Weekend Getaway: Squaw Valley
Written by Alexa Owen • Sep 13, 2016
Head to Squaw Valley for great snow, sunny skies, and a weekend of hip California life – mountain town style.
Squaw Valley put itself on the map as an international skiing destination when it hosted the 1960 winter Olympics – the first Olympics to be televised worldwide. Since then, skiers have flocked to the iconic site for big mountain skiing, an historic North American ski culture, and the inviting lifestyle of the Lake Tahoe region. We struggle to describe the magic of skiing the slopes of this Sierra Nevada giant with the turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe just below – it’s something you should experience for yourself. And a weekend getaway will do just fine.
Located just 1 hour from Reno International Airport, Squaw Valley is one of the most accessible major resorts for a weekend getaway in North America, regardless of where you’re coming from. With 300 days of annual sunshine and 450 inches average annual snowfall, you’re going to catch a powder day or brilliant blue bird skies. While Squaw stays true to its roots as a mecca for big mountain extreme skiing, the resort also caters to beginners and intermediates: a mid-mountain learning zone offers a safe space for new skiers to enjoy the slopes, and 45% of the mountain’s terrain is marked intermediate. Advanced skiers can explore the various chutes, bowls, and glades like legends Shane McConkey and Jonny Moseley have before them.
Squaw recently merged with Alpine Meadows, which means you can ski both resorts on the same pass. That said, we think you’ll have plenty to keep you going on the slopes of the original Squaw. The base village is dotted with delicious restaurants and funky shops, and the laid-back California lifestyle of this mountain town will ask you to take some time to kick back and just enjoy the Sierra Nevada peaks and Lake Tahoe waters. The dining scene is laced with a wholesome locavore approach, and you’ll see plenty of vacationers and locals alike on their way to the spa or wellness studio, yoga mat in tow. Squaw Valley is the place to go for a weekend of slopes, sun, and sweet taste of California mountain town life.
Fly into Reno International Airport: it’s a 1-hour drive from there to Squaw Valley. There are over 100 flights per day, and non-stop flights from 19 U.S. cities (including New York and Los Angeles).
If you fly in early in the day, be sure to save your flight ticket: some Tahoe resorts, including Squaw, comp arrival day skiing!
Note that gambling in Tahoe only exists on the Nevada side, and Squaw Valley is in California; spend a few hours in Reno if you're eager to play the slots.
source: PlumpJack Cafe
After arriving in Reno, hop on a shuttle that will take you to your hotel door at Squaw. The ride will take an hour in good weather. Squaw is also a top destination for weekenders from California cities: from Sacramento, plan on 2 hours; from San Francisco, 4 hours. Allow some time to stop and snap photos of famous Lake Tahoe views.
The casual California luxury of the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn is ideal for a week or a weekend – with or without your dog in tow. With ski-in/ski-out access to Squaw’s slopes, an onsite rental shop, fitness center, hot tubs, and gourmet restaurant, you’ll find everything you need at the PlumpJack. The 56 rooms and suites are designed in modern elegance; ask for a room with a view of Tahoe area peaks.
Chefs at the PlumpJack Café use fresh, local ingredients to inspire their modern California dishes. Start with a Farmer’s Market Salad sourced from local growers, and follow with mains like roasted duck breast with quinoa fried rice and plum barbeque sauce. The grilled ribeye with creamy polenta and heirloom tomatoes is also a favorite. Check in with hosts about sommelier visits from local wineries.
The Auld Dubliner has plenty of loyal customers for its tasty eats and lively atmosphere. The pub is just a 3-minute walk from the PlumpJack, so whether you’re in it for one beer or the entire night, you’ll be stumbling distance from home. The building is modeled after the classic rural Irish pub, and feels delightfully authentic (trust me – I’ve spent my fair share of time in Irish pubs). Hot whiskeys and Irish coffees headline the cocktail menu, while local beers and wines are also available. Enjoy live music late night.
source: 22 Bistro
The PlumpJack offers a delicious breakfast buffet; but if you’re craving a stroll into town, head to Mountain Nectar for fresh pressed juices and smoothies. This health-centered spot also has grab-and-go wraps and breakfast bagels – ideal for a quick bite before hitting the slopes.
Squaw boasts 120+ trails across 3,600 skiable acres, 4 terrain parks and 16 bowls: in short, there’s more to ski than you could cover in several weekends. Opt for quality over quantity and know that you can’t go wrong if you follow the sun. Advanced skiers should head straight to the KT-22 area for powder curtains and short tree lines – GS Bowl into Strawberry Fields open and untracked early morning. Intermediates, take the Siberia Express to Newport and Yellow Trail for short, uncrowded runs.
Stop into 22 Bistro at the resort base for New American small plates. Order from the social plates list for the most eclectic tastes of the menu. Specialties include Kobe beef sliders with gorgonzola and caramelized onions, brussels sprout fondue, and tequila-lime white shrimp skewers.
Work off lunch with a few runs down The Headwall, then make your way to the Trilogy Spa inside The Village at Squaw Valley. The 4,000 square foot spa features a lounge, therapeutic massage treatments, skincare and nail services, as well as Hyaluronic facials. We recommend the Awapuhi White Ginger massage, which includes dry brushing, therapeutic application of white ginger body butter, and hot oil scalp treatment.
Kick back with long-time locals at Le Chamois and The Loft Bar. A Squaw Valley mainstay since 1969, the bar is outfitted with photographs of resort beginnings and relics from days past. Rub elbows with former Olympic skiers downstairs, kick back in the upstairs loft, or hang outside on the deck to enjoy that California sunshine. Expect friendly bartenders, value prices, and generous pours.
Dinner at the Six Peaks Grille offers the epitome of Tahoe fine dining. Book far in advance, and prepare for an adventure into culinary delight. Start with coffee crusted duck with Oregon huckleberry and cocoa nibs, followed by wood-fired rack of lamb with herb-roasted potatoes and saffron cream. Vegetarians have their choice of gourmet salads and entrees. Pair with selections from an award-winning wine list. All dishes are inspired by local and regional cuisine.
The Rocker at Squaw is not known for its food, but the drinks and party atmosphere are solid. We love the signature cocktails – especially the raspberry jalapeño margarita, made with muddled berries and basil. There’s a media room where rising stars of the pro ski circuit show off their video footage, and DJs spin Friday and Saturday nights.
For a mellow morning sans crowds, make your way to the Emigrant Triple, which will take you to Emigrant Peak. From there, take a left to access the highest concentration of intermediate terrain at Squaw, or right down The Funnel and Shirley Bowl to access the Granite Chief Triple and the advanced terrain that area has to offer. The descents off Hidden Bowl are diverse with trees, drop-offs, and powder fields.
Stop by Soupa for homemade soups, paninis from scratch, and hearty quinoa bowls. Soupa keeps things simple, fresh, and casual, which is why we love it for a quick lunch. The spicy bleu chicken panini is our top sandwich pick, and the Thai veggie quinoa bowl hits the spot. Soups change daily, but they’re always slow-cooked and gluten free.
Chain outdoor stores like Patagonia and The North Face make up much of the village. We suggest the local and regional shops for uniquely California finds. Visit the Keoki Flagg gallery for fine art photography capturing visions of Tahoe and the world. Kalifornia Jean Bar is a favorite for boutique clothing items and accessories with mountain town flair.
Visit the Olympic Museum for a trip back in time to the 1960 Winter Olympics: you’ll find memorabilia, an historic film, and a look into present day Squaw Olympians.