KT-22′s Backcountry Gate is OPEN!
Squaw to Alpine
Today Squaw/Alpine opened their backcountry connection. A lot of locals have scoffed at the “gate” since it accesses no real skiing and is more of a “backdoor” walk from one resort to the other. That being said, it’s Squaw’s first backcountry gate and the first step towards connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
The mission started with a ride up KT and a short ski down the Saddle. The Squaw Gate – there is only one – is located just beyond the Saddle and is very hard to miss. Upon entering the gate there is a short downward slope that runs for maybe 30 yards before it flattens out to a push along single track.
About 100 yards from the gate you hit a cat track that has kindly been constructed by Troy Caldwell, owner of White Wolf. Troy was out today saying hello to the skiers and giving out free hats. Troy told me that in 1969 Ski Magazine did a story on the possibility of one day connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. He was having each skier sign a sheet to mark the historic event. I am proud to say I was the 15th skier to use the Squaw/Alpine connect. Troy is a super dude and is fired up to see the Squaw/Alpine connection finally open.
Once you hit the cat track it’s about 20-30 minutes of walking before you hit the end of the trail.
The trail dumps you out just above the Alpine Meadows parking lot in Bernie’s Bowl. From here you have a decent size pitch to get some turns in before hitting the road.
Time: All told it took me about 45 minutes from the time I left the gate at Squaw until I was at the base of Alpine. I did stop to chat with Troy for a while and snap some pics. If you were really in a hurry I bet you could do it in under a half hour.
Skiing: The only skiing along the route is the very short pitch once you leave the gate at Squaw and than the terrain just above the parking lot which is a few hundred yards. I still think this is a better option than taking the shuttle but don’t expect much of a ski experience.
Alpine to Squaw
After taking a few laps at Alpine, which is skiing great, I started the hike back to Squaw.
The first part of the route from Squaw to Alpine heads out to the north side of Estelle Bowl and out to Bernie’s Bowl. If you ski Alpine you are familiar with the first part of the journey back to Squaw. Just before Bernie’s Bowl, after quite a bit of sidestepping, I dropped down into the Five Lakes Basin and founds some great turns.
The run down into the Five Lakes Basin was fantastic. Last weeks snow was still holding up well and there was not a track in sight. Once I hit the Basin I put my skins on and started out back towards Squaw. Mission acomplished.
Time: It took me about an 1:30 from the time I got off the Summit Chair till the time I was back through the gate at Squaw. If I had headed all the way out to Bernie’s Bowl and got on the cat track back to squaw it would have taken much less time. If I had taken this route I believe I could have made it back to Squaw in around an hour.
Skiing: The skiing down to the Five Lakes Basin was a lot of fun but probably not worth the 1:30 of hiking/sidestepping/skinning required to hit it.
All and all it was a fun mission. And I must say, this is the coolest think Squaw has done since merging with Alpine. Not so much for what it delivers today but for what it stands for. Go ski KT and then walk/ski over to Alpine for a few laps and you will really get a sense of the big picture. Once Squaw/Alpine is connected via White Wolf, Tahoe will have a truly world class resort on par with anything in North America.