Squaw Valley Winter Highlights for Families

My family just returned from Squaw Valley and discovered why families love skiing here. Mother Nature provided perfect conditions with good snow and beautiful blue skies. My kids, seven and nine, found their ski legs and my husband and I discovered why we like skiing as adults – it’s exercise in a gorgeous setting. We’ve caught the ski bug and there’s no going back.

Squaw Valley Village

Taking in the view of Lake Tahoe from Alpine Meadows 

Ski Two Resorts with One Lift Ticket

In 2012, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows combined operations and lift tickets now allow skiers access to both mountains with a shuttle running every fifteen minutes between the resorts. Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and the resort has many bells and whistles – an ice skating rink at the top of the mountain, the world’s first ski-in ski-out Starbucks, extreme skiing I can’t begin to imagine, a ski village with shopping and dining options and an international crowd.

Alpine Meadows has its own niche. It feels more like the local hangout – it’s smaller (it has half the lifts of Squaw Valley) and its size is more manageable for beginner and intermediate skiers who can learn the layout of the mountain quickly. The views from the backside on a sunny day are filled with Lake Tahoe’s shimmering blue waters and should not be missed. Alpine Meadows is a completely different ski experience from Squaw Valley which is why they complement each other well.

Ski School is Cool

This was our second year of ski school at both resorts and the kids couldn’t rave enough about them. Our nine-year-old especially liked his introduction to the terrain parks and half-pipe which sealed the deal for him on skiing.

Squaw Valley ski school

A big smile after skiing his first half-pipe 

The international crew of instructors is enthusiastic and patient – they like their jobs and it shows. They work hard to put kids in the correct ski group and don’t hesitate to move them if they need more or less challenging instruction.

The biggest difference between ski school at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows is the location of the beginner area. At Squaw Valley, there is a dedicated area for the most beginner level kids but most of the beginner terrain is located mid-mountain and is reached by taking the gondola. At Alpine Meadows, there is no dedicated area but the beginner runs are near the base so kids can always see the bottom of the mountain.

Play or Relax in The Village

I asked Jonny Moseley, Olympic gold medalist and Squaw Valley spokesperson and father of two kids under the age of six, what he liked best about Squaw Valley for families.  He said that Squaw Valley is “getting better and better for families” and recommended that we check out one of his favorite new family features; the children’s play area in the Family Rec Center at Olympic House.

Squaw Valley olympic house

Families can lounge or play at Olympic House 

On the ground floor of the Olympic House, the new Family Rec Center has comfortable seating and tables, a children’s play area and an arcade. Casual counter service dining at Wildflour and Batch Cupcakery makes this a comfortable and tasty stop with kids. Many Olympians that grew up skiing at Squaw Valley name Wildflour as their favorite restaurant because this is where they took their breaks during ski school – the cookies at Wildflour are Olympian-approved!

The Village also has a paint-your-own-pottery shop and on weekend there are added activities like the Skyjump trampoline and climbing wall.  It’s also relaxing to just hang out at the fire pits and lounging patios which are open every day.

Squaw Valley village

Sit by the fire and enjoy the views at Olympic House 

Snowmobiles and Snow Tubing

SnoVentures Activity Zone offers tubing runs and a mini-snowmobile course. My kids opted to try the mini snowmobiles where riders race around a circular track for 15 minutes. They were the only ones on the track and the competition was fierce; I was glad there is always an attendant present for safety and assistance if needed.

squaw valley snowmobiles

There is nothing mini about this snowmobile race 

We didn’t have time for tubing but I’d try it next time. Rather than a tubing hill there are tubing lanes which are perfect for racing and avoiding crashes.  The magic carpet is always a plus for parents because it means you’ll spend more time enjoying tubing than hauling your kids’ tubes up the hill.

Ride the Aerial Tram to High Camp

The aerial tram provides a bird’s eye view of Squaw Valley and takes riders up 2000 feet to High Camp at 8,200 feet where there is a pool and hot tub open seasonally, an ice skating rink, an Olympic museum and cafe.  It’s hard to beat ice skating here on a sunny day.  The aerial tram is open year round but you can also reach High Camp via the ski runs.

Check the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows websites for current pricing and promotions. Check out kid-friendly review of Resort at Squaw Creek. Families can use our Check Pricing button for best pricing and availability.

Editor’s Note: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and The Resort at Squaw Creek provided complimentary lodging, activities and meals on this trip. As always, our opinions on Ciao Bambino are our own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle

Relevant Links:

Spring Visit to Squaw Valley

Skiing in Lake Tahoe with kids

Favorite Lake Tahoe summer activities with kids

Ciao Bambino’s family-friendly ski vacation recommendations

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