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Squaw Valley, California

The largest ski resort in North Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley looks and feels like a ski area in Europes Alps. The high alpine terrain is vast and the village—a mix of new development and 1960s Olympic architectural relicsis delightful.

Squaw Valley USA opened in 1949 but became part of skiing lore in 1960 when the resort hosted the Winter Olympics. Racing down steep, snow-filled gullies and around exposed cliff bands, with only a few pines dotting the landscape, the European racers must have felt right at home. With so many wide-open bowls and snowfields—4,000 acres of them—Squaw Valley has few named runs; the lifts have names, and skiers and riders pick their own routes down the mountain. What would be called a trail map at some resorts is referred to as a Mountain Guide at Squaw.

Its impossible to ski the entire resort in one day, and locals know to pick a favorite area and do laps on the lift, trying a new line each run. Some season pass holders are known to ski and ride only the legendary KT-22, a mountain so steep that it took Sandy Poulsen, wife of co-founder Wayne Poulsen, 22 kick turns to reach the valley from the summit. But Squaw Valley isn just about steeps and cliffs. The entire mid-mountain area above High Camp is a field of dreams for beginners and intermediates, and when the sun is shining, this area feels like the beach. Families should be advised of Squaw’s well-earned reputation for aggressive skiers—they’re fast, very fast, and that makes gentler skiers pretty uncomfortable.

Access starts in the village with the 28-person Funitel or the 110-person cable car. Both lifts take skiers and riders to mid-mountain, where experts can go higher, and intermediates and beginners can spend the day. Or start with Exhibition/Searchlight for a warm-up run, then move to higher terrain. Five separate peaks, each with every conceivable exposure, overlook Lake Tahoe.

Visitors who don’t wish to ski can take the cable car to High Camp for lunch or to swim in the heated outdoor pool or ice skate in a spectacular rink overlooking the Olympic Valley. Or take the Funitel to Gold Coast and the Pulse, a funny gondola that connects the two mid-mountain complexes. The Pulse has five cabins that operate with the push of a button.

In the evenings, the Village at Squaw Valley bustles with shoppers and folks walking to dinner. The European-style pedestrian village has a total of 286 slopeside condominiums, 17 boutique shops and seven restaurants.

The Ski Tahoe North Interchangeable ticket (1 877-949-3296) allows guests to ski/snowboard at Alpine Meadows, Diamond Peak, Homewood, Mt. Rose, Northstar, Squaw Valley and Sugar Bowl and accommodates those looking for the best conditions. There are wind holds on some mountains on some days and snow conditions vary from resort to resort. The ticket is $TBA per person, per day for two-or-more-day tickets, is valid all season and doesn need to be used on consecutive days. Tickets are two-for-one at Homewood and Diamond Peak.