids to buy Squaw Valley. After a failed bid by John Fell Stevenson, Dick Baker and his Australian company Mainline Corporation successfully bid $25 million plus 1,500 acres from the Poulsens. In August 1974 the Australian company Mainline Corporation collapsed and Squaw Valley was again back on the market for sale. [17]

In 1978, Squaw Valley experienced one of the worst cable car accidents in history. On a stormy afternoon late in the season on Saturday, 15 April, [18] [19] the tram came off of one of its cables, dropped 75 feet (23 m) and then bounced back up, colliding with a cable which sheared through the car; four were killed and 31 injured. [20] [21] [22]

Squaw Valley was purchased by private equity group KSL Capital Partners in November 2010. [23] In September 2011, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort and Squaw Valley Ski Resort announced their intention to merge ownership. The merger united the two popular ski destinations under common management by Squaw's Valley's parent company, KSL Capital Partners, LLC. A year later, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows Ski Resort merged under the new umbrella leadership of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC. The new company operates as one, with joint lift tickets and single season passes for visitors and free shuttles between its locations, but preserves the individuality of the two resorts. [24] In 2017, KSL Capital, in partnership with Aspen/Snowmass (Henry Crown and Company), formed Alterra Mountain Company, which then became the primary owner of Squaw Valley.

In 1960, during the VIIIth Winter Olympic Games, Squaw Valley was designated as California Historical Landmark Number 724. A marker was placed identifying Squaw Valley as a Pioneer Ski Area of America. The marker's plaque commemorated 100 years of organized skiing in "mining towns in the Sierra Nevada, particularly Whiskey Diggs, Poker Flat, Port Wine, Onion Valley, La Porte, and Johnsville". [25]


Aerial tram to High Camp Squaw Valley Gondola.jpg
Aerial tram to High Camp
Squaw Valley Ski Resort, from gondola Squaw Valley California.JPG
Squaw Valley Ski Resort, from gondola
Squaw Valley Ski Resort Izgled of Squaw Valley California.JPG
Squaw Valley Ski Resort
The backside, at the base of Shirley Lake Express, in 2020 Shirley Lake Express, Squaw Valley, California.jpg
The backside, at the base of Shirley Lake Express, in 2020

Lower mountain chairs (elev. 6200')

NameTypeVertical riseCapacity per hourGeneral terrain
Aerial TramTram1,886 ft (575 m)700Access to upper mountain
Gold Coast FunitelFunitel1,742 ft (531 m)4,000Access to upper mountain
First VentureFixed-grip triple98 ft (30 m)800 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
SnoVentures CarpetCarpet35 ft (11 m)2,400 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
TuckerCarpet15 ft (4.6 m)2,000 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
ExhibitionFixed-grip quad808 ft (246 m)1,636 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Far East ExpressDetachable six-pack960 ft (290 m)2,600 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Red DogFixed-grip triple1,238 ft (377 m)1,800 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Squaw CreekFixed-grip triple1,309 ft (399 m)700 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Squaw One ExpressDetachable quad1,660 ft (510 m)2,400Access to upper mountain
KT-22 ExpressDetachable quad1,767 ft (539 m)2,100 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Olympic LadyFixed-grip double1,175 ft (358 m)1,100 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
BoonCarpet Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
Murphy and WileyCarpet Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg

Upper mountain chairs (elev. 8200')

NameTypeVertical riseCapacity per hourGeneral terrain
Bailey's BeachFixed-grip triple95 ft (29 m)1,266 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
BelmontFixed-grip double75 ft (23 m)914 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
The PulleyRope tow Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Mountain MeadowFixed-grip triple222 ft (68 m)1,805 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
EmigrantFixed-grip triple761 ft (232 m)1,558 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Gold Coast ExpressDetachable six-pack563 ft (172 m)3,075 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Big Blue ExpressDetachable six-pack557 ft (170 m)3,000 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Shirley Lake ExpressDetachable six-pack717 ft (219 m)3,200 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Siberia ExpressDetachable six-pack916 ft (279 m)3,000 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
SolitudeFixed-grip triple660 ft (200 m)1,800 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg / Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Broken ArrowFixed-grip double302 ft (92 m)1,200 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Granite ChiefFixed-grip triple999 ft (304 m)1,565 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Headwall ExpressDetachable six-pack1,750 ft (530 m)2,400 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
SilveradoFixed-grip triple1,371 ft (418 m)1,346 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg

Terrain aspect [26]


Annual snowfall at Squaw Valley can surpass 500 inches. [27]

Alpine Meadows gondola connection

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC seeks to connect the Alpine Meadows (ski resort) with a "Base-to-Base" gondola. [28] [29] [30] Resort owners need permission from local land managers, including Placer County and the Tahoe National Forest who are currently studying the proposed project's environmental impacts. [31] A number of conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch and the Sierra Club, consider the proposed gondola a threat to Granite Chief Wilderness. [32] [33] In July 2019 Sierra Watch and Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League filed a lawsuit with Squaw Valley challenging Placer County's approval of the gondola project. In January 2020 the United States Forest Service issued its Record of Decision approving a route crossing federal lands. [34] In February 2020, the litigants dropped the suit in exchange for Squaw Valley's commitment to implement measures to mitigate the impact towards the Sierra Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (an endangered species). [35] The approved gondola is planned to cross the private ski area, White Wolf Mountain, which is owned by Troy Caldwell. Caldwell supports the gondola. [36]

Development controversy

Separate from the approved Squaw Alpine proposed gondola, Squaw Alpine has also proposed a large development in the existing Squaw Valley parking lot area. In 2016, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings submitted a final application for entitlements for its proposed Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan, a $1billion plan that prompted the Attorney General of California to write a letter of concern to Placer County. [37] The plan would include 850 hotel and condominium units [38] and a 96-foot-tall "Mountain Adventure Camp" [39] featuring a year-round indoor waterpark. [40] According to the environmental review for the project, new development is projected to add 3,300 new car trips to local roads on peak days, and the project would have twenty "significant but unavoidable" impacts". [41]

Sierra Watch created a grassroots campaign to “Keep Squaw True”, holding public events and circulating an online petition in opposition to KSL Capital Partners' proposed expansion plan. [42] [43]

In November 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved KSL's controversial development proposal [44] [45] in spite of opposition from local conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch. [46] Sierra Watch filed suit to overturn those approvals for violating the California Environmental Quality Act in December 2016. [47]

In 2017, resort owners added a roller coaster to their development proposal. [48]

Squaw Valley name controversy

The use of the word "squaw" is considered to be a derogatory and offensive ethnic and sexist slur. [8]

In mid-2020, the owners of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows acknowledged the controversial nature of the term. Company spokesperson Christine Horvath stated that the business was creating a plan to review the use of the term “squaw” and invite regional tribal leaders to provide guidance. [49] [50] [51]

On August 25, 2020, in response to long-running complaints from the Washoe Tribe of Nevada, Ron Cohen, President and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, issued a statement which included the following apology:

While we love our local history and the memories we all associate with this place as it has been named for so long, we are confronted with the overwhelming evidence that the term ‘squaw’ is considered offensive.

He intended that action will be taken to change the resort's name which will be announced in summer 2021. [9] [10]

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Andrew Wirth

Andrew "Andy" Wirth works in the mountain resort and hotel industry. He was most recently the president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, the parent company of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts in Olympic Valley, CA until 2018. He is also the grandson of former US National Park Service Director Conrad Wirth and the great grandson of Theodore Wirth.

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