Home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley's signature terrain is unusual among American ski resorts. Wide open bowls dominate the resort's six peaks while the rest of the terrain is sparsely treed. So navigating Squaw's 4,000 acres and 2,850 feet of vertical requires a shift in thinking. Visitors are encouraged to use the lifts as a reference and to discover what level of terrain each lift serves. Sure, Squaw has named trails - some 150 - but unlike more heavily forested mountains you won't often find yourself saying, "Ah, yes, this is a trail" in the classic sense.
Fortunately Squaw makes it easy to navigate the mountain and whether a chair is labeled green or blue or black you can pretty much rest assured that it serves the same level of terrain. All skill levels can enjoy Squaw's expansive views. One main beginner area is located at High Camp. At 8,200 feet it's just a few hundred feet shy of the summit so beginners will get a true big mountain experience. They can also get to High Camp in a cable car or up a bit higher to Gold Coast in the funitel - in other words, no long chairlift rides are necessary. Not only that, it's possible to shuttle between High Camp and Gold Coast in a gondola, if you wish. For those beginners more interested for the moment in simply learning than taking in the views, the new Papoose Learning Area next to the Far East Center at the mountain's base features two surface lifts and every service one needs to get started.
Squaw certainly deserves the reputation it has for tough terrain, which ranges from the merely difficult (in the great Western style) to the sick. But intermediates will find a surprising amount of terrain to explore. All three lifts on Snow King - one of them high-speed - serve intermediate terrain. Higher up popular lifts like the Shirley Lake Express and the Gold Coast Express serve hundreds of acres of fine blue-square cruising, and there are eight more lifts that do the same. In all there are 13 lifts devoted to intermediate skiers and riders. And when you're ready to transition from intermediate to advanced terrain, Siberia Bowl is the perfect place.
Advanced skiers and riders will find seven lifts with a black diamond designation - but what about experts? With few exceptions, the black diamond means that's the least difficult terrain you will find off a lift - the ante goes up from there. Most famous of all, perhaps, is KT-22 peak, 2000 vertical feet of bumps, gullies, powder shots, and double-diamond fall lines. The signature run here is Moseley's Run, non-stop bumps from top to bottom, and a place to find out if you're as good as you think you are - or not. Other notable advanced terrain includes Headwall, Broken Arrow, the widely-spaced trees of Granite Chief or the somewhat tighter shots in Silverado Bowl. A word to the wise: Squaw strictly enforces its boundary policy, which does not allow out-of-bounds skiing or riding.
Squaw boasts three terrain parks and two halfpipes. The Superpipe is located in the Mainline Terrain Park and a slightly shorter pipe will be found in Riviera/Central Park. Beginners will appreciate the Belmont Park with its small jumps and easy rollers, just right for practice.
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