From the 2021 Resort Guide: No. 25 in the West, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Calif.
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 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 Alpine Stats
- Skiable acres: 6,000
- Trails: 230
- Summit Elevation (feet): 9,050
- Lifts: 42
- Vertical Drop (feet): 2,850
Where to Stay in Squaw Alpine
The Village at Squaw Valley
Located right at the base of the mountain, The Village at Squaw Valley is a resort-owned collection of hotel rooms, suites, and condos right by the Squaw Valley base of the resort. With eight outdoor hot tubs scattered throughout the property, nearby restaurants and shopping, and easy ski access steps from the Aerial Tram, these accommodations are designed for skiers looking for a turnkey vacation experience.
PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn
Nestled into the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn offers luxurious rooms walking distance from the lifts of Squaw Alpine. Built for the 1960 Winter Olympics, the inn offers a comfortable mountain escape with classic hotel rooms and spacious suites with incredible onsite dining, an outdoor pool, hot tubs, and valet ski storage. The ski-in/ski-out hotel is walking distance from the shops of the Village at Squaw Valley and is a great option for couples and families. Some rooms are even dogs friendly.
Squaw Valley Lodge
Squaw Valley Lodge offers cozy condos accommodating up to 10 guests. Located at the base of Squaw Valley, the lodge offers easy access to alpine skiing as well as ice skating, tubing, cross country skiing, and other winter activities. If you’re looking for a break from the ski slopes, it’s only 7 miles to Lake Tahoe and the shopping of Tahoe City. If you’re really hoping to escape the cold, request one of their suites with a gas fireplace, or warm up in the hot tub and spa. The lodge is undergoing a remodel which is expected to continue into the 2021-’22 ski season, so call to make sure that all services are being offered before you book.
This fun and whimsical lodging that has a sister property down on Tahoe’s South Shore is designed with the adventure traveler in mind. With 24 comfortable rooms and common spaces aimed at getting people out and mingling, Basecamp is an affordable option for people looking for a more social experience. The lobby bar is a cozy spot to gather for snacks and craft beers in front of the fireplace, and the outdoor firepit is the place for S’Mores-making and adventure-recounting. There’s also ski lockers and a daily happy hour with drink specials.
Where to Eat in Squaw Alpine
• Granite Bistro Cafe: The Granite Bistro Cafe is recently remodeled and ready for the hungriest skiers at Squaw Alpine. The cafe is furnished with retired chairlifts and modern countertop seating that overlooks the Sierra Nevada mountains and High Camp pool. The seasonal menu features dishes like High Sierra Poutine, Smoked Pheasant Soup, and a variety of deluxe burgers.
• High Camp Marketplace: New to the resort following the $1.8 million overhaul of High Camp, High Camp Marketplace offers great grab-and-go options for a quick meal on the mountain. Grab an espresso and one of the signature energy cookies or try a warm, fresh-baked pastry to kick off your ski day with a full belly.
• PlumpJack Cafe: Located inside the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn, PlumpJack Cafe offers fine dining with a seasonal menu and award-winning selection of wines. Their chef works with local farmers to establish a menu with locally sourced and organic ingredients for dishes like the Farmers Market Salad and Pappardelle Pasta.
• The Terrace Restaurant & Bar: As its name implies, The Terrace Restaurant & Bar is situated at 8,200 feet overlooking Lake Tahoe and the High Sierras. The interior is spacious with large windows that draw attention to the breathtaking surroundings. With exquisitely crafted California-style lunches like Tempura Portobello Strips and classics like chili with a side of bacon, you’ll leave satisfied and ready to get back on the slopes.
Where to Après in Squaw Alpine
• Auld Dubliner Irish Pub: If you’re looking to sit down with a pint of Guinness and catch some live music after a day on the slopes, search no further. Auld Dubliner Irish Pub has many beers on tap and a full menu of classic pub food like burgers, fish and chips, and more. The cozy atmosphere offers a perfect way to unwind with friends.
• Le Chamois & Loft Bar (The Chammy): Le Chamois & Loft Bar, aka, “The Chammy,” is the place to be when the lifts stop running and the sun starts setting. Whether you’re a local, a tourist, or a pro, The Chammy has a place for you, with a full menu of comfort foods and great drink specials.
• The Slot Bar: The Slot Bar is a local hangout and a great location for low-key nights with your ski buddies. With multiple shot skis and cheap PBR, it’s no wonder the locals love it so much. The small bar is known for its relaxed atmosphere.
Must-Do Activities in Squaw Alpine
• WinterWonder Grass Tahoe: If you’re looking to organize your ski vacation around one of the best off-slope activities of all time, visit Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows during the three-day WinterWonder Grass festival, which has been rescheduled to April 1-3, 2022. Enjoy tastings from local Colorado and Nevada craft breweries and live bluegrass music on four different stages with beautiful mountain views all weekend long.
• Snowshoe Tours: Local guiding outfitter Alpenglow Expeditions runs four-hour snowshoe treks up Shirley Canyon through magical winter scenery. These adventures are family friendly and require no prior snowshoeing experience.
• High Camp Pool & Hot Tub: There’s nothing more relaxing than soaking in a steaming hot tub with an ice cold beverage after a long day of shredding powder. Accessed by the scenic Aerial Tram, the High Camp’s outdoor heated pool and hot tubs offer spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and the High Sierras. If you’re lucky, you may even catch some live music while sipping on a cocktail or beer from the poolside Umbrella Bar.