Reviewed by Sally Francklyn
Nov 06, 2008
Surrounded by the highest peaks in the Lower 48 and topping out at 11,000 feet, Mammoth Mountain is an Eastern Sierra storm magnet.
Old-school charm with big-mountain terrain.
California's biggest ski resort, which straddles the border between California and Nevada.
Pros like Cody Townsend and Ingrid Backstrom call Squaw Valley home for a reason—the lines are steep, the snow is deep, and all their best friends ski Squaw too. If you want to pass as a local, there are a few rules to play by. First, don’t be late for a powder day. KT-22 will have an hourlong line by 9 A.M. Second, ski like everyone’s watching, because they are: The nickname “Squallywood” didn’t come by accident. Third, don’t skip après. Head to Le Chamois to down pints and rub shoulders with Townsend, last year’s Matchstick Productions star. And Squaw’s recent merger with nearby Alpine Meadows means you can buy one ticket that’s good at both resorts.
Start Here: KT-22, named after the number of kick turns it took Squaw pioneer Sandy Poulsen to get down the run’s steeps in 1948. From the chair, watch the show of pro skiers and local rippers coming down KT’s famously-challenging Fingers. Then test your own mettle down one of the north-facing chutes and bowls.
Quick Tip: Never line up in the Funitel queue when the Squaw One chair is open. Jump on this speedy quad for simpler and quicker access to the upper mountain.
Must Hit: The West Face. Don’t call it Jonny Moseley’s run and definitely don’t stop on this steep, thigh-burning classic.
The Stash: Granite Chief Peak off the Granite Chief chairlift is a secret line in plain sight. A 15- to 20-minute hike intimidates most. But don’t let the quick jaunt steer you away from untracked steeps, cliffs, and glades on the highest point in Squaw Valley.
Powder Day: If you want to look like a pro, go to KT-22 and ski the Nose to the Fingers. If you want fresh tracks by yourself, jump on the Tram and head up toward Shirley Lake and Granite Chief.
Park and Pipe: Even though Squaw’s natural terrain is legendary, the mountain still manages to build up a competition-worthy pipe and perfectly sculpted booters. Start small off of Bailey’s Beach and work your way up to the Mainline Park.
Fuel: Wildflour Bakery hosts Peet’s coffee, fresh-made bagels, blue-ribbon sandwiches, and the best damn cookies anywhere. All for just about the cheapest prices in Squaw. There’s one at High Camp at the top of the tram and one in the base lodge. Buy a Cookie Pass to get the best deals.
Après: Start off on the sundeck at Le Chamois. The beer is cheap, the pizza is good, and the locals are extremely friendly if you offer them both beer and pizza.
Up All Night: Bistro 22 is Squaw’s newest place to be. Liquidate the day’s stories with a Maker’s Manhattan and mingle among the weekend-warrior hotties up from the Bay Area.
Digs: Scout out some great package deals (starting at $119.50) for upscale slopeside condos in the Village at Squaw. Or if you’re brave and broke look into the stacked bunks of the Squaw Valley Hostel.
Squaw’s top elevation: 8,900 feet
Squaw’s base elevation: 6,200 feet
Total vertical drop: 2,850 feet
Average snowfall: 450 inches
Skiable acres: 4,000
Longest Run: 3.2 Miles