Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Olympic skiing for everyone

Cover: Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It doesn’t take too long on your first visit to Squaw Valley to see why it was selected as the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With its six peaks, varied terrain, stunning alpine and lake views, and average annual snowfall of 450 inches, Squaw Valley is a snow sports paradise. Add to that natural skiing perfection the Village at Squaw Valley (with nearly 60 restaurants, shops and galleries), a wide variety of activities off the snow, world-class lodging, and lift tickets that grant unlimited access to both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, and you have today’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort, one of the top ski resorts in the world.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 3,600 skiable acres, 29 lifts, 170 trails, 16 bowls and 4 terrain parks, Squaw Valley has a lot to offer in sheer size. Spread across six peaks in the Olympic Valley about 10 miles from Lake Tahoe’s northwestern shore, Squaw Valley has skiing and boarding for all ability levels.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While well-known for its extreme terrain with 30% of its runs ranked advanced or expert, the remaining 70% of Squaw’s trails range from mild to challenging, with 25% suitable for beginners and 45% intermediate – making it a perfect resort for everyone.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Beginners can learn with a view at Squaw Valley. A scenic tram ride to High Camp lands beginners in the middle of numerous gentle, groomed green runs, as well as a skating rink, swimming pool and the Terrace restaurant and bar.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For beginners of all ages, Squaw Valley has created first time and beginner programs with dedicated learning zones and teaching methodologies designed to reduce obstacles and accelerate progression to more advanced skiing. The Squaw Valley Ski School also offers intermediate, advanced, expert, children and family programs.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has the reputation of not having much intermediate skiing. Yet, nearly half of the trails at Squaw are blue runs. If you like blues, jump on the Gold Coast Funitel and head up to some beautiful runs (a funitel has two steel cables versus the one on a classic gondola, allowing it to tolerate higher winds). Many of the trails off the Siberia Express, Emigrant, Gold Coast Express, and Shirley Lake Express chairlifts are intermediate with varying levels of steepness and difficulty. The 360° views at the top of Emigrant are stunning and not to be missed.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The longest run at Squaw Valley is Mountain Run, a 3.2-mile intermediate trail that winds down to the base of the mountain. The Red Dog lift, at the base, delivers some tree skiing and riding opportunities, as well as a good ride down the intermediate Champs Elysees.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the experts – KT-22 and Headwall are legendary for their jaw-dropping descents, steep chutes, moguls, cliffs and bowl skiing.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has four terrain parks – Gold Coast, High Camp, Snow Ventures and Belmont – with 44 features between them.

Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: On mountain dining & drinking

Squaw Valley has some amazing restaurants and bars, but we have to start this section with my favorite place on the mountain – a ski in/ski out Starbucks!

Squaw Valley Starbucks
Ski in / Ski out Starbucks, Squaw Valley Ski in-Ski out Starbucks
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at the top of the Funitel, it is one of the best places to grab a chai or latte and enjoy the view. Also at the top of the Funitel are Funi’s On-mountain Market for a quick sandwich, soups and Funi Crepes and The Arc, with assorted food stations offering soups, salads, pizzas, grilled fare, and Asian cuisine.

At High Camp, Silvey’s Cafe offers quick fare with paninis, soups, and snacks and the Terrace is a sit-down restaurant and bar that serves tasty lunch offerings with panoramic views.

The Terrace, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Terrace, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Squaw Valley

The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Squaw Valley’s 60 restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries provide a wide variety of shopping, dining and après ski options at the base of the mountain. Especially on weekends and holidays, the Village has a bustling, jovial and diverse atmosphere, where upscale Bay area residents mix with powder-seeking ski bums.

The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Other activities

In addition to the world-class skiing, the resort has numerous other activities to enjoy during a stay at Squaw Valley including:

The Tram at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Tram at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A scenic ride on the Aerial Tram, climbing 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp at 8,200 ft elevation, can be enjoyed year round by skiers and non-skiers alike.

At High Camp, the Olympic Ice Pavilion offers ice skating with panoramic views for adults and children. Hockey or figure skate rentals are available at the rink.

Ice skating, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Ice skating, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Snow tubing is located at SnoVentures Activity Zone at the base area of Squaw Valley near the parking lot. A popular activity, tubing tickets are limited per session and sold on first come, first served basis. Also at Squaw Valley’s SnoVentures Activity Zone, kids ages 6-12 can take a mini snowmobile for a whirl around the mini snowmobile course.

Snowshoeing on Squaw Valley’s trail system is a fabulous way to explore nature in the Olympic Valley. The Nordic Center rents snowshoes for adults and kids and snowshoe trails originate at the Resort at Squaw Creek.

High Camp pool & hot tub, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
High Camp pool & hot tub, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, that’s just a start. Also available are dog sledding, climbing walls, visiting the Olympic Museum, taking a dip in the High Camp pool & hot tub (seasonal), bungee skyjumping, and yoga.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay

The Village at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has a variety of lodging options including the Village at Squaw Valley, Squaw Valley Lodge, Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn, and the Resort at Squaw Valley. Additionally, hotels are available in Tahoe City and Truckee, with each town located about 12 miles away.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Squaw Valley’s resort address is 2600 Alpine Meadows Rd, Tahoe City, California 96145.

Located off Highway 89, between Truckee and Tahoe City, on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is just 47 miles from the Reno Tahoe airport, 96 miles from Sacramento and 196 miles from San Francisco. From Highway 80, take the CA-89 S (exit 185) exit and continue on Highway 89 for about 10 miles. Turn right on Squaw Valley Road.

Free parking is available next to the Village, with a short walk to the Funitel.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Know before you go

Ski conditioning will make your ski vacation more enjoyable.  Some time in the gym and/or using a ski conditioning program before your ski vacation will improve your time on the slopes.

Don’t ski above your ability. Warren Miller films have been shot at Squaw Valley – and extreme is really extreme here. Watching a film while throwing back a beer is one thing; hiking a ridge and heading down one of Squaw’s steeps is something else. There are many expert skiers and riders at Squaw – they aren’t on vacation. Don’t get caught up in it all, overdo it and put yourself and others at risk.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dress in layers. Consider skiing with a small backpack for storing layers as the day moves from cold to warmer temperatures and also take gloves of various weights and hand warmers. Mountain conditions can change from warm to cold and back again quickly. Another option – day use lockers are available at the top of the Funitel, providing easy access throughout the day without going all the way down to the base.

Rent gear. Renting provides a good chance to try out new skis or boards and simplifies travel, especially in airports.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Squaw Valley has so many restaurants and activities, a car isn’t really needed. Hiring transportation lets you enjoy the scenery as a professional navigates the weather and road conditions that can change quickly in the Sierra. If you choose to drive, remember that chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 89 and be sure to check the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Squaw Valley.

Kim Hull at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

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