2003 Number 24 Resort in North America: Squaw Valley, Calif.


It stretches over six peaks and covers 4,000 acres of terrain. It boasts 33 lifts, including a cable car and a Funitel. It features a high-alpine "village," replete with restaurants, bars, a bungee tower, a pool and an ice rink. It also has some of the steepest-and most thrilling-inbounds terrain on the continent. And it averages more than 450 inches of snow a year. So what's not to like? An icon of U.S. skiing, Squaw Valley has always been a favorite of savvy skiers. And for many, the 1960 Olympic site keeps improving. "It's the best mountain anywhere," says one reader. "After all these years, I can still scare myself silly." The variety of slopes (and snow conditions) are appreciated by visitors. "Most days," enthuses a reader, "you can pick what type of snow you'd like to ski and find it." A common complaint has been the lack of slopeside lodging. Finally, with the completion of the first phase of the Village at Squaw Valley, that should become history. But some worry that the village will change Squaw. "Seems like it's becoming a resort only for the rich and famous," warns a critic. "We'll check back when they're done with their transformation," says another. The biggest criticism is still saved for the crowds that can transform Squaw's intimate midweek ambience into weekend bedlam. "It's too crowded, and people are rude," complains a reader. Generally, however, readers grant Squaw high marks. "I love this resort," concludes one. "Great lifts. Excellent skiing." -M.B.

WHAT'S NEW An array of slopeside lodging, restaurants, bars and shops in Phase One of the new $250 million (and counting) base village.

A GOOD DEAL Two nights' lodging, two days' skiing, and a ski or snowboard lesson for $196, opening-Dec. 12 (800-545-4350).

MEDALS GOLD Terrain, Challenge, Lifts; SILVER Snow, Weather, Access, Après, Scenery, Terrain Parks.

HIGH/LOW RANK Challenge (10), Terrain (11), Lifts (18); Lodging (42), Value (44), Service (47).

DON'T MISS First tracks on KT-22 after a snowfall. Just being in the chairlift line at dawn with the regulars is an experience.

READER REMARKS (+) "Lifts are fast and good at moving crowds." "Great open terrain, classic steeps." (-) "Needs better beginner slopes." "Geared toward the rich." "Famous, but I don't know why."

Great Lodging Deals here.