California has long been a big gap in our North American ski resume. Fortunately no more. Californian ski virginity was well and truly lost on a long weekend in early February.We met up with Aussie ski buddies, Sue and Rob, holed up in a quiet, comfortable Tahoe City condo, and prepared for 4 days of exploration.
Day 1 – Alpine Meadows: 6-8 inches of heavy-ish pow, a quiet Friday, partially sunny weather, and a good day was pretty much guaranteed. Alpine, a little like miniature Alta, rewards traversing. So we traversed, left and right off the Summit Chair, over and over again, savouring the high-up pow before rolling onto groomers to return to the lifts.
Day 2/3 – Squaw Valley: Alpine Meadows was thoroughly enjoyable. Squaw though, was completely awesome. Squaw’s reputation for gnarlyness is as well known as Eric Cartman’s predisposition for unpleasantness. And like Cartman regularly does, on the two days we were there, it massively exceeded expectations.
What a ski hill. The settled base was deep, packed pow and we got freshies both days. Cliff bands and chutes off the Silvarado chair were a tempting appetizer. Long rolling steeps, open bowls and trees off Headwall provided an ample main course. And when we finally got to ‘see and ski’ the incredible terrain off KT-22 and under the slow Red Dog and Squaw Creek chairs, 2 fantastic ski days were brought to a satisfying and exhausting completion.
Day 4 – Sugar Bowl: It was departure day, so Sugar Bowl’s head start on the return drive to San Francisco made it the ideal candidate for our last day. Sun, great snow and terrain that varied from flying soft groomers to wide open trees and a good selection of short-ish chutes and steeps kept a smile on our faces all day long. It wasn’t Squaw, but it was a sweet little ski hill.
Squaw is up there for me with Whistler and Jackson, and probably above Snowbird and Big Sky, as the best terrain I’ve skied in North America. A return trip is a must, staying in the base village for a week or so. It’s simply an advanced rider’s Mecca. Guess we’d better combine with a trip to South Lake Tahoe too – this sounds like a wonderful vacation!
If you’re interested, there’s pics here.
Alpine Meadows – 6300 vertical metres
Squaw Valley – 7600, 8100 vertical metres
Sugar Bowl – 6100 vertical metres
31 days:234,600m vert
5 powder days