It's not as glitzy as next-door Squaw Valley. Nor does it have all the amenities of its more famous neighbor. And you won't find many ski-and-snowboard rock stars hanging out at the base here. But you won't find many posers, either. In fact, if you're looking for a day of solid, no-frills Sierra skiing, then you've hit the jackpot. "It's a wonderful place with excellent snow and a variety of terrain," explains one reader. Says another: "Our all-time favorite. A great area in a great location." No question. One of the West's hidden gems, Alpine Meadows boasts a big heart in a small package. And it's especially welcoming to families. Many readers consider it to be "Squaw without the attitude," and there is something alluring about Alpine's low-key, low-hype style. The lifts are old and slow. The vertical is limited. The base facilities are rudimentary. The parking is the pits. And the on-mountain food is very ordinary. But the loyalty-and the passion-of Alpine Meadows' fans is striking. "A great little gem of a mountain," is how one reader puts it. "Best place to ski in California," claims another. "Love the hidden areas. Wonderful snow. Good steeps." And there's the nub of the appeal. Though the area offers 2,000 vertical feet and 2,000 acres, Alpine Meadows is a magical high-mountain playground that only delivers its secrets reluctantly. "It's a real skiers' mountain," explains a reader. "And it's not that crowded. It's still fun to ski here on powder days! Call it 'Alta West.'" Which just about says it all. -M.B.
WHAT'S NEW A Super Dragon to build a SuperPipe.
A GOOD DEAL Lift and lodging packages start as low as $59 per night (800-949-3296).
MEDALS GOLD Terrain, Challenge, Weather, Access; SILVER Snow, Value, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK Access (15), Weather (19), Scenery (23); Service (46), Family Programs (50), Lodging (51).
DON'T MISS Scott's Bowl on a bluebird powder day with Lake Tahoe at your feet; the terrain park on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights.
READER REMARKS (+) "Lots of tree-skiing that stays good for days." "A low-key ski hill with great powder and no crowds." (-) "On the small side." "Poor to fair lift system." "No lodging at base."