Squaw Valley: Little Switzerland for the Family, but Local to California

Jumping from life’s hamster wheel to happy times and memories with our growing kids.


I’ll admit, we are blessed to live in California (we are transplants from the East Coast). Nearly 12 years of living in the Golden State, and we still have to pinch ourselves over the diversity of scenery and things to do within a few hours drive of the Bay Area.

We decided, even though, we had been having temperature readings more like a balmy Spring than anything feeling like Winter, that we were going to capture a family ski trip, as skiing is the one — and perhaps only — activity that we, a family of five, can all do together with plastered smiles so wide across all of our faces.

Tucked away off a quiet and pastoral mountain road in North Lake Tahoe, is one of the most spectacular sceneries in all of Northern, California. Squaw Valley is probably more famous for once hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, but few know that it is fourth most challenging peaks in the country, with elevations above 9K feet. In spite of that, Squaw Valley’s lends a Switzerland-like backdrop of dramatic, granite mountain peaks and its European charm of quaint chalets and a walking village of restaurants, ski shops and a funitel (an aerial lift for higher altitudes) that unleash you to some of the country’s best ski runs.

Within our hectic lives of work and raising three kids and constantly running here and there, we were on that quest to find something we could do as a family, sans a kid complaining of not wanting to be there, and an intense web of kid activity scheduling and endless request for playdates. No! This was our time – family time to do whatever the heck we want without the guilt of missing a soccer practice.

Our first day out (having not skied in two years), was a bit like jumping in the saddle of the horse as we naively headed to the very top of the mountain where there were wind gusts of up to 50 mph and when you are with 9-year-old who just pushed­ over 60lbs, we had to ensure she was safely going down the mountain (and not being blown off it). Ther­­e was a point that it was safer for her to be brought down on a snowmobile, which she was. Squaw Valley has an abundant staff of ski professionals who are there to help you navigate its web of runs on the front and back side of its mountain peaks and rescue you if you get in trouble on the mountain’s more advanced runs.

Yet, once back to mid-mountain ski runs where the winds were bearable, it started to snow around 4 pm and really did not stop for the next 24 hours. We just had to laugh as it was nearly 70 degrees in the Bay Area, and many of our friends opted for other vacation destinations this year because everyone thought the snowfall was abysmal this year (especially in comparison to last year’s record downpour of snow). We had the best time skiing mid-mountain down a 2.5 mile run all the way to the bottom of the hill and back to the village and funitel.

I think what we most appreciated for our family time is that the village had everything we needed – we parked the car once (underground our lodging) and didn’t move it until it was time to leave. The village had everything we needed, and if we wanted to split up from time-to-time, our older kids (turning 13) were safe to roam about as they pleased. There is a candy store on site at the village, appropriately called Euro Sweets, so beware as we found that to be a popular destination for our kids.

Our visit to Squaw Valley was during the 2018 Winter Olympic (there was something nostalgic about being in Squaw at that time), and while we did not get a chance to visit the Olympic Museum right on the Eastern edge of the village, right in the heart of it all, was a massive screen showing off our current Olympic athletes and their performances. My 9-year-old daughter and I grabbed a hot chocolate and sat in one of the many Adirondacks chairs surrounding the fire pit and took the Olympics and the whole Squaw experience in. I had to pinch myself.

STAY

The Village at Squaw Valley

A right-there, upscale resort at the edge of the village, making your ski experience a no-brainer for ease and convenience.

Benefits:

  1. 1. Ski in/out
  2. Multi-bedrooms for families
  3. Luxurious accommodations where you park the car once (underground) and never move it until you head home.

The Inn at Donner Lake

A no non-sense resort right at the edge of Lake Donner, a secondary lake adjacent to Tahoe but offers Lake Tahoe life at a slower pace.­­­

Benefits:

  1. . Great jumping off point for multiple ski areas including Squaw Valley and Alpine.
  2. Affordable option for people needing multiple bedrooms

EAT

High Camp Restaurants

A must see! Wow, the venue and scenery from this high camp restaurant/bar are not to be missed, and the traditional comfort foods are pretty good too. I enjoyed the veggie burger on each visit.

Twenty-Two Bistro and Bar

A great restaurant with creative dining options from Kobe beef burgers to Thai noodle bowls.

Alice’s Mountain Market

Most the resort dining establishments can be pretty pricey, so it is best to visit Alice’s Market in the village and stock up on breakfast foods, snacks and hot chocolate for when the kids complain of hunger pains.

PLAY

Skiing

Squaw Valley has 43 chair lifts and 270 runs of mostly blue runs and above (this is inclusive of Alpine Meadows, which Squaw Valley joined forces in 2012). While there is a beginner’s area of Squaw, this ski destination is made for people who enjoy a greater challenge (with some of its mountain peaks at 9K feet and runs that can last 2.5 miles.

Olympic Museum

We did not get a chance to visit the Olympic Museum, but according to its website, the museum boasts memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Games at Squaw Valley, USA team uniforms, a historical film, and a hockey stick and puck from the 1960 Winter Games.

Spa and Yoga

Trilogy Spa and Wanderlust Yoga Studio Squaw Valley are right in the heart of the village if you need some time off from skiing some of the best runs in all of North America.

Nature & Star Gazing

Squaw Valley’s beauty is so dramatic (I refer to it as Switzerland of Tahoe) that you just have to keep your head up and your eyes wide open, and take it all in. At night, because Squaw Valley is off the beat and path and surrounded by mountain peaks if you walk out late at night and look up, you’ll see a spectacular light show in the sky.


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