Squaw Valley Ski Resort
The Village at Squaw Valley in July 2007
Placer County, California
|Nearest city||Truckee, California
|Vertical||2,850 ft (870 m)|
|Top elevation||9,050 ft (2,760 m)|
|Base elevation||6,200 ft (1,890 m)|
|Skiable area||4,000 acres (16.2 km2)|
: 15% easiest
: 35% more difficult
: 50% most difficult
|Longest run||3.2 miles (5.1 km)
|Lift capacity||58,000 per hour|
|Snowfall||450 in (1,140 cm)|
Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, California, is one of the largest ski areas in the United States, and was the host site of the entire 1960 Winter Olympics. It is the second-largest ski area in Lake Tahoe after Heavenly, with 30 chairlifts, 3,600 acres (15 km2) and the only funitel in the U.S. Since Squaw Valley joined forces with Alpine Meadows in 2012, the resorts offer joint access to 6,200 acres (25 km2), 43 lifts and over 270 trails. The resort attracts approximately 600,000 skiers a year.
Located west of Lake Tahoe 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 9,050 ft (2,760 m) at Granite Chief. Not far from Donner Pass, the area receives heavy maritime snowfall, frequently receiving 40 feet (12 m) or more in a winter.
A scenic aerial tramway rises 2,000 ft (610 m) to High Camp at an elevation of 8,200 ft (2,500 m) above sea level. At High Camp, tourists have access to the facilities of Squaw Valley, including a pool, roller skating, dining, shopping, and high-altitude disk golf.
Squaw Valley is home to several annual summer events. The resort brings in accomplished yoga teachers and many well-known musical performers every July, and has for forty-five years provided the summer premises of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Summer also welcomes a wide array of concerts and beer and wine events including the Brews, Jazz and Funk Fest, Peaks and Paws and Bluesdays.
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. Poulsen already had a history in the area: in 1931, he had placed third at an Olympic trials at Granlibakken in Tahoe City. Shortly after, Poulsen met Harvard alumnus and trained lawyer Alex Cushing, who brought capital, political connections, and increased access to the project. Cushing had fallen in love with Lake Tahoe after a visit to the Sierras in 1946. 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.
Cushing modeled the resort after European ski destinations. He re-engineered the model of traditional U.S. ski resort by locating a swimming pool, ice rink, roller disco, and restaurants on the mountain instead of at the base. His designs also brought the most advanced lift technology to the U.S. for the first time. When Squaw Valley opened, its Squaw One lift was deemed the longest double chairlift in the world.
Squaw Valley's enormous 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.
In 1978, Squaw Valley experienced one of the worst cable car accidents in history. On a stormy afternoon on April 15, the Tram at Squaw Valley 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 people were killed and 31 injured. The weather was awful and the destroyed Tram hung in a very hard-to-reach location in hostile terrain. The survivors owe their lives to the Herculean rescue effort put forth by Squaw Valley staff and locals.
Squaw Valley was purchased by KSL Capital Partners in November 2010. 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.
Squaw Valley was designated a California Historical Landmark in 1960 during the Olympic Games. The area was dubbed the Pioneer Ski Area of America, commemorating 100 years of skiing in the Valley since it became the first U.S. location where organized skiing took place.
In general, the mountain is divided into the Lower Mountain, branching from the village at elev. 6,200' and the Upper Mountain, branching from the Gold Coast and High Camp mid-mountain lodges at elev. 8,200', keeping with Cushing's more European model. However, these divisions are entirely arbitrary as the entire resort flows continuously with runs and chairlifts throughout.
Lower mountain chairs (elev. 6200′)
Upper mountain chairs (elev. 8200′)
- North: 50%
- East: 40%
- West: 2%
- South: 8%
Annual snowfall at Squaw Valley can surpass 500 inches. In 2012, there were a reported 595 inches of snow at the summit peak
Alpine Meadows merger
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. Alpine Meadow’s parent, JMA Ventures, holds a minority stake. The new umbrella entity for both resorts is known as Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC. It has been discussed in the media that the new company Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC, will seek to eventually combine the two resorts into one mega resort through an agreement with a ski resort located on the mountain connecting Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley, called White Wolf Mountain. This proposed combination is supported by White Wolf Mountain owner Troy Caldwell. If connected via White Wolf, the combined ski area would be the largest resort in the United States with over 6,000 acres, only slightly smaller than Whistler Blackcomb in Canada at 8,100 acres.
The Lake Tahoe area is located on the border between California and Nevada. The area centers around Lake Tahoe itself, the second deepest lake in the U.S. which was voted America’s “Best Lake” in 2012 by The USA Today. Lake Tahoe is home to 18 ski resorts, including Squaw Valley.
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