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A snowHead
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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Squaw Valley

Country: USA

Author: hd

Date: 21-27 January 2010

Our holiday: Annual trip with 2 powder hungry snowboarding mates to North America (NA). We have toured the Alps extensively and are now looking for new challenges across the pond. Previously in NA we have visited Panorama, Lake Louise, Whitefish and Fernie.

Basics: Direct flight Heathrow - San Francisco from where we rented a car. We had a 4x4 and this proved to be essential as the journey up to Squaw was through a raging blizzard and took 6 hours with only 4x4s with snow tyres being allowed on the motorway. The return drive was dry and took 3 hours.

Lift system : There is an impressive array of fast lifts from the base including a big cable car and a funitel. Further up the mountain all the lifts are chairs; an equal mixture of fast and slow. Annoyingly only one of them has footrests and some of the slower chairs don't even have safety bars.

The snow : We have been incredibly lucky on all our recent snowboarding trips and this one again delivered the goods. Prior to our arrival it hadn't snowed for 2 weeks but we turned up at the start of a massive storm which dumped an incredible 250cms of new snow immediately before and during the course of our visit. At first air temperatures were very cold and consequently the snow was light and dry but the weather warmed up later in the week turning what was both falling and already on the ground into horrible wet sludgey cement. The last two days were pretty miserable as we got absolutely drenched by the wet snow.

Squaw was a busy resort - the busiest of any we have visited in NA. The good snow during our visit attracted a lot of the locals to the resort and apparently Saturday 23 January had a record 14,000 people on the mountain (we went to Alpine Meadows on that day which was much less busy). Even midweek the runs were far from deserted. Consequently any fresh snow in Squaw got tracked out very quickly and there were often long queues for first lift in the morning and for first chair on lifts that opened later in the day.

The terrain: There are no marked trails and very few groomed runs. This suited us perfectly in our quest for powder and fresh tracks but many of the runs very quickly became horribly chopped up and bumpy due to the high traffic. The usual mantra in NA of if you can see it, ride it very much applied. The area is large and there was still plenty of stuff left for us to explore after 5 days. A great mixture of tree runs, open bowls, cliff jumps, mostly steep with very few flat spots...really great terrain but spoiled in a big way by the crowds and resultant tracked out powder. Also the poor weather probably was another reason why we didn't enjoy it as much as other resorts we visited around Lake Tahoe. We didn't have any sunny days in Squaw and getting drenched by the wet sleety-sludge that was falling on the last few days was a miserable experience. Whereas on each of our away day trips to Alpine Meadows, Mount Rose and Homewood we had at least some sunshine.

The resort : We stayed in a very nice condo just outside the resort (5 minutes walk to the nearest lift) booked through VRBO. There is a small reasonably attractive purpose built village at the base.

Food: Most nights we stocked up on supplies in nearby Tahoe City and self-catered. On mountain lunch-time eating was in the usual NA style large self-service affairs.

Costs: The lift pass was expensive (as is often the case in NA) at $335 for 5 days out of 7 but otherwise costs were reasonable.

Conclusion: A great resort with some superb terrain. I would be raving about Squaw if it had been quieter and we'd had a couple of sunny days after the snowy ones but due to the crowds and poor weather for our visit I'm rating it *only* 8/10.

Squaw Valley Resort Report Feedback Thread

Last edited by A snowHead on Sat 13-11-10 19:24; edited 2 times in total
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