This winter, Squaw Valley and the U.S. Forest Service will conduct a pilot study to evaluate the safety and feasibility of traveling between Squaw and Alpine through backcountry terrain.
Historically Squaw has operated under a closed boundary policy, while Alpine Meadows allows backcountry access. Since the Tahoe resorts merged this fall, the question of whether these policies would change has been a subject of speculation. The neighbors are separated by private land owned by Troy Caldwell and public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
“We thought it wise to get ahead of the issue and work with the Forest Service and develop an operating plan that might make sense,” says Squaw CEO Andy Wirth. “What we’re most interested in doing is seeing if this pilot program can facilitate what many of our customers seek—the ability to ski and ride between the two resorts—but to do so in a manner that is safe.”
In the study phase, ski patrollers and Forest Service personnel will use a backcountry gate at the base of Squaw’s Sun Bowl run (off the backside of Squaw Peak) to traverse to Alpine. They’ll assess terrain, exposure, topography, and route selection. One potential issue is the fact that the public lands are designated wilderness where motorized vehicles—like the snowmobiles and helicopters used in search and rescue operations—are prohibited.
Concern about skiers and rider’s trespassing through Caldwell’s land (located on the Alpine side of KT-22) to travel between Alpine and Squaw also prompted the study. “We think this might help lessen that pressure,” says Wirth.
“Squaw has investigated this concept of open boundaries in the past, but we think this is the moment and the time to take this kind of look at it.” —Olivia Dwyer