Ski Guide: Squaw Valley, California

Squaw Valley offers thrill-seekers 4,000 skiable acres. From easy slopes to unmarked trails and challenging bowls, Squaw Valley has something for everyone.
By: Erica Walsh

Surrounded by 6 mountains on Lake Tahoe, California’s north shore, sit Squaw Valley’s 4,000 skiable acres. It’s a wonderful mix of easy slopes, unmarked trails, challenging bowls and intense steeps. Skiing at Squaw started in 1949, but it was the mountain’s selection to host the 1960 Olympics that truly put it on the international trail map. Squaw also holds a reputation as the birthplace of American extreme skiing, a reputation that began in the early 1980s when Scott Schmidt jumped several of Squaw’s 100+ foot cliffs. Not every skier or snowboarder who travels to Squaw is as thrill-seeking as Schmidt, and the mountain offers plenty for athletes of all skill levels.

Only at Squaw Valley
The wide-open, unmarked landscape makes Squaw’s setting unique to American skiing—one of the few continental resorts that allows skiers to choose their own terrain once departing the lift. Consequently, there’s no trail map, simply a mountain guide that marks the location of lifts, lodges and other mountain facilities.

Best-Kept Secret
High Camp, a hub for beginners and intermediates, offers sweeping views of Lake Tahoe and the High Sierras. You can ice-skate year-round at the Olympic Ice Pavilion, visit the 1960 Olympic Museum, and in late March, go from spring skiing to swimming at the Lagoon and Spa (during winter months, hit the Poolside Umbrella Bar). There are also 2 restaurants and a café at High Camp.

Where to Sleep
Save your money for lift tickets and après-ski by staying at one of the many accommodations in nearby Truckee. Both the Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn start at about $150 a night in the high season.

Splurge at the Resort at Squaw Creek, where luxury accommodations are topped off with a triple chair lift reaching from the hotel’s doorstep to the top of Snow King peak. During peak times, deluxe rooms can cost up to $350 a night.

For less glitz, spend your nights at the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn, originally built as the home for the 1960 Olympic delegation. Refined and elegant, the inn is also home to the PlumpJack Café, featuring a seasonal menu paired with wines from the PlumpJack winery.

Where to Eat
Power up for a day on Squaw’s slopes with 1 of the 63 omelets available at the Squeeze In on Donner Pass Road in Truckee. If you’re eager to make first tracks, grab a breakfast biscuit to-go at the Sunrise Biscuit Company, located at the base of the cable car station.

On-mountain dining includes the 14,000-square-foot Arc restaurant at the Gold Coast mid-mountain lodge. Two wine bars and stir-fry, salad bar and sandwich food stations can provide a filling lunch for less than $10. Get back on your skis, and stop for dessert at High Camp’s Wildflour Too bakery.

Eat at least one dinner at Mamasake in Squaw’s base village. The sushi menu boasts 20+ creative rolls and a wide array of appetizers, tapas and entrees.

Click here for a full list of Squaw Valley’s restaurants and bars.

Where to Shop
Squaw village is home to an array of shops that include The North Face, Patagonia and Marmot. Click here for a full list of the outdoor fashions (and more) available in the base village.

For the Non-Skier

Aside from sipping hot chocolate in front of a blazing fire after a morning perusing the shops at Squaw Village, non-skiers can burn some calories ice-skating at the Olympic pavilion, snow-tubing, dog-sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Of course, pampering is always an option, too, with the indulgently relaxing treatments at the Trilogy Spa.

Biggest Bang for Your Buck
Take advantage of the Lake Tahoe Six-Pack, available each year for less than $300. It consists of 6 vouchers for all-day lift tickets; each voucher is good for 2 or 3 of Lake Tahoe’s resorts: Heavenly, Kirkwood, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Alpine Meadows, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Squaw Valley. Perhaps the best part? The passes are transferable. If you can’t use all 6 yourself, you can pass them along to a friend. There are limited quantities and, not surprisingly, they sell out every year.

Travel Channel Tip

Check out the often-overlooked Red Dog and Squaw Creek lifts, which service trails for intermediates and experts. Head off the beaten path and reap the reward of wide-open, unpopulated trails.

Lift Tickets
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