Conservation group opposes Tahoe-area ski resort gondola plan

Group says it will oppose gondola even if it runs adjacent to the wilderness land

A conservation group has vowed to stop a gondola lift planned to connect two Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts, complaining that it would cut through a federally preserved wilderness.

Sierra Watch, a nonprofit group based in Nevada City, Calif., said a gondola lift connecting the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts would slice through the federally protected Granite Chief Wilderness Area.

"That kind of development would be a nonstarter for us," said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch.

But the ski resort operators dispute the claim that the gondola will cut through wilderness area.

The gondola was announced earlier this week by the managers of the two ski resorts, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, which said it reached an agreement with the owner of the private property between the resorts.

The gondola would run about two miles between the bases of the two resorts, allowing skiers to zip between them without using ground transportation.

Although Squaw Valley Ski Holdings has yet to submit construction plans, Sierra Watch has developed a map showing how the gondola line would cut through the eastern corner of the wilderness area. 

Designated wilderness areas in the U.S. are set aside by an act of Congress as land that must remain pristine, free from the mechanical impacts of humans. Even bicycles are not permitted.

Mooers said his group has promised to stop the gondola, even if it only runs next to the wilderness area.

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings president and chief executive Andrew Wirth said Sierra Watch is wrong to say that the gondola will slice through wilderness area. Wirth said the gondola will be built on private property near the wilderness area, far enough away that hikers in the wilderness won't even be able to see the gondola.

Forrestry officials say they have tried for years to purchase the private land proposed for the gondola to include it into the wilderness area, without success.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

5:30 p.m.: This story was updated to include comments from Andrew Wirth, president and chief executive of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.

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