Squaw Valley Ski Resort

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] The resort attracts approximately 600,000 skiers a year.[4] The name is controversial because squaw is an ethnic and sexual slur, historically used for indigenous North American women.[5][6][7]

Squaw Valley
The Village at Squaw Valley in July 2007
The Village at Squaw Valley in July 2007
Squaw Valley is located in California
Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley
Location in California
Squaw Valley is located in the United States
Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley (the United States)
LocationSquaw Peak
Placer County, California
Nearest major cityTruckee, California
Reno, Nevada
Coordinates39°11′46″N 120°14′06″W / 39.196°N 120.235°W / 39.196; -120.235Coordinates: 39°11′46″N 120°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 system30
Lift capacity58,000 per hour
Terrain parks3
Snowfall450 in (1,140 cm)
Night skiingno

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.[8][9] Not far from Donner Pass, the area receives heavy maritime snowfall, frequently receiving 40 feet (12 m) or more in a winter.[10]

An aerial tramway rises 2,000 ft (610 m) to an elevation of 8,200 ft (2,500 m) above sea level. Squaw Valley is home to several annual summer events.


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 (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 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,[17][18] 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.[19][20]

Squaw Valley was purchased by private equity group KSL Capital Partners in November 2010.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

Ron Cohen is the resort's COO after the departure of Andrew Wirth.[24]

In June 2020, the owners of Squaw Valley invited Native American leaders to discuss the use of "squaw" in its name, which is now widely considered to be an ethnic and sexist slur.[5][25][6][7] Company spokesperson Christine Horvath stated that the business was creating a plan to review the use of the term and possibly remove it from the resort's name.[26]


Aerial tram to High Camp
The backside, at the base of Shirley Lake Express, in 2020

Lower mountain chairs (elev. 6200')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  
Tucker 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 Fixed-grip triple 1,238 ft (377 m) 1,800  / 
Squaw Creek Fixed-grip triple 1,309 ft (399 m) 700  / 
Squaw One Express 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 and Wiley Carpet  

Upper mountain chairs (elev. 8200')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) 3,000  / 
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  

Terrain aspect[27]Edit

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


Annual snowfall at Squaw Valley can surpass 500 inches.[28]

Alpine Meadows gondola connectionEdit

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC seeks to connect the Alpine Meadows (ski resort) with a "Base-to-Base" gondola.[29][30][31] 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.[32] A number of conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch and the Sierra Club, consider the proposed gondola a threat to Granite Chief Wilderness.[33][34] 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.[35] 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).[36] The approved gondola is planned to cross the private ski area, White Wolf Mountain, which is owned by Troy Caldwell. Caldwell supports the gondola.[37]

Development controversyEdit

Separate from the approved Squaw Alpine proposed gondola, Squaw Alpine has also prosed 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.[38] The plan would include 850 hotel and condominium units[39] and a 96-foot-tall "Mountain Adventure Camp"[40] featuring a year-round indoor waterpark.[41] 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".[42]

Sierra Watch created a grassroots campaign to “Keep Squaw True”, holding public events and circulating an on-line petition in opposition to KSL Capital Partners' proposed expansion plan.[43][44]

In November 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved KSL's controversial development proposal[45][46] in spite of opposition from local conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch.[47] Sierra Watch filed suit to overturn those approvals for violating the California Environmental Quality Act in December 2016.[48]

In 2017, resort owners added a roller coaster to their development proposal.[49]

Lake TahoeEdit

The Lake Tahoe area is located on the border between California and Nevada.[50] 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.[51] Lake Tahoe is home to 18 ski resorts, including Squaw Valley.[52]

