Reviewed by Pieter Van Noordennen
Nov 06, 2008
A ski area that's off the grid.
Squaw Valley Ski Resort is located in Olympic Valley, California and is the second largest ski resort at Lake Tahoe. Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games.
Surrounded by the highest peaks in the Lower 48 and topping out at 11,000 feet, Mammoth Mountain is an Eastern Sierra storm magnet.
Heavenly’s 4,800 acres are spread out over six drainages and range from hot-dogging mogul runs to thigh-deep powder bowls. Logging in the 1890s thinned the resort’s massive Jeffrey pines and white firs, creating labyrinths of shaded glades. And new backcountry gates on Fullstone Canyon and the Firebreak mean you can now legally hit stashes that locals have been poaching for decades. But if it’s après debauchery you’re after, head straight to the casinos and nightclubs along South Lake Tahoe’s Highway 50—just a poker chip’s throw from the gondola.
Powder Day: Patrol opens Mott and Killebrew canyons around 10:30 a.m.— be there. Until then, bang a left off the Sky Express quad and drop into 2,000-foot Skiways Glades for natural halfpipe gullies, and nary another track.
Three Days Later: Blow through Powderbowl Trees and Aries Woods, two 400-vertical-foot glades surrounded by towering pines. All chopped up? Head downhill to Galaxy Glades, a low-angle shot lined with berms and five-footers.
Park and Pipe: The 22-foot walls of High Roller Superpipe are four feet higher than any others in California. Ready to go big? Hit the High Roller Terrain Park, with its double-rainbow C-box and 80-foot tabletop jumps.
Backcountry Access: Hike 15 minutes from the Sky Express to the top of Monument Peak and shred Fullstone Canyon, a wide-open, east-facing bowl. (Before you go, check sierraavalanchecenter.org.)
Weather: Heavenly lies east of the Sierra crest, which means it’s less snowy than its North Lake neighbors. But higher elevation equals lighter snow. When storms out of Hawaii hit cold fronts from Alaska, book a one-way ticket to Reno.
Après: Fire + Ice, in the Timber Lodge, next to the gondola, serves up Mongolian barbecue–style dishes and Long Island iced tea–inspired mixed drinks overflowing with booze.
Fuel: Order up a plate of mini-cheeseburgers at the Gunbarrel Grill in the Lakeview Lodge. It’s far down-mountain on the California side, but if the views over Lake Tahoe aren’t doing it for you, games on the flat-screen TVs will.
Up All Night: Throw on your Vegas garb and hit MontBleu Casino. Hot young urbanites who couldn’t care less about first chair are sure to size you up—and might even take you home.
Digs: Shell out for a room at Marriott’s Grand Residence Club (singles start at $265). The spacious quarters have fireplaces and the front door is next to the gondola.