By Reggie Yemma and Dan Foldes
For a weekend retreat away from the bustling city of San Francisco, Squaw Valley (www.squaw.com) was the perfect destination. The ski mountain is close enough to the city, about a three-hour drive, to wake up early and make it from the city to the mountain still in time for a full day of skiing, and some après skiing fun. We pulled into the Squaw parking lot just as the lifts began to open on a Saturday.
The parking was free and an easy walking distance to the base of the mountain where tickets and gear rentals were readily available. We both needed to rent skis and boots, and got in and out of the “Ski Rental and Performance Center,” right next to the cable car building, within a quick ten minutes—encountering very friendly, helpful, and funny staff members.
Once we had our gear, we were ready to hit the slopes. The variety of ski lifts directly at the base of the mountain gave us quick access to any level of skiing, from beginner to expert only (don’t worry, the expert only lifts are clearly marked). Squaw has designed a new type of ticket that you put in a pocket of your ski jacket or pants, and it triggers an automatic turnstile that leads to the chair lift—this made for quicker lift lines because the turnstiles were much more efficient than the manual scanning that goes on at most ski mountains. It was a beautiful bluebird day, and we were quickly on our way up the lift with our rental gear—no hassle whatsoever. Even in the middle of the day when we had some boot comfort issues, we popped into the ski rental center, and within a matter of five minutes were back out on the mountain with a new pair of boots.
The mountain is very large and definitely has its share of steep terrain for experienced skiers. Out favorite part of the mountain that we skied over and over again was “the Nose,” to the right of the top of the KT-22 lift. Going off of either side of the nose brought us to soft, steep, and bumpy runs—way fun. A gondola, cable car, and lifts brought us all over the mountain where we also found fun tree runs and smooth groomers.
When we were finally tired enough from skiing hard out in the sun, we settled down on the large outdoor patio at the base—and lounged with a couple of drinks, taking in the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that Squaw Valley is nestled in. The ski mountain is built away from any main highways, and has minimal developments built around it—simply the base area, and then family owned cabins that look like they have been there for decades. We loved the homey feel emanating from the mountain—a very low-key locals kind of place where people go to be with each other and have a great time skiing.
On Sunday we weren’t quite so lucky with the weather—windy and snowy. But, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the mountain once again. We explored some different, and a little bit mellower parts of the mountain, like Shirley Lake and Squaw Creek. We also took a break for a “Waf,” delicious waffle-slash-donut that was cooked fresh from a ball of gooey batter, sold from a small stand right next to the ski rental shop. The Waf did the trick of warming us up on the colder day of our weekend. Pretty soon it was time to say goodbye to the Sierra’s and head back to the big city, just in time for another work week.