To locals and tourists alike, Squaw Valley is considered the premier ski resort in Lake Tahoe year-after-year. There are a myriad of reasons for this designation, most notably its history, its size, and its diverse terrain.
As the host site for the entire 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw welcomes skiers and boarders with two always-burning Olympic torches at its entrance off I-89. It’s a special feeling to see those flames burning strong in the snow and wind of a whiteout blizzard. The thought that the world’s best skiers and boarders took this same road to compete in the Winter Olympics takes the anticipation and excitement of fresh tracks to new heights.
While seldom seen in the past 5 years, the sort of whiteout that we experienced during the March weekend we visited Squaw has been commonplace in the 2015-2016 ski season. The resulting snow accumulations made for the best — albeit limited — skiing I’ve ever done in Lake Tahoe.
Allow me to explain.
Unfortunately for us, much of the mountain was closed due to high winds and avalanche warnings. Squaw was working all through the night grooming and avalanche blasting, but the snow wouldn’t stop and the wind wouldn’t cooperate. As a result, only a few lifts on the lower mountain were open on this particular weekend: Red Dog, Exhibition, Far East, & KT-22s.
It was a bit disappointing, as Squaw is known for the expert terrain found on its Upper Mountain. In particular, regulars rave about the trees and cliffs off the Granite Chief lift, the bowl off the Siberia lift, and the steep terrain off the Headwall lift.
In spite of the limited terrain, the few trails that were open kept us busy for almost the entire day. This was partially due to the long lift lines (Squaw is known to have some of the longest on fresh powder days). But it’s also a testament to what makes Squaw so great.
I lapped Tamara’s Bowl and the Women’s Downhill race course from the 1960 Olympics at least 8 times, and each run felt different. Stay left then cut right. Start right then stay central. Hours would go by and each run would feel more thrilling than the last.
This was because the runs are challenging and long, two qualities that in my experience are seldom seen at other Lake Tahoe resorts. A typical Lake Tahoe run, whether blue, black, or double black, typically takes me between 1 and 2 minutes from top-to-bottom. But at Squaw, you could spend 10-15 minutes getting down some trails.
And while other Lake Tahoe resorts seem to be quite lenient with their black diamond designations, Squaw’s expert terrain really feels like a thrilling challenge.
To be fair, Squaw does have some shortcomings. Being arguably the most popular ski resort in Lake Tahoe, it draws massive weekend crowds. Lines can be found anywhere and everywhere. Waiting for our rentals took 45-minutes. The first lift line we waited on took 30-minutes. And not to mention the swarms of San Francisco’s tech bros often found drinking beers on the chairlifts and speeding down the mountain in animal onesies.
But its size (it’s one of the biggest in the US), its fabulous snow maintenance, and diverse terrain overshadow its weaknesses. While many mountains start to feel the same after a couple full days of skiing. Squaw always feels new and interesting.
Spring Lodging Specials in The Village at Squaw Valley
The incredible snow this season is enabling Squaw Valley to stay open through May.
Take advantage of great spring deals on lodging at The Village at Squaw Valley. Stay right in the heart of the action, with direct access to the slopes, world-class shopping, dining, activities and events in the Village. Ski, stay and forget about driving.
Voted 2016 ‘Best Ski Resort’ in North America by USA Today and 10Best Readers’ Choice, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is an internationally renowned mountain resort in North Lake Tahoe that spans over 6,000 skiable acres. The resort features slopeside lodging at The Village at Squaw Valley, which bustles year round with nonstop events and nearly 60 bars, restaurants and boutiques. With an annual average of 450 inches of snowfall and 300 sunny days, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows provides one of the longest ski and snowboard seasons in Lake Tahoe. Over 65 percent beginner and intermediate terrain and 14 easy-to-navigate mountain zones welcome skiers and riders of all ability levels.
Located off Highway 89, between Truckee and Tahoe City, on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is 42 miles from Reno (Reno/Tahoe Airport now offers nonstop flights on JetBlue to JFKennedy International Airport, leaving Tahoe at midnight so you can get a full day’s skiing in and still arrive in time to get to work on Monday), 96 miles from Sacramento and 196 miles from San Francisco via all weather Interstate 80.
Visit squawalpine.com or call 800-403-0206 to learn more.
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