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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.

What Now: A Silver Lining for Ski Resorts?

What Now: A Silver Lining for Ski Resorts?
Though today’s skiers might have less money to spend, they’re enjoying deep discounts in both lift tickets and lodging, as well as a reemphasis on customer service.
Skiers are spending less and searching for better values—forcing ski resorts to compete harder than ever. Could the economic downturn have an upside for skiing?

Like most skiers, Mitch Holmes is scrutinizing his budget a lot closer these days. The Cape Cod resident would like to take his wife and children on a ski vacation to Colorado, but those plans have been scrapped due to the weak economy. “I’m in commercial real estate, which isn’t exactly hot right now,” he says. Instead, Holmes is skiing more at his home-state hill, Wachusett Mountain.

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