Palisades Tahoe is a ski resort in Olympic Valley, California located northwest of Tahoe City in the Sierra Nevada. From the years 1949 to 2021, the resort went by the name Squaw Valley but changed due to the derogatory meaning to Native Americans.[1][2] Opened in 1949, it was the host site for the 1960 Winter Olympics.[3]

The resort is the largest skiing complex in the Lake Tahoe region,[4] and is known for its challenging terrain.[5] It covers a base of 6,200 ft (1,890 m) and a skiable 3,600 acres (15 km2) across six peaks, employing 30 chairlifts (including a tramway and the only funitel in the U.S.). It tops out at 9,010 ft (2,750 m) at Granite Chief.[6][7] It averages 450 inches of snowfall every winter.[8] The resort attracts approximately 600,000 skiers a year,[9] and is also home to several annual summer events.

The spotlight of the 1960 Olympics raised the resort's profile. It went through several ownership changes beginning in the 1970s. In 2012, Palisades Tahoe merged with nearby Alpine Meadows, and began to do business under the combined name Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, to offer joint access to 6,200 acres (25 km2), 43 lifts and over 270 trails.[10] However, a proposed gondola connection between the resorts, as well as a proposed development at its base,[11] has met with controversy from environmentalists.[12]

In September 2021, the resort changed its name to Palisades Tahoe to get rid of the ethnic and sexual slur of "squaw".[13][14][15][16]


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.[17] Poulsen already had a history in the area: in 1931, he had placed third at an Olympic trials at Granlibakken in Tahoe City.[18] Shortly after, Poulsen met Harvard alumnus and trained lawyer Alex Cushing, who brought capital, political connections, and increased access to the project.[17] Cushing had fallen in love with Lake Tahoe after a visit to the Sierra Nevada in 1946.[18] 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.[17]

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.[17] When Palisades Tahoe opened, its Squaw One lift was deemed the longest double chairlift in the world.[18]

1960 Winter Olympics

Palisades Tahoe'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.[17]

During the Olympics, Palisades Tahoe was designated as California Historical Landmark Number 724. A marker was placed identifying Palisades Tahoe as a Pioneer Ski Area of America. The marker's plaque commemorated 100 years of organized skiing in "mining towns in the Sierra Nevada, particularly Whiskey Diggs, Poker Flat, Port Wine, Onion Valley, La Porte, and Johnsville".[19]

Palisades Tahoe 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)[20] of Kyburz. The 1969 season saw a record snowpack at Palisades Tahoe;[21] and over eight feet (2.4 m) of new snow cancelled the downhills.[22][23] After an absence of 48 years, women's technical races returned in March 2017 and overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin of Colorado won both events.

Ownership changes

In 1971, following several years of financial losses, the state announced it would seek bids to buy Squaw Valley. After a bid by John Fell Stevenson failed, Dick Baker and his Australian company Mainline Corporation successfully bid $25 million plus 1,500 acres from the Poulsens. In August 1974 the Australian company Mainline Corporation collapsed and Squaw Valley was again back on the market for sale.[24]

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,[25][26] 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.[27][28][29]

Squaw Valley was purchased by private equity group KSL Capital Partners in November 2010.[30] 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 started to operate as one, under the combined name Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, with joint lift tickets and single season passes for visitors and free shuttles between its locations, but preserves the individuality of the two resorts.[31] 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.

Alpine Meadows gondola connection

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC seeks to connect the Alpine Meadows resort with a "Base-to-Base" gondola.[32][33][34] 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.[35] A number of conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch and the Sierra Club, consider the proposed gondola a threat to Granite Chief Wilderness.[12][36] 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.[37] 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).[38] The approved gondola is planned to cross the private ski area, White Wolf Mountain, which is owned by Troy Caldwell. Caldwell supports the gondola.[39] Construction of the gondola commenced Summer 2021.

