Squaw Valley Ski Resort
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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)|
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 disc 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 Sierra Nevada 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.
Squaw Valley 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) of Kyburz. The 1969 season saw a record snowpack at Squaw Valley; and over eight feet (2.4 m) of new snow cancelled the downhills. After an absence of 48 years, women's technical races returned in 2017 and overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin of Colorado won both events.
In 1978, Squaw Valley experienced one of the worst cable car accidents in history. On a stormy afternoon late in the season on Saturday, April 15, 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.
Squaw Valley was purchased by private equity group 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. 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.
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 nearby Sierra Nevada mining towns that were the first U.S. locations where organized skiing took place.
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. 
Alpine Meadows merger and development controversy
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. Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC seeks to connect the two resorts with a “Base-to-Base” gondola. 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. A number of conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch and the Sierra Club, consider the proposed gondola a threat to Granite Chief Wilderness. This proposed combination is supported by White Wolf Mountain owner Troy Caldwell.
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. The plan would include 850 hotel and condominium units and a 96-foot-tall “Mountain Adventure Camp” featuring a year-round indoor waterpark. 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.”
In November 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved KSL’s controversial development proposal in spite of opposition from local conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch. Sierra Watch filed suit to overturn those approvals for violating the California Environmental Quality Act in December 2016.
In 2017, resort owners added a roller coaster to their development proposal.
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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- Gondola | Squaw Alpine
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- Action - Sierra Watch
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Media related to Squaw Valley at Wikimedia Commons