Reviewed by Melissa Siig
Dec 04, 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.
Opened in 1939 with help from Walt Disney, Sugar Bowl retains its old-school charm with a 1950s-style gondola and a rustic base lodge. But it’s plenty modern too. It offsets 100 percent of its energy through wind credits and has a remodeled 35,700-square-foot lodge and a new skiercross course that’s home to Olympian Daron Rahlves. The best thing about Sugar Bowl, however, may simply be the snow. Each year, the resort gets around 500 inches of Californian fluff.
Quick Tip: On a powder day, avoid the masses at the Jerome Hill Express and head for the Mount Disney chair, which starts spinning earlier. Catch freshies all the way to Lincoln, where you’ll be first in line.
Backcountry Access: With six gates and an open-boundary policy, backcountry skiers have lots of options. Your best bet: From the top of Mount Judah, ski the 2,303-foot descent to Donner Lake. Hitchhike back. Check avy conditions at sierraavalanchecenter.org.
8 a.m. Fuel up on huevos rancheros or eggs Benedict at the cozy Donner Lake Kitchen on Old Highway 40, or inhale a breakfast burrito at Sierra Vista Grill in the Judah Lodge.
9 a.m. Lifts load at nine. Warm up on Trailblazer, a wide-open cruiser near the Mount Judah base area. On the village side, head to the often sunny East Face, which has optional tree skiing.
10 a.m. At the top of Mount Lincoln, turn skier’s right and follow the cat track to a traverse that drops you into The ’58, a natural playground of steep chutes and tree-lined gullies that are always deep on powder days.
11 a.m. The Palisades launched the ski careers of guys like Daron Rahlves. Ride Mount Lincoln chair and hit the famous chutes and 30-foot cliffs. Or go for the more manageable Silver Belt Run, with its steep, skinny gulches and volcanic rock bands. Drop in from the Mount Lincoln cat track.
1 p.m. Down a large slice of pesto pizza at the midmountain lodge or kick back on the outdoor deck at the village base with a grab-and-go sandwich from Sierra Vista Grill.
2 p.m. Follow the newschoolers to the Switching Yard Terrain Park, accessed off Mount Judah Express, which has a halfpipe, jumps, rails, boxes, and a mini skiercross course through the woods. Novices start at Caboose Park.
3 p.m. For your last laps, ride to the top of Mount Disney Express or Crow’s Nest, and bootpack 15 minutes to Crow’s Nest Peak. You’ll find late-afternoon powder stashes on Strawberry Fields, a rolling slope with steep tree shots. Near the bottom, cut right to avoid Crow’s Traverse.
4 p.m. Hit the retro Belt Room Bar in the 70-year-old Village Lodge. Black-and-whites of the resort’s bygone days line the walls. Order the French onion soup and a Sugar Bowl Bloody.
7 p.m. Grab a burger and milkshake at Burger Me! in nearby Truckee, where the meat is local and organic. Down the street, Moody’s Bistro & Lounge offers upscale dining and jazz.
Late Night: A locals’ favorite, Bar of America is Truckee’s iconic watering hole. For someplace fresher, head to the new Fifty-Fifty Brewery for its award-winning Rockslide IPA.
Overnight: For ski-in, ski-out digs, stay at the historic Lodge at Sugar Bowl, reachable only by gondola from Highway 40; porters load your bags and skis (from $74; sugarbowl.com/lodge). —Melissa Siig