Development controversy

Separate from the approved Squaw Alpine proposed gondola, Squaw Alpine has also proposed 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 $1 billion plan that prompted the Attorney General of California to write a letter of concern to Placer County.[40] The plan would include 850 hotel and condominium units[41] and a 96-foot-tall "Mountain Adventure Camp"[42] featuring a year-round indoor waterpark.[43] 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".[44]

Sierra Watch created a grassroots campaign to "Keep Squaw True", holding public events and circulating an online petition in opposition to KSL Capital Partners' proposed expansion plan.[45][11]

In November 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved KSL's controversial development proposal[46][47] in spite of opposition from local conservation organizations, including Sierra Watch.[48] Sierra Watch filed suit to overturn those approvals for violating the California Environmental Quality Act in December 2016.[49]

In 2017, resort owners added a roller coaster to their development proposal.[50]

Squaw Valley name controversy

The Ski Resort's previous name was an ethnic, racial, and sexual slur.[51][2] As Akwesasne Mohawk journalist Vincent Schilling explains, the word stems from “... the dirtiest words for female anatomy, that I won't use for purposes of being respectful ... I think you'd understand that one of the words starts with the letter C.” [52] Over time, professor of American Indian Studies Vanessa Esquivido explains, the word “has morphed into a misogynist and racist term to disparage indigenous women.” [53] As such, Darrel Cruz of the Washoe Tribe, whose ancestral territory comprises the resort, explained that the term is a “constant reminder of those time periods when it was not good for us [Native Americans]. It's a term that was inflicted upon us by somebody else and we don't agree with it.".[54]

Due to the Washoe Tribe's actions, on August 25, 2020, Ron Cohen, President, and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows issued a statement that included the following apology. “While we love our local history and the memories we all associate with this place as it has been named for so long, we are confronted with the overwhelming evidence that the term 'squaw' is considered offensive”.[55] He intended that action would be taken to change the resort's name by summer 2021. The new name, Palisades Tahoe, was formally announced on September 13, 2021. Later on that day the Washoe tribe sent out a press release that stated how the tribe “commends and fully supports the resort management and others who contributed to this milestone decision.”[56] After coming to an agreement regarding the name change, Valley to the ski resort and the Washoe tribe have been working together in educating resort guests about tribal culture. This summer, the resort launched the Washoe Cultural Tour series, offering a monthly talk by Darrel Cruz, a member of the Washoe Tribe Historic Prevention Office, and an advocate for the name change. The resort will also install an exhibit on the Washoe way of life.[54]


Aerial tram to High Camp
Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort, from gondola
Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort
The backside, at the base of Shirley Lake Express, in January 2020

Lower mountain chairs (elev. 6200')

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 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
SnoVentures Carpet Carpet 35 ft (11 m) 2,400 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
Kaya Carpet 15 ft (4.6 m) 2,000 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
Exhibition Fixed-grip quad 808 ft (246 m) 1,636 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Far East Express Detachable six-pack 960 ft (290 m) 2,600 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Red Dog Fixed-grip triple 1,238 ft (377 m) 1,800 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Resort Chair Fixed-grip triple 1,309 ft (399 m) 700 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Wa She Shu 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 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Olympic Lady Fixed-grip double 1,175 ft (358 m) 1,100 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Boon Carpet Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
Murphy Carpet Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
Wiley Carpet Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg

Upper mountain chairs (elev. 8200')

Name Type Vertical rise Capacity per hour General terrain
Bailey's Beach Fixed-grip triple 95 ft (29 m) 1,266 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
Belmont Fixed-grip double 75 ft (23 m) 914 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
The Pulley Rope tow Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Mountain Meadow Fixed-grip triple 222 ft (68 m) 1,805 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg
Emigrant Fixed-grip triple 761 ft (232 m) 1,558 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Gold Coast Express Detachable six-pack 563 ft (172 m) 3,075 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Big Blue Express Detachable six-pack 557 ft (170 m) 3,000 Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Shirley Lake Express Detachable six-pack 717 ft (219 m) 3,200 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg
Siberia Express Detachable six-pack 916 ft (279 m) 3,000 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Solitude Fixed-grip triple 660 ft (200 m) 1,800 Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg/Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Broken Arrow Fixed-grip double 302 ft (92 m) 1,200 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Granite Chief Fixed-grip triple 999 ft (304 m) 1,565 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Headwall Express Detachable six-pack 1,750 ft (530 m) 2,400 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
Silverado Fixed-grip triple 1,371 ft (418 m) 1,346 Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg
High Camp Carpet Carpet Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg

Terrain aspect[57]

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


Annual snowfall at Palisades Tahoe can surpass 500 inches.[58]


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External links

Media related to Squaw Valley at Wikimedia Commons