Squaw Valley, North Lake Tahoe

California, USA

Squaw Valley (and Alpine Meadows) is a mammoth ski resort area, with almost 4000 acres of terrain - and not just any terrain, some of the best in North America. Ask any Tahoe local where the best extreme skiing is and they’ll answer Squaw. On any powder day the die-hards flock to KT-22 – sometimes it’s more fun just watching them hucking off terrifying cliffs than skiing yourself. That said, this resort has more than enough intermediate and beginner terrain to keep everyone grinning ear to ear, and boasting one of the longest ski seasons in the whole of the USA. Team this up with dramatic alpine scenery and some of the most progressive terrain, spread across 14 popular mountain zones, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows is right up there as one of our go-to ski destinations in the USA.

Scout Loves

  • KT-22 mountain, a.k.a. “Squallywood”: Gnarly terrain with an audience watching from the lift line.
  • Le Chamois & Loft Bar is the locals’ favorite après bar.
  • Beginner area at the top of the tram – no need to be stuck down the bottom of the mountain.
  • Wanderlust Yoga studio offering year-round yoga with stunning mountain views.
  • Starting the morning off with an impressive brew at the Coffeebar.
  • Charming European-style pedestrian village.
  • The resort features a run called “Julia’s Gold”, named after hometown hero Julia Mancuso won Olympic Gold at Torino in 2006.

Scout Tips

  • On a powder day, the resort can become crowded and is skied out quickly.
  • Neighboring resort Alpine Meadows has the same owner as Squaw. As such, your ski pass lets you play there too. Although it is possible to travel there on skis, the best way to get to Alpine is via the 10-minute shuttle ride that leaves from the base area.
  • Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are part of the Mountain Collective. The pass entitles you to two days of skiing at the combined resort and 50% off any additional tickets.
  • Although it’s great staying in the resort, there are other accommodation options in several towns, all within 30 minutes’ drive.
  • Don’t miss the memorabilia from the 1960s Olympic Games up at High Camp.

Scout Review

While most ski resorts usually have a range of terrain, it’s hard to find one that keeps all levels of skiers happy for days on end. Advanced and expert skiers are usually the first to become bored after exploring the stuff that challenges them. On the flip side, beginners at advanced mountains can easily get sick of the one or two runs set aside for them. Thank goodness there’s Squaw Valley – a Sierra Nevada playground for skiers that’s big, well-serviced, and with enough acreage and runs to keep all levels happy. And if that’s not enough, the neighboring slopes of Alpine Meadows are included in any Squaw Valley ticket. Together the two areas cover a gargantuan 6000ac (2428ha) and offer 43 lifts.

Every type of skiing is possible at Squaw Valley - from gladed runs to high-alpine bowls to chutes and countless cliffs to jump off. For those not ready to take a leap, plenty of wide open groomed runs will make any intermediate skier feel as though they’re ready for a starring role in the next Warren Miller.

It’s rare that beginners are usually skiing at a higher elevation than the experts, but at Squaw Valley this is most often the case. Not only that, the High Camp beginner area is accessed via a tram, while the experts are stuck with chairlifts (albeit express ones).

And the fun doesn’t end when the lifts stop turning. There are plenty of other activities offered in Squaw Valley’s cute European-style village, from yoga to ice-skating and indoor climbing. But you’ll find most hard-core skiers comparing stories from the day at one of the village’s many apres hot spots. The more beers they have, the bigger the jumps get.

Squaw Valley Skiing

Squaw Valley (and Alpine Meadows) is a mammoth ski resort area, with almost 4000 acres of terrain - and not just any terrain, some of the best in North America. Boasting one of the longest ski seasons in the whole of the USA, Squaw is known for its consistent snowfall, often lasting well into Spring. Team this up with dramatic alpine scenery and some of the most progressive terrain, spread across 14 popular mountain zones, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows is right up there as one of our go-to ski destinations in the USA.

Both resort areas cater to all ablilty levels, with a good spread of beginner through advanced terrain. Squaw Valleys family fun zone, Snoventures, offers gently sloped terrain serviced by easy-to-ride beignner lift and magic carpets. Big Blue zones at the top of the Aerial Tram also provide some of the best wide open groomed runs and terrain for novice skiers, and is perfect for learning and progression.

A tree skiing paradise for intermediate skiers awaits at Shirley zone, tucked away on the backside of Squaw. Epic corduroy runs, open bowls and wide tree runs with a mellow pitch for those new to tree skiing. Enjoy long, winding, thigh-burning cruiser runs and sheltered tree skiing in the Snow King zone, whilst taking in the spectacular lake views.

