Squaw Valley visitors have always praised its first-class slopes but secretly cursed its second-class base village. That's about to change. This season marks the transformation of Squaw into a true four-season destination resort. Exit the days of staying miles away in Tahoe City or Truckee; enter Phase 1 of the Village at Squaw Valley USA. Once onslope, however, Squaw earns a reader's ultimate compliment: "It's a skier's mountain." Squaw's "six peaks with six personalities" offer terrain for all abilities. Whether you're taking it easy in the sunny beginner's area atop the tram or exploring the vast acreage and 2,000 vertical feet of steeps and cliffs off KT-22 ("one of the best lifts anywhere"), Squaw won't disappoint. Ride the tram to High Camp, where one reader exclaims, "Oh...my...God! There's a pool at the top of the mountain." High Camp comes complete with bars, restaurants, bungee tower, ice rink and the Olympic Center Museum. In the minus column, watch out for the "snotty people who ski there," warns a reader. Other than locals, most Squaw skiers are Bay Area diehards who often bring their "attitudes" and jam the place on weekends. One reader professes, however, that "the variety of terrain and lift system make even the most crowded days good days to ski." Anywhere you ski at Squaw, "cobalt blue skies and breathtaking views" of Lake Tahoe dominate. "Squaw is the best damn mountain I've skied in 44 years," a reader concludes.
WHAT'S NEW Phase 1 of Intrawest's Village at Squaw Valley USA, 139 condos, 19 shops and restaurants and underground parking.
A GOOD DEAL Two nights of slopeside lodging at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn and three days/nights of lift tickets for only $222 per person.
MEDALS GOLD Terrain, Challenge, Lifts; SILVER Weather, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK Terrain (9), Challenge (9), Lifts (14); Snow (51), Value (56), Grooming (57).
DON'T MISS Spring skiing off KT-22 and the High Camp lagoon. Ski perfect spring corn all morning; then soak up the sun all afternoon at the upper mountain hot tub and pool-all free with a lift ticket.
READER REMARKS (+) "Cliffs and bowls forever." "Incredible terrain and scenery. I've never seen so many good skiers."
(-) "Sierra Cement. Not enough trees." "Don't-care attitude is prevalent with staff."