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At Lake Tahoe's North Shore, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows come together

September 28, 2011|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times staff writer
  • Squaw Valley USA, seen here, is a leading ski resort on Lake Tahoe's North Shore, and has joined operations with neighboring Alpine Meadows
Squaw Valley USA, seen here, is a leading ski resort on Lake Tahoe's… (Tom Day / Squaw Valley USA )

Squaw Valley USA and Alpine Meadows, two of the largest ski resorts at Lake Tahoe, are combining operations.

If you’re an optimist, the move might get you more downhill runs for your lift-ticket dollar this winter, and it might help the Lake Tahoe/Reno area position itself in the global jostling to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

If you’re a pessimist, this is the second consolidation among major Tahoe-area resorts in a year, and its effect on the workforce is unclear.

In the deal, announced Tuesday, the two resorts will retain their distinct identities but unite under common management dominated by Squaw’s Valley’s parent company, KSL Capital Partners LLC.  Alpine Valley’s parent, JMA Ventures, will own a smaller part. The new umbrella entity over both resorts will be known as Squaw Valley Ski Holdings LLC.

Together, the resorts amount to more than 6,000 skiable acres, including eight peaks, 44 lifts and more than 270 trails. The two resorts are neighbors but are not connected by any lifts. On Wednesday, Squaw Valley spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said that “the vision of connecting the two resorts is not lost on the men behind this deal,” including KSL president and chief executive Andy Wirth, who will lead the merged companies.

But in the short term, Richmond said, “With the ski season fast approaching, our priority now is to make sure this is a seamless transition.”

A third neighbor to the two is the much smaller White Wolf resort. Its owner, Troy Caldwell, told the San Francisco Chronicle this in March 2008: "If my dream were totally brought to fruition, White Wolf Mountain would become an inter-connect between Alpine and Squaw. A skier could ski from the Squaw side all the way to the Alpine Meadows ski area."

The Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows consolidation will probably be finalized in late October or early November, Richmond said. Meanwhile, the resorts’ websites are already selling a new Tahoe Super Pass, which allows unlimited skiing and riding at both resorts for $799 (adults age 23 to 64) or $529 (ages 13 to 22 and 65 to 75). For $439, adult skiers and boarders can get a Bronze Super Pass that covers most of the season, with about 15 high-demand days blacked out.

For a Tahoe Super Six pass, which allows six unrestricted days of skiing and riding, the adult price is $399.

For skiers who had already purchased season passes at one of the resorts, the move could be a bonus – many will now have access to much more snow for the same price. Squaw management has set up an FAQ page to clarify what will change and what won’t.

The new passes do not include Homewood Mountain or Kirkwood resorts. Homewood Mountain Resort, which has operated as a sibling resort to Alpine Meadows, will not be affected by the new affiliation and will continue to be owned and operated by JMA.

The last year has brought a rush to consolidate among ski resorts in the area. Vail Resorts Inc., operator of Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, in October 2010, also acquired the Northstar-at-Tahoe resort near the lake’s North Shore.

Squaw Valley, on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore, includes six mountain peaks, 30 lifts and more than 3,600 skiable acres. Its trails are 45% intermediate, 30% advanced and 25% beginner. It hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and has been mentioned as a possible contender to host the 2022 winter games.  

KSL, based in Denver, bought Squaw Valley late last year. In July, it kicked off a $50-million, multi-year upgrade, known as “Squaw Renaissance.” Once management has further considered possibilities for the 2,400 skiable acres and 100 trails at Alpine Meadows, Richmond said, “similar significant investments will be made there are well.”

Streamlining workforces is typically a goal in a merger, if only at the executive level. But Squaw Valley officials declined to discuss any details. “This deal won’t be closed for a couple of months," Richmond said, "so anything regarding employees is premature to discuss until closing.”

Squaw Valley's workforce amounted to about 1,700 people at the peak of last winter, Richmond said.

As for the move’s Olympic implications, the Colorado Independent on Wednesday suggested that the Reno-Lake Tahoe region “suddenly became a lot more attractive.” With their territories merged, the Independent noted, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are larger than Vail, Colo. The International Olympic Committee isn't expected to choose a 2022 location until 2015.
 

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