#6: Squaw Valley USA, California


Never mind the current jumbled mess in the parking lot that’s the base area under construction. The Squaw Valley you want to tackle is a massive ridgeline with wide-open terrain dropping from its flanks. Get there via one of Squaw’s 33 lifts — the resort has one of the most extensive networks in North America.

The area’s main ridge holds both incredible expert terrain and boulevard-wide groomers. Squaw’s expansive layout means you can scope out everything from the chair, including renowned heart-stoppers like the Palisades, Dead Tree, and the Headwall Slot. Or find a local to show you lines like Enchanted Forest, Garbage Chutes, and Tower 1.

Off the beaten path lie Broken Arrow and Silverado, two lifts that, when open, raise Squaw’s stock sharply. (Depending on snowpack, they usually start up in January.) The Hanging Gardens off Silverado always holds good snow.

Squaw became well known when it hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics; the three-ring circus continues today with an ice rink, tubing hill, night skiing, and enormous swimming lagoon (open in spring) at the midmountain High Camp. As for that base area, an Intrawest-designed village is quickly becoming reality.

Play: The top place for a spendy supper splurge is Graham’s, just off the access road. Salsa Bar and Grill and Bar One are great après-ski joints. Drop in on the valley’s best bartender, Rusty, at the Red Dog. Nightlife is mellow around Squaw, so if you’re looking for action, head to the Tourist Club or Tahoe Taps in Truckee or the Naughty Dawg in Tahoe City.

Stay: The nicest places to overnight are the PlumpJack, the Resort at Squaw Creek, and the Olympic Village Inn.

Save the Date: During Olympic Heritage Weekend, January 19-20, the torch will pass through the valley on its way to Salt Lake.

800-545-4350; www.squaw.com