Tahoe Alpine Skiing

Squaw Valley
By Peter Oliver
  |  Gorp.com
Chillin'' on a Squaw sun-deck.
Hard at work on a proper ski tan

Squaw is the American birthplace of extreme skiing. About twenty years ago, Squaw locals began skiing impossible lines from the Palisades, essentially a cliff with snow stuck to it. In the early 1980s, Scot Schmidt, arguably the father of extreme skiing, arrived in Squaw to do 100-foot cliff jumps. Thus was a reputation born, and it still lives today. To earn your spurs as an extreme skier or snowboarder—"free rider" in the current nomenclature of mountain sports—the road leads through Squaw.

But the extreme reputation aside, Squaw is actually a reasonably well-rounded ski area. There's a good amount of skiing for all ability levels, and the relatively new Resort at Squaw Creek is an exercise in extreme pampering. Squaw skiing can be ridiculously (extremely) intimidating, but it doesn't have to be.

On the Mountain
Squaw's extreme rep may overshadow the mellower side of the mountain, which is more substantial than you might think. From High Camp, about halfway up the mountain, there is plenty of novice and lower-intermediate terrain. What I like about this cluster of runs is that beginners can experience the thrill of being high on the mountain, rather than being stuck around the base area. At the end of the day, simply ride the tram or the Funitel lift back to the bottom.

Intermediates tend to congregate around High Camp, too, although there are longer intermediate runs from the Squaw Creek chair. As for expert skiing, the number of intriguing lines is impossible to calculate. KT-22 and the Headwall Express are particularly popular, and justly so. But I happen to like Granite Chief, which sees far less skier traffic. The runs are shorter, but the fresh snow stays untracked longer.

Breaks
Extreme skiing or extreme eating? I think I counted twenty places at the base area or on the mountain to eat. My lunch choice would probably be centrally located High Camp. Among its restaurants is the only on-mountain oyster bar that I know of in the world of skiing.

Ski School
If you want to learn to ski Squaw in classic Squaw style, join the Egan and DesLauriers brothers, all renowned extreme skiers, for their X Team clinic in February (800-XTEAM70). Otherwise, jump into a class under the guidance of the Squaw Valley Ski and Snowboard School.

For Families
Hang out at High Camp, one of the most complete (and complicated) on-mountain facilities in skiing. If the kids aren't into skiing, there's ice skating, snow tubing, and bungee jumping to keep them entertained.

Take the Trip
Mountain Contact: Squaw Valley USA


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