Alpine Meadows walks a tightrope that few ski areas its size can: catering to both hardcores and families. Experts love the area's "Adventure Zones": challenging inbounds terrain with no lifts or grooming, providing backcountry experiences within patrolled boundaries. Traverse the ridges north to the small tongues of spindrift atop Beaver and Estelle Bowls, or hike south past Alpine Bowl to the breath-stealing views of the Twin Peaks area known as the High Traverse. In both areas, you'll find a delightful cache of big, open drops and daunting steeps. Alpine Meadows "puts the 'country' into backcountry," quips a reader. That's not to say the whole family won't be happy here. With a joint pass for parents so they can take turns watching the tykes and "the best children's ski school," in one reader's estimation, families are bountiful on Alpine's 2,000 acres of widely varied terrain. So is snow: Alpine averages more than 400 annual inches, and in 1998-99, it recorded an impressive 550 inches. But what Alpine offers in snow and terrain, it lacks in amenities. "Spartan facilities, lodge is very old and outdated," a reader observes. The area has no lodging, shopping, nightlife or alternative activities. For evening entertainment, people head to the pubs and clubs of Tahoe City and Truckee. During the day, Alpine's clientele is too busy skiing to care.
(-) "Weak signage." "No village or hotels."