Squaw Valley Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
Squaw Valley Trail Map
  • Vertical (ft)
    6,200 - 9,050 (2,850)
  • Average Snow Fall
    450"
  • Lifts (29)
    1 Funitel
    1 Cable Car
    4 High Speed 6-packs
  • Ski Season
    Late Nov to mid May
  • Terrain Summary
    Area - 3,600 acres
  • Runs – 170+
    Longest run – 8.2 km
    Beginner - 25%
    Intermediate - 45%
    Advanced - 30%

Squaw Ski Resort

Holy Smokes, the Squaw Ski Resort has it all! The one possible exception to this is that the Squaw Valley skiing lacks the big, well spaced glade skiing common to many Lake Tahoe ski resorts. The Squaw Ski Resort has nearly 4,000 acres, 16 bowls of various sizes, 29 lifts, loads of vertical, 450 inches of the white stuff a year, massive groomies, cliffs, cornices, trees, steeps.......... The only problem with having it all is that everyone within a 200 mile radius knows it, so there is some fierce powder day competition from a couple of thousand of the best skiers congregated together.

Some of the Squaw Valley skiing terrain is genuinely gob-smacking. It seriously gives Jackson Hole a run for its money in the steep and interesting stakes. You can see why the KT22 quad was voted ‘the best chairlift in North America’. It’s fantastic but unfortunately it’s also overly popular.

Squaw Valley Lifts

The Squaw Ski Resort is somewhat like a European ski resort in both look and the diversity of its lift system that ranges from clunky old doubles to spanking new six packs, a cable car and a funitel, which is a hybrid between a gondola and a cable car. The lift line culture is also very European and powder day lift lines can be brutal. Pleasantries are generally avoided and the locals have ‘pushing in’ down to a fine art form.

There used to be no marked trails at the Squaw Ski Resort, with the lifts colour-coded to indicate the majority of the terrain type accessible from it. Now there are run names, but the locals may use a different nomenclature.

Two of the best chairs for non-beginners are the Emigrant triple and the Siberia Express quad as they access good terrain and get you away from the crowds. From there the fun begins. And if you’re scared of heights, DO NOT go on the Red Dog lift.

Whenever possible avoid the High Camp Cable Car as the loading system is absolutely dreadful and it takes so long – it’s best left to the tourists. First you line up in the queue race until you get to the gate where you’re crammed into a small space with lots of others. After a time you move through a door and into what you think is the cable car but it’s only an elevator. In a scene akin to the Tokyo train system, you’re sardine packed into the elevator. The elevator goes up just one level and after exiting the elevator you’re then squeezed onto the loading deck as the cable car approaches at an agonisingly slow pace. Finally onto the cable car, everyone pushes their way in and gets close and personal with their neighbours’ armpits. Upon exiting you’ll be pleased to know that you only have to walk up and down, in and out, plus left and right before emerging in the fresh air at High Camp. Oh my............

Lift Tickets

Lift ticket prices are incredibly high but you at least get a lot of value in the form of such an impressive ski area, and it can also be used at Alpine Meadows.

If you’re planning on visiting multiple North American ski resorts, you might want to check out the Mountain Collective pass, which can provide some great savings. Or the Ikon Pass provides amazing savings.

Squaw Valley Snow and Weather

This is Lake Tahoe California, and when it snows it pukes, sometimes for days. However there are also long periods where it is doesn’t snow and the sun turns nature’s goodness into what is known as Sierra Cement. The powder is a little heavier with more moisture content than Utah or Colorado. Snowmaking is also available on many of the main trails.

As a result of the abundant snow and the steep terrain, avalanche risk is commonly present at the Squaw Ski Resort. Definitely obey any closure signs. Due to the influence of avalanche danger as well as wind conditions, a degree of local knowledge is required to really enjoy a powder day here. You need to know the order that lifts typically open and on what days.

Squaw Valley Skiing - Beginners

High Camp is the place to be for beginners (take the Gold Coast Funitel not the painful cable car!). There are seven green and easy blue chairs to choose from (Links, Belmont, East Broadway, High Camp, Gold Coast, Mainline and Newport) and then download the lift or there is a massive cruise back down the valley to the village via a groomed highway (for very confident beginners).

The beginner terrain is at high elevation which has its advantages, but it doesn’t have many trees and is rather exposed, so it’s not the nicest spot for beginners on windy or low vis days.

Intermediate Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Intermediates will find plenty of entertainment at Squaw Valley. Whilst the majority of runs from the blue designated chairs are pretty tame, there is more than enough to satisfy.

Terrain Parks

It is safe to say that Squaw has enough natural terrain features to keep any shredder permanently concussed. However the good people at Squaw have seen fit to build the obligatory superpipe and other ancillary parks and features ranging from beginner features to big daddy hits.

Advanced Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Despite the statistic that only 30% of the terrain is designated advanced, there appears to be truckloads more, but low to mid advanced riders should pray for a good visibility day. The trail map or signage doesn’t differentiate between advanced, expert and extreme terrain, and you’re pretty much left to use your eyes to figure it out for yourself. The KT22 area, Silverado, Headwall Quad and Cornice Bowl plus the Granite Chief areas are huge, and the latter has very diverse terrain. There are also plenty of advanced lines off the Squaw Creek, Red Dog and Emigrant blue designated chairs.

Expert Skiing and Riding

Experts and extreme riders will love anything off the black designated chairs. Cliffs, steeps, and cornices abound. If it’s open there is some terrain under the lower end of the cable car around the Broken Arrow peak that’s very gnarly. The Silverado chair has several “leaps of faith” near it, and the climb to the top of the Granite Chief peak should provide some thrills. For steep trees, look between the Red Dog and Squaw Creek triples.

For the Powder Hound

If it is a powder day and the wind isn’t blowing too hard, GET UP EARLY. Whilst this shouldn’t need to be stated to the dedicated powder hound, this is the first ingredient to getting in front of the pack. The question is, do you want to ski the KT22 or head to broader freshie pastures? Stacks of punters will ski the KT22 because it’s a cracker, so as an alternative head up the Funitel to the Gold Coast, tear a few lines down Emigrant and then head to the Granite Chief via The Funnel for some choice fresh lines. Hiking up the ridge to the Granite Chief summit will open more fresh lines. By this time the Headwall Express area should be open or better still the Silverado chair.

If the weather is bad and visibility is a problem, hang around the Squaw Creek and Red Dog chairs. This area is often overlooked by others, so keep it in mind.