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Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Updated: September 30, 4:41 PM ET
One ticket to Squaw and Alpine

By Megan Michelson
ESPN.com

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, seen here, will now be accessible via a shared lift ticket.

Squaw Valley announced early Tuesday morning that the Tahoe ski area would be merging with neighboring Alpine Meadows. Rumors of a partnership between the two resorts has been discussed for years, but no agreement was ever met.

But now, season passes and lift tickets will work at both ski resorts starting this winter, with an all-new $4399 Tahoe Super Pass and an unrestricted pass to both ski areas selling for $799.

The deal allegedly was initiated last winter on the chairlift, in what started as a conversation between Squaw Valley president and CEO Andy Wirth and Todd Chapman, president and CEO of JMA Ventures, the company that owns Alpine Meadows. The merger is expected to be finalized before the start of the upcoming ski season.

Wirth plans to take over as the president and CEO of the new combined entity of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. KSL Capital Partners, the owner of Squaw Valley, will be the majority owner of the combined company.

Although the two ski areas plan to operate a shuttle between them, at this point, there are no plans to link the ski areas via a chairlift or tram. "The idea of literally joining the two ski areas isn't lost on the guys behind this merger," Squaw Valley spokesperson Amelia Richmond told ESPN. "But at this point, the main priority is making sure the guest experience this winter is as good as it can be and that we're handling it as a seamless transition. That's the focus right now. But it's definitely something to consider. There are a lot of third parties involved."

One main third party is Troy Caldwell, who owns the property that stretches between the two ski areas. Caldwell could not be reached for comment on Tuesday but in June, Caldwell told ESPN when asked about the possibility of an upcoming merger, "We've always kept that door open ... If there is something going on, they haven't involved me."

As if to calm Tahoe locals with fears that the resorts may lose their individual charms, in an email sent out by Wirth, he wrote, "As we move forward with consolidating our operations, we want you to know that what's going to remain the same is as important as what's going to change: We think the key to the success of the consolidation is our fervent commitment to maintain each resort's distinctive character. People, terrain, activities, all come together to give a resort its individual character, and that's what we're committed to retaining."

JMA's Chapman agreed. "While both resorts are unique, this partnership is a natural fit," Champman wrote. "As what unites our brands and the spirit of our mountains is our guests' desire for exploration and adventure."