Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Squaw Valley Ski Resort is one of the largest and best-regarded ski areas in California, as well as the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Situated in a beautiful valley in the towering Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe, the Olympic Village at Squaw Valley makes a great place to stay on a California ski vacation. The village has a unique ambience, more like an Alpine town than most large American ski resorts. The resort itself has over 4,000 acres of ski-able terrain catering to all levels of skier.

Gorgeous Squaw Valley was already a popular destination for backcountry skiing when New York lawyer Alex Cushing visited here with friends in 1946. Enamored by the area, Cushing gathered investment money and opened Squaw Valley Ski Resort in 1949 with the world’s largest double chairlift, two pull ropes, and the comfortable Squaw Valley Lodge to provide respite after a days skiing.

Squaw Valley Ski Area still had but one chairlift when Cushing convinced the Olympic Committee to bring the 1960 winter games to the resort, beating competition from Innsbruck, Austria, and other more established European venues. To prepare for the games, the resort expanded its terrain, built new ski lifts, and constructed the impressive Olympic Village at Squaw Valley, emulating the style of many European ski stations. Today many restaurants and residences once used to house Olympic athletes cater to tourists.

The 1960 Winter Olympics elevated Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, and American skiing in general to new levels. Soon, Lake Tahoe was home to a number of world-class ski areas—Sugar Bowl, Alpine Meadows, and Heavenly, among others—and Squaw Valley Ski Resort was seen as the premier location among the bunch.

As skiing in the United States steadily grew in popularity, the Village at Squaw Valley grew to accommodate new visitors and the resort gradually expanded. Today, Squaw Valley has more ski-able terrain than any other resort in California and North America’s only funitel (a special gondola-type lift capable of transporting skiers to high altitudes even in heavy winds). Squaw Valley Lodge is situated at an elevation of 6,200 feet above sea level. The highest peak is over 9,000 feet, for a total vertical drop of over 2,800 feet serviced by over 30 lifts.

Squaw Valley ski terrain is characterized by wide-open snow fields. There is plenty of extreme, big mountain skiing; about a third of the runs are single or double-black diamonds and the chutes and cliff runs are legendary — some of the most challenging terrain in the world. Popular spots include the famous KT-22 peak and the Palisades above Siberia Bowl. Intermediates and novices should not be put off though. There is plenty of groomed terrain and some open bowl runs suitable for intermediates off the Newport, Immigrant, and Gold Coast lifts.

Beginners can also enjoy the wide-open runs. Bailey’s Beach is a gentle bowl on top of the cable car, perfect for novices. There are plenty of beginner lessons at the ski school and the lower intermediate and intermediate ski lessons are flexible and convenient — you can join special “Ski your Pro” lessons on the hour at any time of day.

Lodging at the Village at Squaw Valley has come a long way since the Olympics. The best location in town is at Squaw Valley Lodge, just a few yards from the lifts. The Resort at Squaw Valley is a multistory luxury hotel connected to the ski area with its own lift. The Resort features an indoor pool, hot tubs, and its own ice skating rink.

Most lodges in the Village at Squaw Valley have easy access to the slopes, but nightlife is somewhat limited and those interested in quality après ski may want to head to nearby Truckee or Tahoe City. Expect to pay at least $150 a night for a quality mountain base hotel. Current lift tickets at Squaw Valley ski area are about $60 a day, but you can find deals for multi-day passes and for limited night skiing.

The Winter Olympics put Squaw Valley on the map, its high altitude open areas and picturesque location have ensured its continued popularity.

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