Squaw Valley, ranked 55 for value by SKI's readers, has truly awesome terrain, and offers a skiing experience to match, with fantastic steeps, and terrain that is vast and never boring. For more on-mountain amusement, there's High Camp, with its bars, restaurants, pool, hot tub, bungee jumping, and ice skating. On the downside, that great terrain, and terrific snow means that you're often sharing it with the rest of Northern California. When you're off the slopes, you'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer place to sleep than the Resort at Squaw Creek (800-403-4434/www.squawcreek.com), which boasts beautiful views coupled with five-star service. A deal for $524 per person, midweek, for a three-night stay and three-day lift tickets make it financially bearable. A similar deal at the Tyrolean-flavored Olympic Village Inn (800-845-5243/ www.vioa.com) is $368, a find for lovers of eiderdown comforters and outdoor hot tubs.
Meanwhile, nearby Northstar-at-Tahoe, ranked 41, couldn't be more different. Compared to Squaw, it offers small-scale comforts, even intimacy. The terrain is not aimed at diehards, but it will likely make you feel a hero. Touches like unlimited free ski and snowboard lessons for intermediates' ages 13 and older bring the families that are the mainstay at this resort. One of the best deals around is the Stay and Ski/Ride Free (800-GO-NORTH/www.skinorthstar.com) from $87.50 per person, per night. It includes lodging in a studio condominium and lift ticket, and is good from Sunday through-Thursday. The Romance Package (same number), will run you $375 per person, but it includes two nights in a trailside one bedroom condo, lift tickets for two for two days, a welcome bottle of champagne (must be 21 or older), a romantic dinner for two at Timbercreek Restaurant, and a snowmobile tour for two. With either deal, you'll get complimentary access to Northstar's Swim and Racquet Club with its outdoor spas, swimming pools, tennis courts, fitness center and teen center.