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Palisades Tahoe

Coordinates: 39°11′46″N 120°14′06″W / 39.196°N 120.235°W / 39.196; -120.235
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Palisades Tahoe
The Village at Palisades Tahoe, July 2007
The Village at Palisades Tahoe, July 2007
Palisades Tahoe is located in the United States
Palisades Tahoe
Palisades Tahoe
Location in the United States
Palisades Tahoe is located in California
Palisades Tahoe
Palisades Tahoe
Location in California
Location1960 Olympic Valley Road, Olympic Valley, CA
Nearest major cityTruckee, California
Reno, Nevada
Coordinates39°11′46″N 120°14′06″W / 39.196°N 120.235°W / 39.196; -120.235
OwnerAlterra Mountain Company
Vertical2,850 ft (870 m)
Top elevation9,050 ft (2,760 m)
Base elevation6,200 ft (1,890 m)
Skiable area3,600 acres (1,456.9 ha; 14.6 km2)
25% easiest
45% more difficult
30% most difficult
Longest run3.2 miles (5.1 km)
Mountain Run
Lift system30
Lift capacity58,000 per hour
Terrain parksYes, 2
Snowfall400 in (1,020 cm)
Night skiingNo

Palisades Tahoe is a ski resort in the western United States, located in Olympic Valley, California, northwest of Tahoe City in the Sierra Nevada range. From its founding in 1949, the resort was known as Squaw Valley, but it changed its name in 2021 due to the derogatory connotations of the word "squaw". It was the host site for the 1960 Winter Olympics.[1]

The Palisades Tahoe resort is the largest skiing complex in the Lake Tahoe region,[2] and is known for its challenging terrain.[3] Palisades Tahoe (not including Alpine Meadows) has a base elevation of 6,200 feet (1,890 meters) and a skiable 3,600 acres (1,500 hectares) across six peaks, employing 23 chairlifts, four carpet lifts, a tramway, a gondola connecting it to Alpine Meadows, and the only funitel in the United States. It tops out at 9,010 ft (2,750 m) at Granite Chief,[4][5] and averages 400 inches (33.3 feet; 10.2 meters) of annual snowfall.[6] The resort attracts approximately 600,000 skiers a year,[7] and is also home to several annual summer events.

The spotlight of the 1960 Olympics raised the resort's profile, and it went through several ownership changes beginning in the 1970s. In 2012, it merged with nearby Alpine Meadows, and became Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, to offer joint access to 6,000 acres (2,400 ha), 43 lifts, and over 270 runs. However, a constructed gondola connection between the resorts, as well as a proposed development at its base,[8] has met with controversy from environmentalists.[9]


Alpine runs of the
1960 Winter Olympics
Base area in December 2006


Former University of Nevada star skier, Wayne Poulsen, purchased the first 2,000 acres (810 ha) of Squaw Valley Ski Resort from the Southern Pacific Railroad.[10] Poulsen already had a history in the area: in 1931, he had placed third at an Olympic trials at Granlibakken in Tahoe City.[11] Shortly after, Poulsen met Harvard alumnus and trained lawyer Alex Cushing, who brought capital, political connections, and increased access to the project.[10] Cushing had fallen in love with Lake Tahoe after a visit to the Sierra Nevada in 1946.[11] 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.[10]

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.[10] When Palisades Tahoe opened, its Squaw One lift was deemed the longest double chairlift in the world.[11]

1960 Winter Olympics[edit]

Palisades Tahoe'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 United States skiing to the level of world-famous European skiing, and Squaw Valley's preparedness for the games showed the international community that United States ski resorts offered world-class facilities.[10]

During the Olympics, Palisades Tahoe was designated as California Historical Landmark Number 724. A marker was placed identifying Palisades Tahoe 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".[12]

Historic marker

Palisades Tahoe hosted World Cup races in 1969 with four technical events: slalom and giant slalom for both men and women. 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 Palisades Tahoe;[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 March 2017 and overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin of Colorado won both events.

Ownership changes[edit]

In 1971, following several years of financial losses, the state announced it would seek bids to buy Squaw Valley. After a bid by John Fell Stevenson failed, 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 started to operate as one, under the combined name Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, 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.

Alpine Meadows gondola connection[edit]

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC sought to connect to the Alpine Meadows resort with a "Base-to-Base" gondola.[25][26][27] Resort owners needed permission from local land managers, including Placer County and the Tahoe National Forest, which had to study the proposed project's environmental impacts.[28]

A number of conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch and the Sierra Club, considered the proposed gondola a threat to Granite Chief Wilderness.[9][29] In July 2019 Sierra Watch and Granite Chief Wilderness Protection League filed a lawsuit against 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.[30] 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 Nevada yellow-legged frog.[31]

The approved gondola was planned to cross the private ski area White Wolf Mountain, which is owned by Troy Caldwell, who supported the gondola's construction.[32] Construction of the gondola commenced in Summer 2021, and in 2022 the base-to-base gondola finally opened, connecting the Palisades Tahoe resort with Alpine Meadows, while crossing through neighboring resort White Wolf Mountain.[33]

