I live about four hours from some of the best skiing in the country, maybe even the world, and I can’t tell you the last time I was on skis. Sad. I used to ski. When my husband and I first started dating, he actually taught me how to ski. There were some lessons thrown in there too, but for the most part I learned while trying to keep up with him.
Then I got pregnant, had a baby and got pregnant again. Skiing, along with many other things, disappeared from life’s itinerary. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to be cold. So as the planner of family vacations, I tend to gravitate toward warm water and sandy beaches. The thought of a vacation in snow, well, I guess wasn’t really vacation in my mind.
Snow Fun Takes Work
That said, my family loves the snow. But trips to Lake Tahoe with kids are an incredible amount of work for me. There’s digging out all of the gear and making sure it still fits. Then there’s packing all the stuff and food. (There are plenty of grocery stores in the area, but for some reason there’s always food that has to be packed.)
When we load up the car, it always looks like we’re leaving for a month, not a weekend. We get to Lake Tahoe, unpack the car, then get up early the next morning to re-load the ski gear and get everyone and all their stuff to the mountain. Sound familiar?
So when I was invited to visit Squaw Valley for a spring ski trip, you might understand why I was excited and a bit leery at the same time.
The Village at Squaw Valley
Right from the beginning this trip was different. Since we weren’t renting a cabin, I didn’t have to drag along towels and linens. The two bedroom, two bathroom condo at The Village at Squaw Valley had all the necessities, including the fancy little shampoo bottle my girls love. Not having to cart so much stuff, made packing a dream. The only food I packed was car snacks. We could actually see out the back window.
Our time in the snow was planned out differently as well. My husband wasn’t skiing, in favor of checking out other activities at The Village. We all had new activities we wanted to check out.
Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. They were the first Olympics to be fully televised and along with seeing America win its first Gold Medal in hockey, the world was introduced to Lake Tahoe’s beautiful and challenging Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Younger kids may not be as interested, but the Olympic flame burning at the entrance to Squaw Valley really impressed my 10 and 12 year-old girls. They’ve seen the flame before at The Olympic Museum in Amie’s current hometown, Lausanne, Switzerland. But when we entered Squaw Valley it was dark, and the flame combined with the Olympics Rings make a fabulous first impression.
We had two days to do a little bit of everything. Winter has been kind to skiers in Northern California. There’s plenty of snow and plenty of rumors about skiing on Fourth of July.
My 10 year-old wanted to try snowboarding, so Saturday morning I checked her into a group lesson at Squaw Kids Children’s Center. The walk from the condo we were staying in, to the kids ski school was the equivalent of a couple short blocks. No loading the car, no having to get up at the crack of dawn and fight traffic. It doesn’t take long to get spoiled.
Squaw Village Activities
The rest of the family spent the morning exploring The Village at Squaw. There’s a good mix of options to keep non-skiers like my older daughter and I happy. While hunting for the climbing wall my 12 year-old discovered a paint- your-own pottery studio. I checked out the menus of a number of family-friendly restaurants and found Alice’s Mountain Market. The pricey, but fairly well stocked grocery store means you don’t have to spend hours cooking before you come on vacation.
On a nice day, The Village is a great place for kids of all ages to stretch their legs. Along with late risers, you’ll see dogs at every turn. Dogs tied up outside of Starbucks, waiting, usually patiently, outside the market or hanging around one of the many fire pits. Man’s best friend is welcome here.
We waited to go tubing until my daughter finished her snowboarding lesson. I figured it would guarantee a smile, just in case the lessons didn’t go so well. I didn’t need to worry. The first words out of her mouth were “can I come again tomorrow.” She was one of three in her group, and though she admittedly did her fair share of falling, she was ready to take on the mountain again.
Tubing the Lazy Way
Tubing with kids is tiring. Sliding down, fast and furious can’t be beat, but in order to slide down, you have to climb up. Not so much fun for little legs, or their parents who typically wind up lugging everything up to the top. After a few runs, everybody’s usually exhausted and ready to call it quits, so I wasn’t sure how long my kids or I would actually last.
We grabbed our tubes and happily realized there would be no trudging up the mountain. Just have a seat, the attendant hooks you to the tow rope and up you go. I think my family had just as much fun going up as they did coming down. I was really impressed with the attendants on duty. They were friendly, outgoing and paying attention. When my daughter came down one of the runs a little too fast for their comfort, they closed the runs so they could slow down the course. They apologized to all for the inconvenience, but were quick to stress they wanted to make sure the runs were safe.
Swimming at High Camp
Kids love to swim and often judge a hotel by the pool. Squaw has a cool pool. To get there, you take the cable car to High Camp at 8200 feet elevation. The 8 minute ride is itself an attraction worth doing with your family. Once at the top, you can dive in and swim laps with views of the snow capped Sierras. The pool was too cold for my girls, but with snow falling, they ran through some snow and quickly hopped into the hot tub. It was packed with a group of mostly twenty-somethings who’d come for a pool party, so we didn’t stay long, but the concept itself, screams out to kids, especially teens and tweens.
Before you take the plunge, a few words of advice. It is cold, maybe too cold for some kids and their parents. The locker room facilities are what I would describe as adequate. There are towels and showers, but space is tight and lockers are small. My girls and I had to wait just to get close to our lockers, and then finding room to get changed wasn’t easy. Hind sight is twenty-twenty, but I think next time I’d skip getting wet. The Cable Car Ride and views at High Camp offer a huge payoff with little work.
I could see the energy level dropping exponentially as we rode the Cable Car down. I didn’t think we’d make it through dinner in a restaurant, so I’d already planned out what I wanted to grab from the market. (Our condo had a full, well stocked kitchen. Again, feeling spoiled.) The plan was for the girls to head straight to the condo with my husband.
The plan changed when we came off the Cable Car and my girls saw the Skyjump going full force in a heavy shower of snow. The Skyjump is like a trampoline combined with a bungee harness system. Kids of all ages can jump sky high and do all sorts of fun flips and turns. I appreciated the coolness factor and let them go for it. I can’t believe they had the energy to walk the albeit short distance back to the condo.
Dinner was fast and easy. I thought about renting a movie, but quickly realized no one would be able to stay awake to watch it. By 8:30pm the entire family was in bed.
Sunday was a repeat of the family’s favorites. Tubing for my two oldest children (my tween and my husband) and another snowboarding group lesson for my youngest. I spent the morning happily snapping pictures of them all. My 10 year-old daughter is now a level 3 snowboarder, and I was absolutely amazed as I watched her get on the lift and come down the mountain completely on her own.
Next time we head to the snow, she’ll be good company on the slopes for my husband. But my oldest daughter and I won’t be far behind. We’ve already decided, we’re taking a lesson together. If Mother Nature keeps up the good work, that could be how we spend 4th of July.
Squaw Valley Resort provided complimentary accommodations and activities on this trip. They did not ask us to present a particular point of view.