Squaw Valley CA with school-aged kids and teens: where to stay, dine, and ski

Think it’s too early to start thinking about a ski vacation? Not so! October is an ideal month to book ski or snowboard travel, as resorts off early-bird pricing and other ski vacation discounts. This week is Ski Week on Trekaroo, where you can find how-to information on planning a multigenerational ski trip. Here on Pit Stops for Kids, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite ski resorts.
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Squaw Valley CA has long enjoyed a reputation for challenging ski terrain for advanced and expert skiers. In the last several years–most recently after their merge with neighbor Alpine Meadows ski resort–Squaw has also been working hard to earn the reputation of family ski destination. While the resort has made great strides toward this goal during their 5 Year $70 Million Plan (partway through in 2013), for us, it remains the go-to Tahoe ski resort location for steep, varied, and challenging mountain terrain. Does this mean it’s not a family resort? Not at all: it’s an ideal ski resort for families of advanced to expert skiers.

Squaw Valley USA

Skiing Squaw with advanced skiers and snowboarding kids:

While Squaw has a great beginner’s area at mid-mountain (which makes for more interesting skiing for newbies than being delegated to slopes adjacent to the parking lot), the ski boundary boasts so much great bowl, tree, and cornice skiing that it would be a shame to waste. Put another way: beginners will find what they need here, but they won’t get to experience the best of the mountain.

So what is the best of Squaw Valley with school-aged kids and teens? The varied, multiple ways to get your black diamond skiing and snowboarding on. From the village base, skiers and riders can head straight up KT-22 chair, made famous in the 1960 Olympics, and spend the day exploring all the nooks and crannies around its bowls and ridges. Just as satisfying is the Granite Chief region at the other end of the resort, where powder and trees reign. Headwall chair takes skiers to the top and great moguls, whereas Siberia offers steep groomers and access to the terrain park and half pipe. If the phase ‘something for everyone’ has crossed your mind, you’d be right.

squaw valley for expert skiers

There’s plenty of blue square intermediate runs in-between, and the aforementioned beginner areas, but after spending four ski days at Squaw in the 2013 season, its steeps and deeps impressed us more than anything else…unless you count the views, which are some of the best in the Sierras.

Squaw Valley lodging:

squaw village lodging

Squaw Valley Village Lodging is ideal for families wanting to hit the slopes early and hard. In Village 1, we were steps from the Funitel Gondola and even closer to dining, tickets, and the Olympic House base lodge. After working hard on the slopes, it’s very welcome to skip a car or shuttle ride and deposit skis and boards directly into in-house ski lockers before hitting the hot tub. Village housing includes 1-3 bedroom units, all of which include a fireplace, full kitchen, and tubs as well as showers. Hot tubs are in Buildings 2-5, so if you opt for Building 1, you’ll be closer to the lifts and enjoy arguably better views, but will have to walk outside and back in to access the hot tub and fitness center.

Squaw valley village

Squaw Village dining:

We only stay in ski lodging with kitchens, so we can make some meals in-room to save money. Plus, we’re often just too tired in the evenings to go out! If you do venture out, you won’t need a car: the Village offers everything from burgers to bistro fare to sushi. We had a great meal at MamaSake sushi and a al fresco lunch at KT Base Bar. A small grocery will have whatever you forgot at home to make meals in, though you’ll want to do the bulk of your grocery shopping in Truckee or Reno before arriving.

Lunch is available at mid-mountain at the Arc and at High Camp (more on this destination below), or at the base cafeteria-style, deli-style, or sit-down service style at Olympic House. Another perk of village lodging: we ate several lunches in the comfort of our condo, where we made sandwiches, put our feet up, and hung out on the balcony overlooking the village. Plan on a 15 minute ski down to the base from mid-mountain, and longer to get back up via lifts or gondola after eating.

KT base bar squaw valley

Village and High Camp activities:

If you have energy left after skiing Squaw’s expert terrain (or more likely, if the kids still have energy), the village offers a fun SkyJump (bungee trampoline) for $12 for 5 minutes that’s worth doing once, as well as an indoor climbing wall. If you have lift tickets, they’ll also get you up the Tram to High Camp, where you can ice skate while watching skiers on the slopes, or in spring and summer, swim in the High Camp pool and hot tub. (In summer, the ice skating rink converts to roller skating.) You’ll find a small Olympic museum at High Camp which is worth a short visit (it could use work, but is free and paints a general picture of the 1960 games), and the trip is worth it for the views alone.

High Camp pool

If you have beginners or very young kids:

Squaw Kids features group and private ski lessons, though we have not experienced them firsthand. By High Camp are no fewer than three lifts dedicated to beginners, and even our advanced and expert kids really enjoyed the small/medium terrain park located off Belmont Chair in the beginner area. By the end of our visit, they had graduated to the large terrain park off Gold Coast Chair (which also offers lots of nice intermediate groomers).

As I disclose whenever applicable, we experienced Squaw Valley as guests of the resort, for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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