Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are two destinations, but one world-renowned family ski resort. It’s best to approach this large ski destination with a bit of knowledge to get the most out of your visit. There’s a lot going on and you don’t want to miss anything! We hopped to this resort on our recent visit to the North Lake Tahoe resorts. With our family insider’s guide to skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, you’ll be maximizing your time and riding the mountains like an old pro ... even if it is your first time there.
One lift ticket allows you to ski or ride at both destinations, but Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows have different parking lots. You can drive to each of them or just hop aboard the 15-minute shuttle ride, the Squaw/Alpine Express, to get from one to the other. While the two ski destinations merged in 2011, they are not yet connected by trail or lift. Both resorts are celebrated for their powder, long season, incredible spring skiing and views, but they differ in terrain and amenities. Here’s how to get the most out of your day at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
Family's Insider Guide to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows
Buy lift tickets early
At most ski resorts, you can save money by buying online in advance or with multi-day tickets. The same is true at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. You’ll get the best lift ticket price by buying at least 48 hours in advance and buying the renewable 2-pack or 4-pack, which are good any two or four days of the season and can be used at either resort. You can get a hop on lift tickets starting in the 2017-18 season by buying through Undercover Tourist. Keep in mind that if you are flying into Lake Tahoe early in the day and are skiing the same day, present your commercial airline ticket to ski for free! Score!
Reserve Lessons at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in Advance
Reserving lessons two days in advance saves $20 over booking your tickets last minute, and if your child takes five group lessons, he or she will get one group lesson free. A full-day kid lesson with rental package includes lesson, rental equipment, lift ticket and lunch. If you have multi-day lessons, you take the helmet and boots with you at the end of the day. You can check skis, poles and snowboards at the Squaw Kids outdoor rental shed. Let them know you will be coming back the next day, so they can set them aside for you! That can be a sanity saver to give you fewer things to transport. When you sign up for lessons, be sure to choose the correct ski resort you plan to visit, Squaw or Alpine. You can schedule adaptive lessons for either resort though Achieve Tahoe. Arrive at least 30 minutes early on your first day of lessons.
Choosing the Right Rental Spot
When you reserve your rentals, be sure to choose the correct rental pickup location, Alpine or Squaw. There are rental/lift ticket packages that can save money over purchasing each separately. If you are just trying out the sport, there are affordable half-day Learn to Ride and Learn to Ski packages that cover lift ticket, rentals and beginner lessons. Check to see if you already reserved rentals with the tadpole’s lessons before accidentally reserving more.
Take Advantage of Squaw Valley Parking Perks
The resorts reward you for carpooling. If you have four or more people in your vehicle, you can access limited free premier parking at either resort on a first-come, first-served basis. At Squaw, the 100 premier spaces are staffed on weekends and self-regulated during the week. The 50 premier spots at Alpine Meadows are available only on the weekend.
Did you place your tadpoles in lessons at Squaw Valley? Present your Squaw Kids enrollment confirmation for complimentary Premier Parking near the Squaw Kids Drop Off Zone on weekends and holidays from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. That’s a $20 value and can save you a walk through the village. Sign us up for anything that makes our day easier and saves us money!
We have a saying: The early frog gets the flies. The best way to get good parking is to arrive early. But the best way to get around is to avoid parking altogether by using public transportation and shuttles if you can. If you are staying off-site and do not have a car, there is the Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit (TART). There are also airport shuttles that take you to the ski resorts.
Use the Shuttles
There are parking lot shuttles, shuttles that transport guests between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley (a 15-minute shuttle ride), a SnoVentures shuttle offering a short ride from the Village to the activity zone and a shuttle to transport guests from the Resort at Squaw Creek. If you are staying at the Resort at Squaw Creek, there is no need to get in a car whether you are going to ski or out to dinner in the village.
Where to Find Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Lodging
You can find a few different places to stay. There are several lodging choices in the Village at Squaw Valley, which allows you to be in the heart of the action and enjoy easy access to skiing at Squaw Valley. From there you can take a shuttle to Alpine Meadows, dine at a number of restaurants, shop and find fun off the mountain. The nearby Resort at Squaw Creek is a ski-up/ski-down, family-friendly hotel location located between the two ski resorts. It is connected to Squaw Valley by ski runs, a lift or a shuttle. It has a pool, ice skating rink and a Nordic Center for other activities. It is located about 5 miles from Alpine Meadows. There is no on-site, slope-side lodging at the Alpine Meadows, but there are a few nearby locations. Many visitors stay near Squaw Valley or in Truckee. You can book your ski hotels through Undercover Tourist for a discount!
Know Your Mountain
Squaw Valley is the larger of the two resorts. It offers a modern village with shops and restaurants, as well as closer access to fun winter activities besides skiing. Squaw Valley offers 29 lifts with 3,600 acres and more diverse terrain. Alpine Meadows offers 13 lifts that access 2,400 acres of terrain and amazing views of Lake Tahoe. Even though Squaw is the bigger resort, it has more family-friendly terrain with a higher percentage of green and blue runs. Most lifts lead you to a variety of runs so that families with more advanced skiers and less-experienced skiers can each ski to their level and meet back at the lift. Squaw Valley has plenty of easy runs, and both resorts clearly mark the easiest easy way down.
