Even on a blustery day one can appreciate the rugged terrain the gondola crosses. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Convenient. Comfortable. Scenic.

That’s how people describe the $65 million Base to Base Gondola at Palisades Tahoe.

Wayne Paulson (1915-1995), who founded what is now known as Palisades Tahoe, envisioned long ago linking his resort with Alpine Meadows. While he didn’t live to see it become a reality, his successors made his dream come true with the opening of the gondola in December 2022.

Parking at the resorts is one reason people are opting for the gondola. Bill Stewart of Carnelian Bay prefers starting on the Alpine side, whereas Rick Barr of Truckee leaves his vehicle at Palisades.

“I’ve never liked driving here,” Barr said after exiting the gondola on the Alpine said. “This has solved that problem.”

Bob McCullough from Napa Valley say he rides the new gondola every other time he comes to the mountain because of the convenience.

Some facts and figures about the Base to Base Gondola:

  • Opened December 2022
  • Seats 8
  • Takes 16 minutes
  • Winter operation only
  • 96 cabins
  • 4 miles long
  • 33 lift towers
  • Can be operated as one continuous lift for two lifts from the respected bases to the top of KT-22.
  • Sightseeing tickets available.

Source: Palisades Tahoe

It’s also possible to ride it as a sightseer, which is what Sue and Roy Vinyard of Discovery Bay were doing in January. Normally they take it with skis in tow.

“I love it because it’s such easy access to Alpine. A lot of times we ski both mountains in the same day,” Sue Vinyard said. “And the scenery is beautiful.”

Her husband commented on how comfortable the cars are.

David Long and Joyce Youngs, who live on the South Shore, came up in December to check out the gondola without any intent of skiing.

“While riding the gondola, I was able to appreciate the steepness of the canyons which drop into Alpine Meadows. We only caught a glimpse of the lake on the ride due to cloudy conditions,” Long said. “Once past the KT-22 chair you can see what looks like an old chairlift which was assumed to be part of a private land holding that was a stumbling block in the gondola’s development. The scenery is not as spectacular as that on the funitel or the tram, but much more panoramic than the others.”

They rode all three apparatuses that day.

The new gondola is steps from the funitel at the base of Palisades. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The towers one sees are on the land owned by Troy Caldwell. About half of the gondola goes through his property, including the mid-stations. Palisades pays him rent to do so. He also owns the top of KT-22.

While the resort is not releasing exact ridership numbers, employees have said more people are taking the gondola this season. It’s also not known what the breakdown of skiers vs. sightseers is.

Gondola cars are not heated, so you definitely want to dress for winter.

Warning signs at the top of KT-22 likely keep many riders in the gondola car. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Even with a Stage 1 wind hold in mid-January, this year-old gondola barely swung. If one closed her eyes, it would be impossible to know the weather was less than ideal outside. It is that smooth.

Wind is one of the complaints, though. If the gondola closes because of wind, skiers would have to take a bus back to their starting base. And wind is a regular occurrence here.

With Alpine and Palisade linked as one resort, it makes this the second largest in the United States with 6,000 skiable acres. Park City in Utah (7,300 acres) took the stop spot when Vail Resorts’ connected Park City and Canyons with a gondola in December 2015.

Note: This story was written for Tahoe Guide.

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