A view of the Sun Bowl and Lake Tahoe from the top of Headwall


  1. ^ "Squaw Valley 1960 Winter Olympics". Olympics. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  2. ^ "Lift World: Lift-Database – Funitels". Seilbahntechnik. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  3. ^ Smith, Kelsey (27 September 2011). "Set the rumors to rest – Squaw & Alpine merge". Transworld Business. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  4. ^ "About Squaw Valley". The Wanderlust Festival. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b National Museum of the American Indian (2007). Do All Indians Live in Tipis?. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-115301-3.
  6. ^ a b Arlene B. Hirschfelder; Paulette Fairbanks Molin (2012). The Extraordinary Book of Native American Lists. Scarecrow. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-8108-7709-2.
  7. ^ a b King, C. Richard, "De/Scribing Squ*w: Indigenous Women and Imperial Idioms in the United States" in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v27 n2 p1-16 2003. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015
  8. ^ "Granite Chief, CA". TopoQuest. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  9. ^ "The Mountain". Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Mountain Stats". Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d e "History of Squaw Valley". Skibutlers. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  12. ^ a b c "Lake Tahoe History". Ski Lake Tahoe. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  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. ^ "Three killed as cable car falls 30 feet". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 16 April 1978. p. 2A.
  18. ^ "4 killed, 30 hurt on tram". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). Associated Press. 17 April 1978. p. A1.
  19. ^ "Cable car accident killing 4 to be analyzed by engineers". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. 17 April 1978. p. 5A.
  20. ^ http://www.moonshineink.com/sections/spot/30-years-later
  21. ^ Marino, Jonathan (24 November 2010). "Squaw Valley Bought by KSL Capital Partners". Mergers & Acquisitions. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  22. ^ Reynolds, Christopher (28 September 2011). "At Lake Tahoe's North Shore, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows come together". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  23. ^ "Pioneer Ski Area of America, Squaw Valley (No. 724 California Historical Landmark)". Sierra Nevada Geotourism. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  24. ^ Associated Press (13 April 2018). "Leader of Squaw Valley announces retirement". US News. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  25. ^ Schulman, Susan (16 January 2015). "Squaw Island to be renamed 'Deyowenoguhdoh'". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 14 April 2019. The proposed name change comes at the request of Native Americans, who say the word "squaw" is a racist, sexist term
  26. ^ Hoplamazian, Mara (19 June 2020). "Squaw Valley to discuss removing slur against Native Americans from California resort's name". Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  27. ^ Steiner, Christopher. "ZRankings Topological Survey – Squaw Valley". ZRankings Best Ski Resorts – Squaw Valley. ZRankings.
  28. ^ "Historical Snowfall". On The Snow.
  29. ^ Gondola | Squaw Alpine
  30. ^ Moffit, Bob (15 April 2015). "Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows Gondola Project Progresses", Capitol Public Radio News.
  31. ^ Environmental Impact Statement, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Base to Base Gondola Project.
  32. ^ Environmental Impact Statement, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Base to Base Gondola Project
  33. ^ Martin, Hugo (16 April 2015). "Conservation group opposes Tahoe-area ski resort gondola plan", Los Angeles Times.
  34. ^ Moffit, Bob (16 April 2015). "Conservation Group Opposes Gondola Project On Private Land", Capitol Public Radio News.
  35. ^ USDA Record of Decision 2020
  36. ^ Kelly, Jemima (21 February 2020). "Bitcoin cash is expanding into the void". Sierra Sun. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ Associated Press (16 April 2015). "“$1-billion Squaw Valley development plan moves closer to approval", Los Angeles Times.
  39. ^ Placer County (April 2016). "Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan, pg.3–6", submitted by Squaw Valley Real Estate, LLC.
  40. ^ Id. at pg. B-22, Development Standards and Guidelines, Placer County
  41. ^ Id at pg. 3–13, The Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan, Placer County
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ Action – Sierra Watch
  44. ^ Brannan, Brad (19 April 2016). "Squaw Valley chief faces community opposition to expansion", The Sacramento Bee.
  45. ^ Press Release (15 November 2016). "Placer County Supervisors approve Village at Squaw Valley Project", Placer County E-News.
  46. ^ Fimrite, Peter (16 November 2016). "Huge Squaw Valley expansion approved, but meets with objections", The San Francisco Chronicle.
  47. ^ Brannan, Brad (6 June 2016). "Proposed high-rises generate Squaw Valley controversy", The Sacramento Bee.
  48. ^ Brannan, Brad (15 December 2016). "Environmentalists challenge Squaw Valley expansion", The Sacramento Bee.
  49. ^ Fimrite, Peter (16 September 2017). "Timberline Twister roller coaster tying Squaw Valley in knots", The San Francisco Chronicle.
  50. ^ "Official Lake Tahoe Visitor Bureau". Visiting Lake Tahoe. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  51. ^ Bly, Laura (10 August 2012). "'Big Blue' Tahoe reigns as USA's best lake". USA Today. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  52. ^ "Orbitz Insider Index Reveals Top 10 Ski Destinations for 2010". Orbitz. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2012.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Squaw Valley at Wikimedia Commons