Overall Rank: #4
Squaw is as wild and radical as the rumors, legends, and gossip you’ve heard. Host of the 1960 Olympics and home to Scot Schmidt, Shane McConkey, Tamara McKinney, and Jonny Moseley, Squaw has an outrageous history of big-league skiing, from the well-documented theatrics of the Palisades to the kookiness of the Chinese Downhill. It partly stems from management-founder and owner Alex Cushing’s chutzpah is renowned-but even more so from the layout of the mountain: There are six separate peaks, myriad lines that can be scoped from the lifts, and tons of steeps with relatively safe runouts. Squaw encourages you to go big.
Each of the area’s peaks-Snow King, KT-22, Squaw, Broken Arrow, Emigrant, and Granite Chief-has its own personality and choice runs. KT is typically the first to open on a powder day and has vertiginous lines cascading in every direction. But when all the lifts are live, you can lose yourself in happy exploration anywhere else on the mountain’s 4,000 skiable acres.
Top Elevation: 9,050 feet
Vertical drop: 2,850 feet
Snowfall: 448 inches (8,000′); 271 inches (6,200′)
Skiable acreage: 4,000
For the steepest pitch this side of the Transamerica pyramid, hit Eagle’s Nest, off KT. And you owe yourself a visit to the Palisades-a 300-foot cliff band made famous by the descents of Schmidt and McConkey-if you’re here midweek (they’re closed weekends to keep the lemmings safe); the “weenie” lines are to skier’s right.
There’s an upside to the wet coastal snow that falls on Squaw: It sticks to the steepest pitches, enabling heart-pounding edge tests. Dumps can be massive (six feet or more at a time) with blue skies and mild weather in between.
There’s no place like the Red Dog, right there in the parking lot. Local bands play on the deck, the sun lingers late, and, if you’re staying in Olympic Valley, there’s no reason to head anywhere else.
“Rip down Extra Bitchin-it’s really Exhibition-from top to bottom. There’s usually a racecourse on it, but (when it’s clear) there’s lots of good rollovers to lift your feet over.”