This article, and distribution, was paid for by Visit California and produced in conjunction with POWDER.
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are two world-class ski resorts that add up to more than 6,000 skiable acres, 450 average inches of snowfall, and 42 lifts, united by one ski ticket. But the comparisons between the two end there. The two mountains are distinct, each with its own history, culture, and style of skiing.
Alex Cushing, the founder of Squaw Valley, famously said that he was in the business of uphill transportation, and his philosophy is more than obvious when you ski this mountain. Every single aspect that you'd dream of skiing is accessible with a quick chairlift ride. KT-22 reaches long fall lines that motivate skiers to wake up at unthinkable hours on the morning of a powder day, all for one heavenly run of fresh powder before it gets tracked out. Granite Chief and Silverado are chairs that access zones that are so varied and featured they could each be their own mini ski resort. But the chairlift for zen laps on a midweek day at Squaw Valley is Headwall. The high-speed six-pack serves up bowls facing south, east, and north, and all sorts of steep terrain between.
Meanwhile, just south along the Pacific Crest, Alpine Meadows has one main chairlift that accesses as much terrain as your legs can hike to. At the top of the Summit Chair, elevation 8,637 feet, take your pick of three hiking traverses that stretch in different directions, each serving up their own flavor of bowls, tree skiing, and natural features. After a long hike, give your legs a break—sorta—with laps on Scott Chair, a three-person lift that takes skiers to the Promised Land. This zone, with gullies and old growth trees, is one to ski fast and let your wings fly.
Together, the resorts truly offer something for every type of skier. And both resorts have benefited from more than $100 million in capital improvements over the last six years that have brought new high-speed chairs, lodge renovations, expanded snow safety programs, and more.
Cookies are a thing at both Squaw and Alpine. Each resort has a locally owned bakery—Wildflour and Treats, respectively—that serves up warm sweets for cold days and is deeply loved by locals old and young. For a full meal, the Village at Squaw Valley has a smattering of restaurants, whether it's burgers at Rocker or appetizers at Bistro 22 or a bowl of chili at Soupa.
With the longest ski season in Tahoe, Squaw Valley does après right. The Chamois Loft Bar has a patio that was made to bask in the late-afternoon sun, get a goggle tan, and brag about skiing the Fingers—the cliff band underneath KT-22 that is a proving ground for aspiring pro skiers. It's a classic. To escape the scene, sip a glass of wine at Uncorked, have a cappuccino at CoffeeBar, or go mingle with the actual dirtbags and crusty longtime locals at the Cornice Cantina.
The Village at Squaw Valley, the Resort at Squaw Creek, and Plumpjack offer slopeside hotel rooms and condos. Otherwise, check out nearby Tahoe City, which has plenty of other options and it’s own chill spirit as well.