Squaw Valley is best known for its advanced and expert terrain, and it definitely doesn't dissapoint even the most avid skier. Big open bowls, classic moguls, cliff drops, chute, gullies, and some epic hike-to terrain can be found at the Headwall, Silverado, and The Chief zones. Not only is the terrain unforgettable, the surrounding views of the lake and wilderness is heart-stopping. The most famous zone of all is KT-22; the 'mothership' of expert terrain, not for the faint hearted. Over 2000 vertical feet of steeps, chutes, cliffs, and gullies, catering to the most serious of skiers.

And that is just Squaw Valley. Head to the Alpine Meadows side of the mountain for a smorgasboard of intermediate terrain, with countless long groomers, trees, terrain parks, wide banks and chutes. Most advanced skiers and snowboarders head over to Alpine Meadows for the Pacific Crest Bowls (both North and South) that offer acres of expansive bowls, sun-soaked slopes, and wide-open steeps. The further you hike and traverse, the more advanced the skiing gets (and the more chances of fresh lines!).

The lift infrastructure at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows is quite diverse, from older-style doubles to new 6-person express chairs and a cable car, and it services the terrain of both resorts really efficiently. Lift lines can be long and painful on a powder day and on weekend, especially at the High Camp Cable Car. The Red Dog lift is definitely not for those with a fear of heights, and the KT22 was once voted the 'best chairlift in North America'. 

Squaw Valley For Families

Squaw Valley is a top-notch family-friendly ski resort destination. The resort area itself caters to all ability levels, with endless options spread across both resort areas. The Family Fun Zone at SnoVentures is perfect for the beginner, with an easy-to-ride lift and gently sloped trails. There is also snowtubing, mini snowmobiles, a great day lodge, and free shuttle from the Village circle making it even easier to hit the slopes. The ski school is of high quality, with fantastic internationally renowned instructors, and a variety of programs to suit all levels and ages. The Squaw Kids Children's Centre in the main village centre has great full and half day programs, alongside a kids' ski rental shop, magic carpet, and ski tow all part of the same complex. Both High Camp and Gold Coast are perfect spots for families, being right in the heart of all the action, and with a variety of on-mountain eateries. 

Squaw offers fantastic activities for the whole family, providing endless hours of entertainment (and keeping everyone happy!). Take a look at the 1960 Winter Olympic Museum or ice skating rink at High Camp, or head to the village for a climbing wall, dog sledding, snow shoeing, and tubing. 

Staying within Olympic Village is the most popular choice for families at Squaw Valley, with a number of condos conveniently located right opposite the aerial tram or only a few minutes walk. Ski-in/ski-out options are also available. Some families head to Squaw Creek, located just to the East of the main village. It offers deluxe resort-style accommodation with immediate access to the slopes. Staying in South Lake Tahoe is also an option for families wanting to visit a variety of resorts in the area, with Heavenly Resort base only 1 hour drive from Squaw Valley.

Squaw Valley Accommodation

Squaw Valley has a couple of different accommodation options at the resort base. There’s a style to suit most budgets. A little further down the road, though still in a ski-in ski-out location, is the Resort at Squaw Creek, a huge hotel with a ton of facilities. If you don’t want to stay in the valley, there are several towns within a short drive.  It is possible to stay at Northstar resort and ski for the day in Squaw Valley (and vice versa), though if you’re doing this it would be best to have your own vehicle.

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Resort Activities

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If you’re not too exhausted from skiing, there are other activities, such as  mountain-top ice-skating (at High Camp), dog sledding, yoga, day spas, cross-country skiing and for the kids SnoVentures Center at the base area. It has mini-snowmobiles, and snow tubing.

Getting There and Around

Getting to Squaw Valley is relatively easy. It’s just under an hour’s drive from Reno-Tahoe International Airport which has 72 daily departures non-stop from 15 cities.  It’s just over 3 hours’ drive from San Francisco – though longer with weekend traffic and much longer with bad weather. There are several shuttle services, including the North Lake Tahoe Express which costs $45pp one way.

If you’re keen to explore the Lake Tahoe area, including other ski resorts and towns, it is worth having your own car. There are shuttle services but it may require some connections to get where you’re going.

When To Go

Squaw Valley operates between mid November till mid-May (conditions permitting) December and March are the snowiest months.

Holiday periods that are busy are:

  • Christmas and New Year.
  • Martin Luther King long weekend
  • President’s Day long weekend

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 6200ft / 1889m Tram 1 Beginner 25%  
Summit Elevation 9059ft / 2758m Gondolas 1 Intermediates 45%  
Vertical Drop 2850ft / 869m Express Six Seater 4 Advanced 30%  
Skiable Area 3600ac / 1457ha Express Quads 3      
Annual Snowfall 450in / 11.43m Quad Chair 1      
Longest Run 3.2 miles / 5.15km Triple Chairs 9      
Snowmaking 600ac / 242ha Double Chairs 6      
Operating Hours 9.00am –4.00pm Surface Lifts 3      
Night Skiing (Fri & Sat ) 3.00pm –8.00pm Magic Carpets 2      
    Lift Capacity per hour 49,000      
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