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There used to be a heated Squaw Valley versus Alpine Meadows debate: Which mountain was better? Now that they’re one in the same and both Ikon Pass destinations, you don’t have to choose. You can ski it all. The neighboring Tahoe resorts, which are now connected via a shuttle but will someday soon have a linking gondola, still feel distinct. Squaw—which will be getting a name change in early 2021—has the legendary steeps and lively village; Alpine has empty back bowls and an unpretentious vibe. The skiers here are true devotees: “This is my favorite place on Earth,” writes one reader.
Revered for its challenging terrain, Olympic heritage (Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Games), and local flavor, Squaw Alpine is also known for getting tremendous amounts of snow. That can mean Instagram-worthy powder days but also shuttered lifts. “Bad weather closes the lifts? Too bad for you,” comments one reader. Squaw Alpine also ranks high for its ease of access—you’re one hour by car from the Reno-Tahoe airport or three hours (albeit, without traffic) from the San Francisco Bay Area. Weekend crowds can be congested, but with a combined 6,000 acres, it’s easy to find your own nook. — Megan Michelson
Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadow’s 2021 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 25th in the West
- Bragging Rights: Don’t miss Tower 16, off Broken Arrow at Squaw. This steep, south-facing pitch holds some of the most reliably good snow on the mountain.
- On-Hill Restaurant: At the base of Alpine Meadows’ Subway Chair, order a doner kebab or goulash from the takeout window at Mogrog Café and grab a seat outside. Or, new for this winter, pick up a take-home fondue or raclette kit.
- Down-Day Activity: Ice skating at the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park comes with views of Lake Tahoe and cheap skate rentals. And there’s an order-at-the-window bar.
Who’s next? Read about No. 24: Copper Mountain, Colo.
Don’t forget about No. 26: Revelstoke, B.C.
2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank for Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows: 24th in the West
With Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows together on one ticket, you get 6,000 total acres and two entirely different vibes, depending on your mood. Head to Squaw if you’re craving high-speed KT-22 laps alongside pro skiers like JT Holmes and Elyse Saugstad or a hard-charging après-ski scene at the Chamois or the Slot Bar. Or veer to Alpine if you’re itching for solitude in hike-to back bowls like Beaver and Estelle and a low-key scene with less crowds. Both spots get drenched in snow—last year’s February smashed records with 286 inches in a month—and they’ve got a fun-loving spring season with corn snow well into July in big years.
“When the interconnect to Alpine gets built, nothing will compare,” says one reader. (At press time, a proposed gondola linking the two neighboring resorts had been approved, but put on hold. Even if it does go through, it’s still years from opening.) Readers don’t love the traffic here, but they do commend the variety of kids’ and adaptive sports programs at Alpine, so everyone can get on the slopes. — Megan Michelson
- WHAT’S NEW: At Alpine, a new high-speed quad, called Treeline Cirque, replaces the previously molasses-slow Hot Wheels triple chair, and goes even higher in a wind-protected corridor, so it’ll now reach the top of Sherwood Cliffs in five minutes flat.
- FAMILY TRAIL: Ride the scenic tram to High Camp and let the kiddos learn to ski atop the mountain with views of Lake Tahoe on runs like Mountain Meadow or Bailey’s Beach.
- LOCAL TIP: If you’re staying in Squaw or Alpine, use the resort’s Mountaineer app to request a free shuttle from your door to the hill. Savvy locals also use the shuttle for a ride back to the lifts when skiing the out-of-bounds Munchkins area at Alpine.
SKI Magazine’s 2019 Review of Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows, Calif.
You haven’t skied Tahoe until you’ve skied Squaw-Alpine. Iconic terrain that’s the stuff of written legend—literally. (Robb Gaffney’s Squallywood, seriously.) Enough terrain to satisfy everyone in the group, especially since the addition of Alpine Meadows in 2011. And the cute, compact Village at Squaw serves up all the vacation must-haves: sushi joint Suko Yama, Rocker@Squaw for cold brews and good company, Uncorked for the oenophiles.
But can we get back to the terrain for a minute? It’s legit, from the steeply pitched vert off KT-22 to the hike-to terrain from the Headwall chair, experts can perfect their craft here. And we haven’t even scratched the surface on the Alpine side. That’s right. Drop into the Pacific Crest Bowls, where a short hike brings you to some of Tahoe’s best—and most undiscovered—wide-open bowls that funnel down into some seriously gnarly chutes and cliffs.
So what about the rest of us? When the storm clouds part and the Cali sun shines through, Squaw Alpine offers some of the best family skiing around. Dip into the blue glades off Shirley, lean into your carve on Big Blue’s groomers. Or just grab a fresh-baked cookie at Wildflour. No one will judge. – Sam Berman
Come to Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for the…
- CHALLENGE You know Squaw’s classic lines— North Bowl, The Slot, anything off KT-22. Now check out Alpine’s back bowls.
- TERRAIN VARIETY What happens when two diverse resorts come together? Terrain for all kinds of skiers.
- APRÈS Add Le Chamois, The Last Chair, Rocker, and The Dubliner to your bar crawl.