Squaw Valley was beloved by Californians long before snowboarders made their mark on its famed peaks. It was first put on the snow sports world map when it hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. While that may pre-date snowboarding, what locals loved about the place in the 60’s make it equally appealing to snowboarders itching to lay tracks down its face today. It’s not uncommon to see 450″ of average annual snowfall, primarily from pounding storms that come straight off the Pacific and unload multiple feet of snow in a matter of hours. That and the large number of cliff drops and chutes running beneath the chairlifts, which earned Squaw the nickname “Squallywood,” are still highly revered today. Show up on one of Squaw’s countless powder days and experience it for yourself.
Where to Ride
Looking for the best mountain to test out your new backcountry gear? Squaw is the spot. Spread out over 16 bowls, Squaw features a seemingly endless amount of terrain above tree line, with runs lined with cliffs and chutes on all sides. Looking for more mellow terrain to work on your high-speed carves or powder turns? Fear not, Squaw has you covered there as well.
For those who like to really get the blood flowing, try taking the Squaw One Express up for a Mountain Run lap to start the day. This top-to-bottom run is ripe with steep hills and wide smooth turns that will have you descending 1,600 feet–from the top of the mountain to the village at the bottom–as fast as you can charge.
On a powder day, its hard to beat the world famous KT-22 lift. Riddled with cliffs and knuckles, you’ll have no trouble combining blower powder turns with lofty airtime on the way down. Once KT-22 gets blown out, jump over to Red Dog for some great tree riding that holds stashes into the late afternoon. On a big snow year, Silverado provides access to some of the most advanced terrain on the mountain–or anywhere in California, for that matter.
But it’s not all about blower pow at Squaw. The resort is known as the spring riding capital of the world, because the California sun morphs the snow into some of the finest corn on the planet. When this happens, head straight for the Palisades, where steep double black diamond chutes await. These are normally only accessible to the most skilled rider, but once the snow softens, it’s game on for any and all riding abilities. Oh, and that guy shredding the Palisades so hard he looks like Jeremy Jones? That’s Jeremy Jones.
If you’ve had your fill of Squaw (not possible, but whatever), consider a five-minute drive down the road to Alpine Meadows. The sister mountain to Squaw and is free to anyone with a day ticket or Ikon pass and not to be missed on a powder day. Catch the Summit Express to the top of the mountain and drop into the D Chutes, or ride the ridge that runs down to Peters Peril and find awesome turns down the fall line all the way back to the chair. On the other side of the resort, ride up Scotts Chair. Right under the chair is hands-down the best run in the area–be prepared to be cheered on by people on the lift while you score yours.
Once the powder frenzy is over, the local’s tip is to take some easy turns down Lakeview, which will get you a beautiful vista of Lake Tahoe. Turn left at the bottom onto Reilys Run, which leads onto the backside of the mountain. Ride up Sherwood Express and from there you can chose to lap soft, south facing snow or ride down the front and pull airs and slashes in the natural halfpipe of Hot Wheels Gully.
Where to Eat
As with any big resort, there are plenty of places for food and drink and everyone has their favorite spot–but don’t trust anyone who sends you anywhere other than Mountain Nectar for breakfast. Located just inside the village, it’s the perfect spot for a morning smoothie or breakfast bagel. Whatever breakfast you decide to drop in on, make sure to ask for it “East Coast style.” You can thank us later.
For aprés, there’s a hidden gem under the gondola called The Slot. This 15-foot-by-15-foot room features nothing but a bar and a crowd of in-the-know locals celebrating another day on the hill. Shoulder up for a pint and prepare to start sharing tales from a day ripping turns.
When it’s time for a proper meal, transport yourself to Ireland at the Auld Dubliner. Surprisingly authentic for a California ski town, the Dubliner has fantastic contemporary Irish cuisine and traditional favorites all served in a room designed to resemble a cottage pub in rural Ireland.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking to live the “first chair, last call” lifestyle, the Plumpjack, located right next to the tram is your spot. It’s a cozy lodge that’s pet friendly and offers buy two, get one free specials throughout the winter. A major bonus here is that you won’t have to worry about finding parking.
For those with a more secluded option in mind, less than a mile away from the lift is the Resort at Squaw Creek. This comfortable home away from home is located next to the golf course, and is the perfect spot if you’re looking for a relaxed, quiet vibe.
What You’ll Pay
If you have an Ikon pass this season, you’re stoked because Squaw’s included. No pass? No problem–buy a Tahoe Super 4 Pack and ride for less than $98 a day. Advance tickets online can be found between $84 and $159 per day, and you’ll find special pricing for kids and seniors on Squaw’s website. If you can’t get your act together, or surprise yourself with a last minute powder-chasing trip, expect to pay $169 at the ticket window.
In an effort to curb its carbon foot print, Squaw wants you to carpool. Bring a car full of three or more people and you’ll get to park closer to the lifts in the POW parking lot–making fresh tracks down that much more attainable.