Anatomy: Squaw Valley's Palisades

Locals have a mantra for the Palisades: “When in doubt, air it out.” This granite block has cameoed so many times in ski-porn that its 60-footers and vise-grip couloirs are as familiar as Glen Plake’s mohawk.
Squaw Palisades Map thumb

Chimney Sweep
Air 15 feet off the cornice onto a four-foot-wide, 60-degree ramp and prepare to hit the next 25-foot cliff at roughly 40 miles per hour. Then it gets hard. Palisades legend Scot Schmidt described it best in Greg Stump’s License to Thrill: “What’s tricky about this thing is the bottom part. It’s like a 90-meter jump.” Failing to stick the landing results in a violent beating.

Schmidt dropped into this 67-degree, 100-foot line and made ski history in 1983. Watch it in Warren Miller’s Ski Time. Schmidiots involves shooting the snow ramp, jumping over five feet of granite, landing, and immediately airing 20 feet. Keep your tips up, touch down in the two-foot-wide slot, and duck right (this is crucial) before airing again. Feel free to fist pump if you stick it.

Main Chute
Steep but docile, Main’s a 53-degree chute that quickly opens into Siberia Bowl. The first turns tip you on edge, but there’s very little exposure. Fall and you probably won’t die. Then again, just straightline it like a local, and avoid sliding out, going over the handlebars, or getting hung up on rocks.

The Tube
If looking into the Chimney gave you vertigo, hit one of the Tube chutes for a slightly easier route. The skier’s left Tube is a three-foot-wide, 60-plus-degree shaft. Point it, and ollie over exposed rocks into the bowl below. Too easy? Skier’s right Tube is a shoulder-width, ice-coated sluice. Weight one ski at a time to avoid peppery rocks. Arc down the line, air over a patch of granite, and ride into Siberia. Plot your line before you leap, and stick to the plan. Once you roll in, there’s no time for thought.

Extra Chute
Shane McConkey has spent two decades back flipping for the camera off Extra’s cornice, and younger stars make easy work of the 50-foot huck skier’s right. The 55-plus-degree chute is your landing strip. Sidestep down an exposed spine and traverse left to align yourself. Then drop the steeps.

National Chute
In 1959, National Chute was the start for the national men’s downhill competition. Almost 50 years later, this cliff-lined 40-degree gully is training grounds for the Palisades’ higher-consequence lines. Feeling strong? Burn a few 50-degree turns along the left wall at the top.


Weekend warriors are out of luck—patrol closes the ’Sades Saturday and Sunday so the run-out doesn’t get dangerously crowded.

Hump 10 minutes from the Siberia lift (not shown) to the cliffs and do your pride a favor: Carry your skis. If you strap ’em to your pack, you’ll look like the biggest backcountry wannabe this side of the Continental Divide.

In 1962, the Federal Aviation Administration blew 95 feet off of Squaw Peak’s domelike summit to install an airline navigational aid. The result? An 8,900-foot top that’s flatter than Grace Jones’s ’do.

Pete Bowers nailed what became For Pete’s Sake in 1995. He crept onto dry rock, dropped 20 feet, skipped off a tiny snow pad, and boosted another 40 feet. The line hasn’t been skied since.

Greg Beck dropped 100 feet off the right side of Beck’s Rock in the 1975 classic Daydreams. Thirty-one years later, while filming for Matchstick’s Push, Mike Wilson launched an 80-foot double back flip—twice—off Beck’s in consecutive runs.

For more tips from brothers Scott and Rob Gaffney on skiing Squaw, check out Squallywood, a detailed guide on skiing Squaw's most legendary lines, now its second edition.


Squaw Valley PowPow

Squaw Valley Reopening This Weekend

Squaw officially closed for the season a few weeks ago. But for Memorial Day weekend, the resort will reopen for skiing.

Trip Ideas: Squaw Valley, California tout

Trip Ideas: Squaw Valley, California

They don’t call it Squallywood for nothing.

Ride the Granite Chief chairlift on a powder day if you feel like showing off—small and large cliff bands are located right under the chair for prime spectator heckling."Make sure that every line you’re going to ski is in plain view for everyone to see," jokes pro skier and Squaw local Elyse Saugstad. "Right before you drop into your line, claim aloud how cool you are." Eben Mond at Squaw Valley.

Squaw Valley: 5 Insider Tips

There have been whole books (like Squallywood, by Robb Gaffney) written about how to ski the gnarliest lines at Squaw Valley, California. So there aren't a lot of secrets left. But we uncovered a few insider tips (with help from local pro skier Elyse Saugstad) that might help anyone planning a visit to Squaw.

Engelberg's Titlis Peak

Anatomy: Engelberg's Titlis Peak

This mountain looms nearly 6,500 glaciated feet above the town of Engelberg, home to one of Switzerland's longest-operating monasteries. Go there and pray for snow stability and for one of the many transplanted Swedes to show you around so you don't get cliffed out. Or you could bypass Jesus and follow these directions.

Anatomy Casper

Anatomy: Jackson Hole's Casper Bowl

Casper Bowl, a 180-degree cirque of 1,200- vertical-foot cliff-littered chutes, opened in the winter of 1997. Since then, it’s become one of Jackson Hole’s many proving grounds and the venue for numerous freeskiing comps.

Alpine Meadows' Estelle Bowl

Anatomy: Alpine Meadows' Estelle Bowl

While technically inbounds, Estelle Bowl feels as close to backcountry as you can get at a ski resort. Ride the Summit Six chair, then take the ridgeline traverse to the north past two other bowls to reach Estelle, which offers sheltered north-facing trees, wide-open powder shots, and 45-degree spines.

Crested Butte's North Face

Anatomy: Crested Butte's North Face

Don’t be fooled by the T-bar that accesses this terrain: This is no bunny slope. The North Face, a massive back bowl that slants as much as 50 degrees, is the site of big-mountain competitions and gladed, fluff-filled stashes. If it’s a powder day, get here quickly.

Resort at Squaw Creek

Tahoe Lodging: Resort at Squaw Creek

Thanks to a recent renovation, the Resort at Squaw Creek is one of Tahoe's nicest hotels.