Descending the slopes of a valley inverted: Squaw


Squaw Valley, North Lake Tahoe. It’s nigh on four o’clock when the chairlift comes to a sudden halt. Paused, forty feet above a mountain laden with newly fallen snow, I take the time to reflect on a day played in fast-forward, of skiing down a mountain very quickly.

9am – Snow King (7,550 feet)

From my accommodation at the Resort at Squaw Creek, I ski onto the Squaw Creek Triple Chair for my first run of the day. Surveying the terrain of the Snow King peak, I decide on an intermediate run known as Lake View before moving on to the more difficult Knob Hill.

With several feet of fresh snow beneath (and between) my skis, and with no crowds to contend with, I descend the slopes a very happy man. Given its excellent stashes of powder, which continue to produce long after other peaks have bumped out, Snow King is well worth a run, or several. But it is still a precursor to bigger and better things. Breath.

11am – Squaw Peak (8,900 feet)

After traversing the Champs Elysees to Squaw Valley Base Camp, I jump straight onto the Squaw One Express Chair, which takes me almost immediately onto the Headwall Express. Forgoing the hike up (and fall down) the legendary Palisades (an almost vertical cliff face), I opt for the much easier Newport route, which winds its way down the peak at a more leisurely angle (read more horizontal).

After a few descents of the more challenging Bullet, I finally brave one of the Cornice Bowl runs labeled ‘expert’, before realizing why the run is labeled expert. Deep breath.

2pm – Granite Chief (9,050 feet)

With body (and ego) slightly bruised, I ski across to High Camp for lunch. After scoffing down some tasty hot soup at the Poolside Café (yes, there is actually a pool), I make my way up to Squaw’s highest point, the Granite Chief, for what is considered the best snow on the mountain. Forgoing a trek up to the summit proper, I decide firstly to take on the peak’s High Voltage and Main Backside runs, which provide challenging, yet thoroughly enjoyable paths down the mountain.

But for all its advanced terrain, Squaw truly does cater for skiers of all levels. In fact, 70 per cent of the mountain is considered beginner to intermediate territory.

“It doesn’t get much better than this”, says the San Francisco skier on the chair next to me, who has been carving up the Squaw slopes for 30 years. Looking around, it is hard to imagine otherwise.

Following a stroll down Granite Alley and a quick run down the very tough Magoos, I begin traversing the slopes eastwards to Squaw Creek, by way of the world’s first and only ski-in ski-out Starbucks. Think drive-thru with skis.

5pm – Après Ski

With a long day of skiing (and hot shower) behind me, I scour the village for après ski options, of which there are plenty. After considering the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub & Restaurant, LeChamois & Loft Bar, Bar One and KT Base Bar, I decide upon Mamasake Sushi & Saki for some top-notch Japanese fare. With belly full, and legs tired, I retire for some well-deserved rest as I prepare to do it all again tomorrow (minus perhaps the Cornice Bowl).

More Squaw

As patrons of Squaw Valley talk of its fabled past, including its hosting of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, the resort itself is looking to the future.

Work has already begun on Squaw’s “Renaissance”, a five-year $50 million improvement plan to upgrade its base area and on-mountain facilities, while the resort could see more Olympic action if a joint California/Nevada bid to host the 2022 Winter Games at Lake Tahoe is successful.

And even more significantly, with its purchase of neighboring resort Alpine Meadows complete, Squaw could soon lay claim to being America’s biggest ski resort. But until then, it will have to contend with being one of the country’s best.

Read on for more of e-Travel Blackboard’s recent exploits in North Lake Tahoe.

All images courtesy of Squaw Valley.

Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Mark Harada
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