Squaw Valley USA, Squaw Valley Cable Car Terminal

Olympic Valley, CA | 1970

The cable car terminal successfully addresses the design challenge to move as comfortably, effortlessly and rapidly as possible a continuous flow of 1,100 skiers per hour from the parking lot at grade level, through ticket booths to the boarding level, which must be high enough above grade to accommodate the necessary moving counterweights. This had to be accomplished without expensive waterproofing of the shafts in a fireproof, earthquake resistant building, which also needed to house and support all of the motive machinery for two, 120-passenger cable cars. In addition, the design had to accommodate the cable cars’ ascent of 2,000 feet over a distance of 7,000 feet in less than five minutes per trip, while also serving as an anchor for the entire tramway system. Ancillary facilities, including a ski rental shop, were also required.

The building and sequence of spaces are arranged so that the skier is at all times able to view directly or though skylights not only the ultimate mountain-top destination, but also the majority of the machinery, both moving and stationary, thus making the passenger’s journey from parking lot to cable car as interesting and exciting as possible. Encased in the glass towers flanking the entry, the counterweights are always on display, animating the architecture as they rise and fall 12 feet to balance the cars as they ascend and descend the mountain. In the expansive lobby, a large well is open to the below-grade machine room, and a glass-walled control booth perches overhead on the fifth level. Seismic resistance is provided by long, concrete walls that are parallel to the major axis of the building and a series of paired buttresses arranged at right angles to the major axis.


  • Square Footage: 37,143 s.f.
  • Construction Cost: $1,300,000
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Shepley Bulfinch Team

Lloyd Acton
George Mathey



  • AIA National Honor Award, 1970

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“This building is ably handled, fulfilling its program well and existing, in addition, as a handsome building.” -- Jury comment, AIA National Honor Awards

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