Development proposals[edit]

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 $1-billion plan that prompted the Attorney General of California to write a letter of concern to Placer County.[34] The plan would include 850 hotel and condominium units[35] and a 96-foot-tall "Mountain Adventure Camp"[36] featuring a year-round indoor waterpark.[37] 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".[38]

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.[39][8]

In November 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved KSL's controversial development proposal[40][41] in spite of opposition from local conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch.[42] Sierra Watch filed suit to overturn those approvals for violating the California Environmental Quality Act in December 2016.[43]

In 2017, resort owners added a roller coaster to their development proposal.[44]

Squaw Valley renaming[edit]

The term "squaw" is now considered offensive by many Native Americans,[45][46] and the Washoe tribe, which is native to the region, has criticized its use in the name of the resort.[47] As a result, the resort announced on August 25, 2020, that the name would be changed. President Ron Cohen said in a statement, "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."[48] The new name, Palisades Tahoe, was formally announced on September 13, 2021. Later that day, the Washoe tribe sent out a press release stating that the tribe "commends and fully supports the resort management and others who contributed to this milestone decision."[49] After coming to an agreement regarding the name change, the ski resort and the Washoe tribe have been working together in educating resort guests about tribal culture, with the resort launching a Washoe cultural tour and an exhibit on the Washoe way of life.[47] The main road leading to the resort was subsequently renamed by the county from "Squaw Valley Road" to "Olympic Valley Road" in early 2022.[50]


Aerial tram to High Camp
An elevated view of the village and some of the lifts at Palisades Tahoe.
The backside, at the base of Shirley Lake Express, in January 2020

Lower mountain chairs (elev. 6,200 ft) – Palisades[edit]

Name Type Vertical rise Capacity per hour General terrain
Aerial Tram Tram 1,886 ft (575 m) 700 Access to upper mountain
Gold Coast Funitel Funitel 1,742 ft (531 m) 4,000 Access to upper mountain
First Venture Fixed-grip triple 98 ft (30 m) 800
SnoVentures Carpet Carpet 35 ft (11 m) 2,400
Kaya Carpet 15 ft (4.6 m) 2,000
Exhibition Fixed-grip quad 808 ft (246 m) 1,636 /
Far East Express Detachable six-pack 960 ft (290 m) 2,600 /
Red Dog Express Detachable six-pack 1,238 ft (377 m) 2,400 /
Resort Chair Fixed-grip triple 1,309 ft (399 m) 700 /
Wa She Shu Detachable quad 1,660 ft (510 m) 2,400 Access to upper mountain
KT-22 Express Detachable quad 1,767 ft (539 m) 2,100
Olympic Lady Fixed-grip double 1,175 ft (358 m) 1,100
Boon Carpet
Murphy Carpet
Wiley Carpet

Upper mountain chairs (elev. 8,200 ft) – Palisades[edit]

Name Type Vertical rise Capacity per hour General terrain
Bailey's Beach Fixed-grip triple 95 ft (29 m) 1,266
Belmont Fixed-grip double 75 ft (23 m) 914
The Pulley Rope tow /
Mountain Meadow Fixed-grip triple 222 ft (68 m) 1,805
Emigrant Fixed-grip triple 761 ft (232 m) 1,558 /
Gold Coast Express Detachable six-pack 563 ft (172 m) 3,075 /
Big Blue Express Detachable six-pack 557 ft (170 m) 3,000 /
Shirley Lake Express Detachable six-pack 717 ft (219 m) 3,200
Siberia Express Detachable six-pack 916 ft (279 m) 2,400 /
Solitude Fixed-grip triple 660 ft (200 m) 1,800 /
Broken Arrow Fixed-grip double 302 ft (92 m) 1,200
Granite Chief Fixed-grip triple 999 ft (304 m) 1,565
Headwall Express Detachable six-pack 1,750 ft (530 m) 2,400
Silverado Fixed-grip triple 1,371 ft (418 m) 1,346
High Camp Carpet Carpet

Front side chairs (elev. 6,835 ft) – Alpine Meadows[edit]

Name Type Vertical rise Capacity per hour General terrain
Summit Express Detachable six-pack 1,560 ft (480 m) 2,400 /
Roundhouse Express Detachable four-pack 954 ft (291 m) 2,400 /
Meadow Fixed-grip double 174 ft (53 m) 1,200
Subway Fixed-grip double 120 ft (37 m) 1,200
Little Carpet Carpet
Big Carpet Carpet
Kangaroo Fixed-grip double 445 ft (136 m) 1,810
Yellow Fixed-grip double 586 ft (179 m) 1,200 /
Alpine Bowl Fixed-grip double 913 ft (278 m) 1,200 /
Treeline Cirque Detachable four-pack 1,036 ft (316 m) 2,400 /
Scott Fixed-grip triple 1,068 ft (326 m) 1,500 /

Back side chairs (elev. 7,087 ft) – Alpine Meadows[edit]