Get in the Zone
Pick up a trail map. You’ll find Squaw Valley on one side and Alpine Meadows on the other. Both resorts break up the mountains into 14 ski zones, which can help you determine the best and safest place to ski for your comfort. At Squaw Valley, less-experienced skiers will find plenty of green and blue runs in the Big Blue and Gold Coast to High Camp regions. In fact, Squaw Valley has one of the region’s only mountaintop beginner areas. First-time-ever skiers can feel confident on the First Venture beginner lift near the SnoVentures tubing area.
Alpine Meadows has some beginner chairs at the bottom, but the majority of the mountain consists of blue and black runs. If you are looking for gentle blue groomed runs, you’ll find them in the Lakeview and Blue Room zones.
Consult the Weather Blog
Many weather apps give you the weather in town, but you want to know what is happening on the mountain and at the base so you know what to wear and how to prepare. The Lake Tahoe Weather Blog will keep you in the know about all things snow (and wind and temperature).
Lock it up
With a great village to explore and other adventures like tubing at the mountain, you’re going to want to ditch the ski boots at some point for some snow boots or shoes. Plan that into your day when you start out. If you are staying in the village, you can just return to your room. If you are staying off-site or at the Resort at Squaw Creek, you might want to use a day locker. Whether you leave shoes in the car or choose to rent a locker, you will be happy to slip your feet into something more comfortable for après ski dining, tubing, snow play or shopping. We like to lock up our extra layers as well so that we can add or subtract extra clothing items depending on the weather.
All that skiing and snowboarding is sure to make you work up an appetite. At the base of Squaw Valley is the Village, which offers a variety of restaurants and bars for breakfast, lunch or après ski dining. We enjoyed the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub and Restaurant for dinner. They offer authentic Irish fare. The stuffed tater tots were a big hit with Tad and Lily (and well, Leap and me too)! We found Fireside Pizza Company a great lunch spot to fill up our hungry bellies with gourmet pizza and salad. On a sunny day the outdoor patio is a beautiful place to take in the Village, warm up by the fire, listen to music and enjoy the vibe. People say nice things about Rocker, but we enjoyed Auld Dubliner and Fireside Pizza much more. If you are looking for a sandwich, Dave’s Deli is one of the closest spots to the skiing. If you are looking for fine dining that showcases food from local organic farmers and a nice wine selection, then slide into PlumpJack for a nice meal.
There are many Squaw Valley bars and restaurants to choose from at the base as well as on-mountain dining—including the World’s first Ski-in/Ski-out Starbucks. Skiing a black diamond run with your venti upside-down caramel ristretto macchiato not recommended. There is also a Starbucks in the Village and Mountain Nectar, where you can buy smoothies, fresh juice and bagels. For dessert, Euro Sweets has gelato, frozen yogurt and candy to hit the spot nicely. Rumor has it that the cookies at Wildflour Baking Company are pretty popular with the locals. Alpine Meadows has cafes, BBQ, and treats at the base, plus a Chalet and Ice Bar on the mountain.
The Resort at Squaw Creek offers several good eats too ... most with a view of Squaw Valley. It has a steakhouse, pizzeria, family-friendly pub, deli, breakfast spot and coffeehouse.
With so many choices it is hard to say just where to eat. A better thing to know is when to eat. Eat lunch before 12 p.m. and after 1:30 p.m. for the shortest waits so you can maximize your ski and snowboard time.
Once you snap out of your skis, your winter fun is just beginning. You can check out the events calendar to see what is in store during your visit. We visited Squaw Valley during a music festival, and we enjoyed the live bands playing all over the Village in addition to the ticketed main event. It has a Winter and Spring Music Series as well as special events during the holidays.
Kids with bounce in their step will be flying high on the Sky Jump in the Village or scaling the climbing wall in the Aerial Tram building. Take a short shuttle ride through the parking lot to SnoVentures for tubing, mini snowmobiles and games for the kids. You can also take dog-sled tours and go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. You can take a trip back in time at the Olympic Museum in High Camp. You can reach High Camp via the Aerial Tram. You’ll find more dining, shopping, ice-skating and spectacular views at High Camp. Tram admission is free with your Aerial Tram ride. Children 4 and under are free, but they still need a ticket to ride. Ice skating is also available (weather permitting) at the Resort at Squaw Creek.
During the December holidays and on Saturdays in January through early March you can catch fireworks at 6 p.m. in the village. Sip free hot cocoa while you watch the mountain light up with explosive delight.
With this family-friendly insider's guide to skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in hand, you should be ready to hop to it and make the most of your trip to Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. Have any favorite eats or insider tips for taking a family to these resorts? Please share them in the comments section below. Check out our other ski planning posts for tips on saving time and money on the slopes.