Squaw Valley, Calif.: Rank 24 West, 1998

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Normally a sunny California resort, Squaw slipped slightly in its weather rating last year, earning only a silver medal. But considering the 515 inches of snow that El Niño dumped on Squaw's 4,000 skiable acres¿from KT's plummeting chutes to the gentle upper mountain¿no one is complaining. Now consider what all that snow covers: "great steeps and a vast variety of terrain for all levels," one reader says. Atop the mountain, High Camp offers its own entertainment, with bars, restaurants, pool, hot tub, bungee jumping and ice skating. Or try free night skiing on Home Run, the longest lighted run in the country. If sensory overload kicks in, the five-star Resort at Squaw Creek is a deluxe sanctuary from the crowds. Beware the "traffic jams on the road to Tahoe City," a reader warns. Better to wait out the congestion with dinner at High Camp or a microbrew at the Plaza Bar. Some may find Squaw "too much of a scene," but to others it has the "best terrain, great snow, lots of good skiers. Why go anywhere else?"

What's New The Funitel high-speed transport to the upper mountain; pulse lift from Gold Coast to High Camp.
A Good Deal $24 junior (13-15) day ticket rate. $5 for kids 12 and under. Seniors over 75 ski free.
Medals Gold Terrain, Challenge, Lifts; Silver Weather, Scenery.
High/Low Rank Challenge (8); Value (55).
Don't Miss Night skiing under a full moon and a trip to High Camp's Olympic museum.
Reader Remarks"So many options you never get bored." "Overcrowded. Intermediate runs are short."