The first time I visited Tahoe was in the summer of 2003. Friends and I had passed through after our surf trip from San Diego to San Francisco was ruined by a placid Pacific. We were in awe by the magnitude of the lake, the size of the pine forests, and the height of the surrounding mountains. This February was my first time back in ten years and winter on the lake had a way of transforming an already stunning place into a paradise. Last month, snowboarding Squaw Valley Resort and Alpine Meadows offered up uncanny rides and views that even a master photographer could never squeeze onto a postcard.
After the 2012 merger between Squaw Valley Resort and Alpine Meadows, skiers and boarders only need to purchase one lift ticket to access the 6,000 acres of skiable terrain shared by the two mountains. However, once you get started, it’s unlikely that you’ll hop on the free shuttle bus to leave one epic range for the other.
Snowboarding Squaw Valley Resort
Snowboarding Squaw Valley Resort begins with a ride up the Gold Coast Funitel gondola that nearly reaches the peak. At the unloading zone, there are demo shops, the world’s first and only ski-in, ski-out Starbucks and a number of great skiing and boarding options, like the steep Siberia Bowl atop the Siberia Express. Runs from the very peak are incredibly long, requiring more than ten minutes of quad-burning riding to get to the base.
If you’re seeking out challenging terrain, where moguls fill the top third of the mountain, shoot up the KT-22 Express. At the peak, over on the Palisades face, are triple blacks. For fun, head over to the Board Cross trail, where my group ran into a twelve year old named Scott. Scott was competing in the national championship for that event. We pressured the best skier in our group to race the pre-teen. Scott smoked him.
One of the joys of snowboarding Squaw Valley Resort is for the views. Off the Red Dog lift, the panorama of the Sierra Nevadas and Lake Tahoe are spectacular. If you’re into parks, Squaw also has an insane half pipe and monstrous jumps and ramps in the terrain parks.
Even after six hours of snowboarding Squaw Valley Resort, I only managed to hit a small percentage of the trails. (I didn’t get to touch the rides on the eastern side of the mountain.) We ended our day on the outdoor patio at the top of the Funitel, where I scarfed down two and a half baskets of fish tacos (each basket included two tacos for $8.00). I washed the tacos down with a moderately priced Coors Light. (While “Top the Sierra Nevadas” doesn’t have the same ring to it, the taste was equally crappy.)
Snowboarding Alpine Meadows
As much as Squaw is huge and features a ritzy village that appeals to skiers and snowboarders who want that apres-ski fine-dining ambiance, Alpine Meadows is the exact opposite. And even though Alpine is a little more than half the size of Squaw, it offers rides that are just as long, smaller crowds, a laid back vibe, and views of Lake Tahoe that are even more stunning than the ones from the peaks of its bigger sister.
To reach the prime lookout point, take the aptly named Lakeview Chair. However, the Summit Express chair lift, which offers better terrain and awesome bowls, has spectacular lake views, too. Because Alpine’s forest is more dense, the landscape is more picturesque (even though there’s something to be said of the unfathomable magnitude of Squaw).
Almost as remarkable as the views–only because it’s a ski resort and they are supposed to have terrible food–were the tasty carne asada burritos.
Even though I missed the fresh powder in Tahoe by two days–the theme for me this season–snowboarding Squaw Valley Resort and Alpine Meadows in February with seventy-five-degree temperatures, stellar views, and ridiculously long runs, insured my return to the area.
Since I didn’t get to snowboard with any of you–my lovely readers–please address one of the topics on the whiteboard, so I know what it would be like to sit next to you on a chairlift at Alpine Meadows.
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Photos and Video by Ari Skapinker
Note: Both mountains provided me with lift tickets, but the review is honest.