Name Type Vertical rise Capacity per hour General terrain
Lakeview Fixed-grip triple 845 ft (258 m) 1,800
Sherwood Express Detachable four-pack 943 ft (287 m) 2,000 /

Terrain aspect[51][edit]

  • North: 50%
  • East: 40%
  • West: 2%
  • South: 8%


Annual snowfall at Palisades Tahoe can surpass 500 inches (41.7 ft; 12.7 m).[52]


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  2. ^ Patel, Vimal (14 September 2021). "Squaw Valley Resort, Acknowledging 'Racist and Sexist' Name, Changes It". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  3. ^ Curtin, Irwin (21 January 2018). "At Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, it's all about the terrain". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  4. ^ "Granite Chief, CA". TopoQuest. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  5. ^ "About Us". Palisades Tahoe Resort. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  6. ^ "About Us". Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  7. ^ "About Squaw Valley". The Wanderlust Festival. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
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  9. ^ a b Martín, Hugo (16 April 2015). "Conservation group opposes Tahoe-area ski resort gondola plan". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
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  11. ^ a b c "Lake Tahoe History". Ski Lake Tahoe. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  12. ^ *"Pioneer Ski Area of America, Squaw Valley (No. 724 California Historical Landmark)". Sierra Nevada Geotourism. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  13. ^ "Kidd dazzles skiing field; Kiki falls in slalom race". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. 1 March 1969. p. 8.
  14. ^ "World Cup set despite snow". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 28 February 1969. p. 5B.
  15. ^ "Snow worry for officials of World Cup". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. 28 February 1969. p. 16.
  16. ^ "Schranz, Gabl take on World Cup challengers". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. 28 February 1969. p. 8.
  17. ^ Ancinas, Eddy Starr (7 October 2019). Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows: Tales from Two Valleys 70th Anniversary Edition. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4671-4405-6.
  18. ^ "Three killed as cable car falls 30 feet". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 16 April 1978. p. 2A.
  19. ^ "4 killed, 30 hurt on tram". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). Associated Press. 17 April 1978. p. A1.
  20. ^ "Cable car accident killing 4 to be analyzed by engineers". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 17 April 1978. p. 5A.
  21. ^ "30 Years Later - Moonshine Ink". 10 April 2008.
  22. ^ "Squaw Valley Tram Accident - 1978".
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  25. ^ Gondola | Squaw Alpine
  26. ^ Moffit, Bob (15 April 2015). "Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows Gondola Project Progresses", Capitol Public Radio News.
  27. ^ Environmental Impact Statement, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Base to Base Gondola Project.
  28. ^ Environmental Impact Statement, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Base to Base Gondola Project
  29. ^ Moffit, Bob (16 April 2015). "Conservation Group Opposes Gondola Project On Private Land", Capitol Public Radio News.
  30. ^ USDA Record of Decision 2020
  31. ^ Kelly, Jemima (21 February 2020). "Bitcoin cash is expanding into the void". Sierra Sun. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  32. ^ Whiting, Sam (9 March 2008). "Troy Caldwell's dream of an Alpine-to-Squaw route lives on at his White Wolf Mountain". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  33. ^ Pridgen, Andrew (4 November 2022). "'A zombie we've killed before': Palisades Tahoe gondola sparks development fears". SF Chronicle. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  34. ^ Associated Press (16 April 2015). ""$1-billion Squaw Valley development plan moves closer to approval", Los Angeles Times.
  35. ^ Placer County (April 2016). "Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan, pg.3–6", submitted by Squaw Valley Real Estate, LLC.
  36. ^ Id. at pg. B-22, Development Standards and Guidelines, Placer County
  37. ^ Id at pg. 3–13, The Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan, Placer County
  38. ^ Placer County Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) 3.2.4–326, Prepared by Ascent Environmental for Placer County, April 19, 2016.
  39. ^ Action – Sierra Watch
  40. ^ Press Release (15 November 2016). "Placer County Supervisors approve Village at Squaw Valley Project", Placer County E-News.
  41. ^ Fimrite, Peter (16 November 2016). "Huge Squaw Valley expansion approved, but meets with objections", The San Francisco Chronicle.
  42. ^ Brannan, Brad (6 June 2016). "Proposed high-rises generate Squaw Valley controversy", The Sacramento Bee.
  43. ^ Brannan, Brad (15 December 2016). "Environmentalists challenge Squaw Valley expansion", The Sacramento Bee.
  44. ^ Fimrite, Peter (16 September 2017). "Timberline Twister roller coaster tying Squaw Valley in knots", The San Francisco Chronicle.
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  48. ^ "Palisades Tahoe, formerly Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows". www.palisadestahoe.com. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  49. ^ Smokey, Serrell (13 September 2021). "Washoe Tribe Commends Resort in Olympic Valley on Rename". Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  50. ^ "Placer County removes the name Squaw from all county-maintained roads | Placer County, CA".
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  52. ^ "Historical Snowfall". On The Snow.

External links[edit]

Media related to Squaw Valley at Wikimedia Commons