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Squaw Valley

Every time I ski Squaw, I bump into the same people on the KT Express chair. I never have to wait long to find diehard ski buddies who begin, spend and end each winter day lapping this one lift and its expert terrain. But a good day at Squaw for CEO emeritus Nancy Wendt Cushing—who just passed the reins of this brawny and historic mountain to someone outside the Cushing clan—involves covering a lot more ground on skis. It’s an easy thing to do: While this California classic may be best known for its signature steeps, Squaw’s six summits offer abundant options for literally all levels of skiers.

“Follow the sun,” Cushing advises with a knowing smile. She likes to start by zooming up the Funitel (a key component in a lift network capable of moving more bodies uphill per hour than any other ski area in the U.S.), then warming up on the easy, open meadow at the summit. From there she heads to the broad, rolling boulevards of forested Shirley Lake—a sunny day favorite with intermediates and families.

Back at the top, breeze down the sinuous folds of Silverado, a favorite hidden stash for Squaw skiers in the know. Each run gets more challenging. Next, angle down Headwall’s steeps then swing through the bumps of Sun Bowl. Nancy does it all wearing a ball cap, sunglasses and a happy look. With Squaw’s new efforts to improve the on- and off-hill customer experience, you and your family will have the same happy grin—even if you don’t meet your buddies at the KT chair. —S.R.

What’s New: Finally: Olympic House gets a renovation; new family features include a kids’ fun zone and trail map, and upgrades at the Children’s Center; new lighting will keep the terrain park open at night.

Mandatory Run: Did we mention KT Express? Easy way down: The Saddle.

Don’t Miss: High Camp, and its grab bag of non-ski diversions with lake views.

Skiing the Sidecountry

Skiing the Sidecountry
Author Chris Fellows savors fresh powder in Sugar Bowl's sidecountry.
Explore open bowls and unmapped trails inside the resort, then dive into untamed descents just beyond the ropes. Your next big adventure is...

Not long ago, skiing came in two varieties: lift-served resort cruising and self-powered backcountry turn-earning. The chasm between the two was vast and rarely crossed. Today, backcountry purists continue to shun chairlifts and groomed trails. But evolutions in ski equipment, technique and resort policies are bridging the gap for the rest of us, who want a little adventure but prefer to spend our time going down the hill rather than up it. Call it what you will—lift-served backcountry, sidecountry, slackcountry—it’s the new hybrid ski experience.

Weekends: Tahoe City, Calif.

Indulge your simple pleasures at this quiet North Shore sleeper.

Although it’s hardly off the beaten path, Tahoe City remains oddly inconspicuous. Highway 28/89—which circles Lake Tahoe—cuts right through the center of town, and TC is ideally positioned near three of the North Shore’s greatest ski areas: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Homewood. Yet it’s a faint blip on most Sierra skiers’ radars. Most folks zip by obliviously on their beeline from Reno or South Lake to slopeside lodging. Chic resort amenities and casino-strip nightlife aren’t on offer in this shorefront village, but that’s precisely the point.

Ultimate Guide to Tahoe: Essay

Ultimate Guide to Tahoe: Essay
Squaw Valley: Essay
With some 24,000 acres of lift-serviced terrain, 160 lifts and 15 ski areas overall, the Tahoe Basin is the stuff that skiers' dreams are made of.

This article appeared in the December 2009 issue of SKI.

[ Mon, 2009-09-28 16:09 ]
KT-22 Express at Squaw Valley USA
We all ride them, but which are the tops in views, speed, vert and elevation? Here's one list. Do you agree?

All chairlifts are not created equal. Some fly you to the summit before you've had a chance to rest your burning quads. Others reveal such epic views you wouldn't care if you ever got to the top. A few have some serious historical cred—you feel part of an exclusive club just riding on them. Chairlifts may be the mechanics that make our turns possible, but they're also a crucial part of the ski experience. Can they be rated, quantified? Good question.

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