Squaw Valley ski resort
About Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley is one of North America’s leading snow sports areas, thanks to its vast amounts of skiable terrain and a lift system capable of accommodating nearly 50,000 people per hour – not that it’s usually crowded enough to test this figure.
But there’s more to Squaw than its size. Established after WWII, its early rise in success was so meteoric that, by 1960, it was hosting the Winter Olympics. Latterly it has built a reputation as a leading extreme ski and board destination with five terrain parks.
But few seem to know that Squaw Valley has exceptional beginner terrain as well, with a designated area that offers spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. It’s also America’s spring skiing capital, staying open for 6–10 weeks after many big name areas have closed.
Squaw Valley was ‘just’ a famous ski area until the 1990s, when a modern base town started to emerge. Known as The Village, it was originally designed by Intrawest (the company behind Whistler Blackcomb and several dozen other world-famous resort developments) and has provided a full accommodation, dining and retail experience without the need for a car.
The USA resort of Squaw Valley is located above the northern end of Lake Tahoe, in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.
On the slopes
Squaw Valley is typically open from mid-November to at least late April, but the season can sometimes stray into May. Indeed its so snowsure, normally that the resort boasts a ‘second season’ in spring when a beach atmosphere prevails at the High Camp Hot Tub.
There’s plenty of excellent skiing for all levels, from nursery slopes to wide, fast cruising pistes and winding technical tree-lined trails. The area is also crowned by no less than 16 powder bowls.
Until recently, the resort was famous for not numbering or locating its trails individually: instead there were large areas of open terrain descending from the top of each lift with descents of up to 5.1km (3.2 miles). The terrain hasn’t changed, but now 170 or so runs are marked and named, making the resort more family friendly.
Extreme skiing has its spiritual home in Squaw Valley. Freestylers have five terrain parks to enjoy; the SnoVentures and Belmont Parks are for beginners, while the Gold Coast and Mainline Parks are suited to intermediate and advanced skiers and riders. There are more than 50 rails, table tops and boxes spread throughout the parks, as well as a family-sized cross course.
Squaw Valley has become increasingly integrated with neighbouring Alpine Meadows and in 2015 it was announced that a lift connection will be built between the two. For now, visitors can use a free shuttle bus between resorts, where lift passes for either area are valid in both resorts.