Squaw Valley is the birthplace of extreme skiing in the USA and has been the backdrop for more ski and snowboard videos than I can count. It’s a destination that every serious skier and snowboarder pines to visit, and is widely recognized as one of the best and most extreme ski resorts in the world.
Squaw Valley may well be the best ski resort in the USA. The extreme terrain is matched by few other resorts. Extreme big-mountain skiers and snowboarders, however, only make up a small number of the people who visit ski resorts.
We consider the best ski area to be the one that will offer the best experience to the widest variety of visitors, which means that we have to consider the masses of intermediate skiers and snowboarders, families with children, and learners.
Any hill that strives to be the best must also be convenient to visit, accommodate all skill levels, and foster a friendly atmosphere that may be enjoyed by all.
Here’s what we learned from our interviews with locals and visit to the hill.
Squaw Valley is certainly not difficult to get to. Less than an hour’s drive from the Reno Airport and 3.5 hours from San Francisco, Squaw pretty much as accessible as any major ski area, except for Jackson Hole, which is just 25 minutes from the Jackson Airport.
Squaw Valley has a large proportion of intermediate runs and lots of fast groomers. Given California’s reputation for amazing spring corn snow, I’d say that it’s an excellent hill for middle-of-the-road skiers and snowboarders — especially those vacationing in the springtime.
Facilities for Learners (And Waiting Parents)
The beginner area at Squaw Valley is located at the top, rather than the bottom of the mountain. That means that beginners must ride the gondola to and from High Camp to access the terrain that’s best suited to them. Although High Camp has every amenity that a parent waiting for their child could want, it’s not quite as convenient as standing at the bottom of the hill watching your child — as you can at most areas — and walking to straight to the car as soon as they’re finished.
Squaw Valley an important fixture in ski history, and that infuses the area with interest for me. The crowd on the hill was the most ethnically diverse that I’ve ever seen. Hearing Mandarin and Spanish on the chairlift — rather than dudes talking about their pickup trucks — was refreshing.
Squaw Valley has an unmistakably Californa feel to it. It has all the glitz, shine, and attitude of L.A. Some people even call it Squallywood.
Squaw Valley has the reputation, the crazy terrain, and the history of an epic mountain and it’s in California, which makes it accessible to an enormous number of people. On the other hand it’s beginner’s area is not as convenient as some at other resorts.
How important is the beginner experience compared to accessibly and awesome terrain? I guess that’s up to each visitor to decide for themselves.
What do you think? Is Squaw Valley the best ski resort in the USA?