Image: Entry to Squaw Valley. | SwansonFineArts 2018-2019

My journey to SquawAlpine started in Olympic Village at the heart of Squaw Valley last spring. Initially it was daunting because I couldn’t see any terrain that I was capable of skiing at that point in my recovery, but locals all assured me that beginner and intermediate terrain was available above the ridge and accessible by either Tram or Funitel.

Image: Squaw Valley Funitel 2018-2019. | SwansonFineArts

We made our way to the top of the Funitel and were relieved to find a wide range of green, blue, and black terrain. After warming up on Gold Coast and Big Blue we made our way to Shirley Lake and enjoyed groomed runs, moguls, and a little bit of spring tree skiing.

Image: Shirley Lake at Squaw Valley 2018-2019. | SwansonFineArts

In the fall, we returned to ski the Kangaroo chair at Alpine Meadows on opening day. It was before the first natural snowfall so snowmaking and grooming teams were working around the clock to open as much terrain as possible. The first day there was only one run available but we all had great fun sharing tips and tricks while doing our best snow dances.

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Mid-winter brought insanely deep snow to both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. On more than one occasion, I-80 and all major roads were closed due to the inability to clear the snow as fast as it was falling. The avalanche risk was rated as “High” by the Sierra Avalanche Center but the SquawAlpine Ski Patrol did an excellent job mitigating the risks and opening as much terrain as possible as quickly as possible while also looking out for our safety.  The powder skiing was amazing!

Video: Uncut footage from a spring powder day. | SwansonFineArts

The best progression path for families at Squaw Valley is to start near the base in the First Ventures area. Although the magic carpets are primarily for kids, we recommend that adults take the same steps toward learning to ski.

  1. Start on flat ground.
    • Learn to put your skis on/off, put them together, and carry them.
    • Put one ski on and feel what it feels like to walk/glide.
    • Take your ski off and put it on the other foot and walk/glide.
    • When you feel comfortable, add the other ski.
    • Practice walking/gliding with both skis on.
    • Go down a small hill that you know you will stop in a few feet.
    • Do it again, and try to make a turn (see our YouTube)
    • Try to not cross your skis!
  2. Ski on a green run.
    • Watch other people use the lift before attempting.
    • Ask the attendant for help & let them know this is your first time.
    • Practice stepping sideways to get into your spot beforehand.
  3. Master each level before moving on to the next.
    • Flat ground: Be able to walk around, glide, and balance with and without your poles. Get used to looking around you, and learn the Skier Responsibility Code.
    • Green: Beginner and intermediate skiers can enjoy green. This is a wonderful place for families, and more advanced skiers should respect these areas by giving a lot of space to beginner skiers.
    • Blue: Blue is typically rated as “intermediate” but some blue areas are really intended for advanced skiers, so always scope the area before taking your child and make sure that they are advanced enough to handle the terrain without impeding other skiers.
    • Black: Black Diamonds are the most advanced terrain at a ski area. This may include deep ruts, uneven moguls, cliffs of varying sizes, or other dangers.

The blue, green, and black rating system is used by the majority of ski areas in North America. It is important to note, however, that a blue intermediate/advanced run at one resort may not be as steep as the same rating at a different resort, and that conditions also change significantly based on the time of the year that you go. We have also noticed snow changing between days or even between ski runs, so don’t assume an area to always be the correct level just because you have skied it before-always check today’s conditions!

Have fun and be safe everyone. 🙂