The Sierra Nevadas has some of the best skiing in the world, and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is one of the mighty range’s most beautiful resorts. Host to the 1960 Olympics, Squaw backs up its mind-blowing mountains with jaw-cracking views of Lake Tahoe.
RSNG visited to find out why you need to add it to your list of desirable destinations – after all, planning ahead for next season costs you nothing...
1. The Olympic-Standard Pistes You know that any resort that has paid host to The Winter Olympics will have some amazing terrain, and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is no exception. Located North East of Tahoe City, and just seven miles from Lake Tahoe, which sparkles in its deep blue glory, clearly visible from Squaw’s 8,200ft mountain.
It’s an intermediate snowboarder and skier’s paradise here, with fast, wide blue slopes giving access to sixteen powder bowls! Coming from the often narrow, sinuous slopes of the European Alps, I find the breadth and quality of the pistes to be a revelation. They open out like a sparkling white canvas for you to lay some serious, long & low carving turns into.
It’s like riding down a mountain of tiny, grippy marbles – amazing fun!
2. Spring Corn Is The Best Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is a dry place. That might sound counterintuitive for a ski resort, but it’s a fact that the lack of moisture in the air, at least when it’s not snowing, works in its favour for Spring conditions.
When most other resorts are either icy or slushy, Squaw Alpine is blessed with snow that becomes granular without breaking down. The result is a thick layer of dynamic snow that is second only to powder in the way that it rides and feels underfoot. It’s like riding down a mountain of tiny, grippy marbles! Known as ‘Spring corn’ and allows me to carve some deeply satisfying off-piste lines despite a lack of recent snow - awesome!
3. Alpine Meadows Is Access All Areas A quirk of Alpine Meadows’s steep terrain, a short ski bus ride away from Squaw, is that it’s located on publicly-owned forestry land. This means you are free to ride literally everything in sight, without fear of trespassing onto private land. It’s all in, which means your guide is free to cook up as gnarly and demanding an itinerary as you can handle.
I ponder this as we hiked up from the lifts to cross a massive cornice of snow overhanging one of the biggest bowls. ‘It’s called Idiot’s Delight,’ chuckled our guide as we peeked over the edge and its vertiginous drop. When the powder is deep you can launch off this hgh point and ride a leg-shredding 600m of vertical descent right down into the chairlift - and lap it again!
The feeling of swooping through the air and landing the whole jump line cleanly is amazingly satisfying
4. The Park Is Great For Progression Spring snow is also great for hitting the park – Squaw has four of them. I headed to one of the smaller ones with my guide Jesse, to work on hitting some well built kickers.
‘Start by going off the rollers,’ Jesse said to me as I eyed the run up to the biggest kicker I’d ever considered hitting. It turns out hitting the rise of the jump, rather than the kicker to the side of it, is a great way to get a sense of jumping off a bigger feature, with a steeper landing, without the consequence of coming up short.
Training jumps accomplished, I move onto the kickers. Deciding how fast to go and how much ‘pop’ to get out of your snowboard in the approach to a jump is an art – give it too much yeeha and you’ll overshoot the landing, crashing to flat, but too little can make you case the knuckle and put a knee into your face.
Fortunately, by taking repeated runs at the jump line, I was able to dial in the speed and string together the line of three jumps with the optimal air time – the feeling of swooping through the air and landing the whole line cleanly, is amazingly satisfying.
5. Tremigo Is A Go for Mexican If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to warm you after a long day’s shredding is Mexican food washed down with tequila! Tremigo is Squaw Valley’s newest restaurant and it stands out with its ‘lost city of the Incas’ styled interior, from Aztec stonework to vivid murals across whole walls.
The food is standout too - I had the Carne Asada with its high-quality beef, refried beans and Pico de Gallo – a fiery combo of authentic ingredients and genuinely tasty delivery.
If fine cuisine is your bag, then PumpJack Cafe is far more upscale than it sounds with a cracking wine list…
And the best apres spot I found was the cosy Le Chamois & Loft Bar, offering craft beers and wholesome kombuchas, and decked out with its ski memorabilia, including a ‘Game Of Thrones’ style crown of donated skis that ring the bar – cheers!
WHAT NEXT? Want to burn off some bodyfat while you plan your next active break? Then check out RSNG’s guide to shifting the pounds here.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain are part of the Ikon Pass, which connects skiers and riders to 41 destinations around the world. Ikon Base Pass from $699 and Ikon Pass from $999. Rooms at The Resort at Squaw Creek run from $199 per night. For more information: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows; North Lake Tahoe